May 1, 2009

MF Doom - Operation: Doomsday (1999)




I figured I may as well start off this series with an album that people have been bugging me about since around day three of Hip Hop Isn't Dead. Daniel Dumile, for whom MF Doom is but one of many aliases, has been in the rap game quite a while, making his debut in KMD, a group featuring himself (as Zev Luv X), Onyx the Birthstone Kid, and Subroc, Daniel's younger brother. KMD released their first album, Mr. Hood, in 1991 to critical acclaim (and low sales, naturally), but on the eve of album number two, Black Bastards, Subroc was killed in a car accident, and, heartless freaks that they are, KMD was immediately dropped from Elektra Records. In the same goddamn week. Black Bastards wouldn't be officially released on any label until 2001 (for reasons that I won't go into here, since this post isn't about KMD), but, in true music industry fashion, people bootlegged the shit out of it, keeping Daniel's name alive in the underground.

During this time, Daniel withdrew from society while coping with his personal loss and battling depression. He took this time to reinvent himself as a hip hop supervillian, the scourge of record labels everywhere (as he was, rightfully, bitter about the whole "being dropped from Elektra" thing), and took to open mic nights, coffee shops, and wherever would have him, performing as MF Doom, a name inspired from the Fantastic Four's chief adversary, Dr. Doom.

In 1999, Daniel dropped Operation: Doomsday on the unsuspecting masses. Released on the legendary underground label Fondle 'Em Records, MF Doom's solo debut album was almost anti-hip hop, combining unpolished, gravelly rhymes with beats that don't necessarily scream out for rappers to join forces with them. It took off seemingly right away, rendering Daniel Dumile (and his numerous aliases) a hero of the new hip hop millennium. In fact, Operation: Doomsday is generally considered to be an indisputable hip hop classic.

Until now, anyway.

1. THE TIME WE FACED DOOM (SKIT)
Eventually manages to set the mood (with the odd musical samples creating a mythical cartoon soundtrack in your ears, coupled with the Fantastic Four dialogue), but let's be real here: this is just another rap album intro, folks.

2. DOOMSDAY
The relaxed beat helps absorb the abrasive-sounding lyrics from the star attraction. Due to (what I assume is) a poor mastering process, Doom comes off as an amateur rhyming over the beat (albeit one who sounds like a poor-quality Ghostface Killah, execpt, if this is even possible, even less coherent.) . However, the fact that he rhymes for nearly three minutes straight (and isn't completely horrible at doing so) offsets the weird flavor. Could have done without the female vocalist, although I have to admit that her presence actually fits the track well enough.

3. RHYMES LIKE DIMES (FEAT DJ CUCUMBER SLICE)
I'll say this right off the bat: I hate this beat. I can't fucking stand it. However, I like Doom's lyrics (or, at least I did, until he decides to repeat a good chunk of them), especially the line “Only in America can someone make a healthy buck/and still be in self-destruct”. Yelling “Mashed potatoes!” at the end of a rap song is also fun and contagious. It's hard to get past that shitty instrumental, though.

4. THE FINEST (FEAT TOMMY GUNN)
I loved the old-school R&B smoothness of the beat (the use of the SOS Band's "The Finest" reminded me of Eric B. & Rakim's “Paid In Full”), but damned if I could remember anything the two artists featured had to say. I will say that, when the guest's first verse started, I thought I was listening to a Jim Jones “song” inadvertently, and that is never a good thing.

5. BACK IN THE DAYS (SKIT)
Not bad, but not great. Then again, this is just a skit.

6. GO WITH THE FLOW
Other than “Rhymes Like Dimes”, of course (that song is like the U-God of Operation: Doomsday), the instrumentals on here are considered to be the real draw, much more so than the lyrics, which aren't anything special at all, although Daniel could be much worse behind the mic. There isn't anything that he's doing that can't be improved by a bit of tweaking. Also, he doesn't seem to believe in choruses, opting instead to rhyme for several minutes at a time, which is fantastic, although you will never bump this shit in your car, unless MF Doom is sitting in the passenger seat or you're on a road trip to either Never-Never Land or to the Williams Street studio where they produce much of the Adult Swim lineup.

7. TICK, TICK... (FEAT MF GRIMM)
Yeah, that Beatles sample (from "Glass Onion") would never fly on a major label release. MF Grimm is definitely a better rapper than his host. Doom seems to custom-fit this track to his guest, increasing and decreasing the playback speed at random, simply because he can, and Grimm meets the challenge easily. This is by far the best song on Operation: Doomsday thus far. It's too bad that the friendship between the two men fell the fuck apart.

8. RED AND GOLD (FEAT KING GHIDRA)
I couldn't stand this fucking song, but it's worth noting that King Ghidra (which would later be spelled Gheedorah) is simply one of Doom's many aliases. Dude rivals only Kool Keith in the multiple monikers derby.

9. THE HANDS OF DOOM (SKIT)
The beat presented here is among my favorite MF Doom special herbs. (Which is interesting, as it seems to have been provided by Daniel's late brother Subroc.) It would have been better if someone were actually rhyming over it, but I guess you can't have everything. Sure, it's a simple combination of a drum machine and a guitar sample looped together, but it fucking works.

10. WHO DO YOU THINK I AM? (FEAT KING CAESAR, RODAN, MEGALON, KAMACKERIS, & KONG)
A not-bad posse cut featuring David's weed carriers from the collective, the Monsta Island Czars. (The majority of these guys would later leave that group, but once again, not today's top story.) Despite the incomplete feel of the beat, I'm reminded, fondly, of “Protect Ya Neck II Tha Zoo”, the Brooklyn Zoo posse cut from Ol' Dirty Bastard's debut solo album. Now that guy would have sounded great over some of these special herbs. A fucking shame. But this is still a good track.

11. DOOM, ARE YOU AWAKE? (SKIT)
I didn't care for the music within this interlude.

12. HEY!
The very epitome of what I think about whenever people talk about Doom's instrumentals: ripping off Scooby-Doo. But that statement doesn't do justice to what the man manages to do with the show's theme song: this track is rather impressive. I can completely understand why he kept the beat for himself, but Doom really should have given it to a much more capable rapper, or at least invited someone to stand alongside him: the man does actually sound pretty inspired for the first time on Operation: Doomsday, though. Be forewarned: the beat has a way of sneaking into your mind and recalling itself at the worst possible times, which gets very annoying after a while.

13. OPERATION: GREENBACKS (FEAT MEGALON & KING GHIDRA)
This song sucks the sperm out of a rhinoceros cock, but I still found the use of Teena Marie's “I Need Your Lovin'” interesting, if only because my wife loves that song. Keep in mind, though: rhinoceros cock.

14. THE MIC
Well, at least it's short.

15. THE MYSTERY OF DOOM (SKIT)
Not interested, thanks.

16. DEAD BENT
Remember when I used to poke fun at Nicolas Cage's movies? You can apply the same humorous comment in this very space.

17. GAS DRAWLS
Doom basically spits for a few minutes straight, save for a short break after the first verse. The title itself is actually misspelled, which becomes distractingly apparent after hearing the phrase used in context of the song. Ultimately, though, you won't care, since the song and the beat are both quite dull.

18. ? (FEAT KURIOUS JORGE)
Although the title is the most interesting aspect of this song, I found Daniel's words about his late brother quite touching.

19. HERO VS. VILLIAN (EPILOGUE) (FEAT E. MASON)
A spoken-word outro? Seriously? What the fuck?! (Later pressings of Operation: Doomsday replace this outro with a different song, “I Hear Voices, Part 1”, a duet with MF Grimm: that song is a much better way to end the “festivities”, as it were.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Operation: Doomsday is generally regarded as a classic underground record, with skilled wordplay from MF Doom, some truly inspired musical backdrops, and music critics generally falling all over themselves to suck at the scrotum of the artist in question. But here's the thing: MF Doom's rhymes on here are almost uniformly unimaginative. Aside from the fact that the vocals appear to have been recorded in someone's bedroom closet, Daniel Dumile comes off as a rookie, one who is trying way too hard to fit as many words as possible into a single bar, lest the bus explode. Which is troubling, since, as part of KMD, MF Doom already had two albums worth of experience by the time this project was conceived. The instrumentals, as creative as some of them are (they're not all great: some of them actually sound pretty fucking terrible, a fact most critics seem to overlook) also sound incredibly dated, although that's most likely a byproduct of their overexposure, given Doom's tendency to reuse his beats for other artists upon request. All in all, this album is a disappointment, although it's not a complete wash. Readers, state your criticisms below. Don't worry, I'm expecting them after pulling back the curtain like this.

BUY OR BURN? If you don't already own this one, as I'm sure a lot of my two readers do, I would recommend a burn. There isn't much on here that will turn mainstream fans toward the unfamiliar. There also isn't much on here that anybody would bump more than once. However, the tracks listed below should be heard at all costs, even if you have to kill someone for standing in between you and your computer. Bury him in the backyard (respectfully, of course), and then listen to the songs on repeat right up until the cops beat down your door.

BEST TRACKS: “Tick, Tick...”; “Hey!”; “Who Do You Think I Am?”; “The Hands Of Doom (Skit)” (for the instrumental alone)

-Max

32 comments:

  1. I actually agree...A lot of people recommended this album to me and hyped it up so much and most of it ended up being rather dull and disappointing although some of the songs are really good.

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  2. I really tried to like MF. Just doesnt happen for maybe another listen is in order

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  3. This may totally surprise you, Max but i completely agree with you on this album, it just never really touched me. I also dont think he s that much a talented producer, i clearly prefer Madvillian or Dangerdoom over any Doom solo shit!

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  4. AnonymousMay 01, 2009

    Finally! Someone else who believes this album is nothing special. Fight the good fight, my man.

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  5. Not sure the entirety of the size of your DOOM repertoire, but you touched on a problem I have with all of his albums...they're really difficult to listen to due to the pervasive skits and instrumentals. And I agree with you on the non-classic status, this is one of my least favorite DOOM albums...in the future I would consider giving MM...Food? or Vaudeville Villain (steps up his lyrics from this a LOT) a try.

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  6. Scotty MacMay 01, 2009

    I was considering a 'fuck you Max, this album is classic yada yada' comment, but then I started thinking about this album with your comments in mind - rather than being brainwashed by the 'classic status' internet hype - and I realised that yes, the rapping doesn't really compare to the 2003-2004 albums. I still think 'Doomsday' and 'The Finest' belong on the Best Tracks list, that won't change. And I thought this was one of the few DOOM albums where the skits were actually cohesive (4-5 straight tracks on Mm...Food??? No Thanks!)

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  7. I downloaded it because it's tough to track down on cd nowadays without paying extortionate amounts.

    It's also clearly not Doom's strongest outing, but it should be noted that he has greater accomplishments (particularly in the lyrics department) following this album. Where is the Madvillain review, eh?

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  8. Q To the rescue. With everyone shi(HEY)ing on this joint, let me play secretary of defense and flip it like oranges does apples. This album, for John and Q, is preety dope listen. This album always gets constant hit up in vehicle and some of fav tracks include: Go With The Flow, Doomsday, ?, The Mic, Gas Drawls, and I Hear Voices, Pt.1 (do not know if this counts since, it be not on your pressing). WHat AM I doing go so deep into this? I got to throw all this effort into Me review of this album. Interesting Read, nonetheless.

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  9. Wow I love when I don't go over what I've written before I submit it. It should read:

    Just doesn't happen for me. Maybe another listen of these few songs are in order.

    I did go back and listen to them and they are not bad. I like the collaboration between himself and madlib, Madvillian much better.

    Keep up the good work Max

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  10. AnonymousMay 02, 2009

    "This song sucks the sperm out of a rhinoceros cock." At this point I knew your BUY OR BURN reaction. Haha, I do agree his is a ghost(face?) of his KMD days

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  11. MF's later stuff is way better.

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  12. AnonymousMay 02, 2009

    mf doom is terrible, he doesn't even know how to stay on beat

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  13. AnonymousMay 02, 2009

    i love your posts but this one showed an obvious lack of effort. you should really listen to the lyrics and give this another review in a few months.

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  14. I think the one write-up is plenty, thanks. If you would like to submit a rebuttal, be my guest, but as for me, I think the only time I'll revisit MF Doom is when I get to another one of his albums.

    Thanks for reading!

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  15. AnonymousMay 03, 2009

    I really think that Doom is an acquired taste. Most people either get him or they don't. I know people who will swear by him (including myself), and people think he is horrible. I'll admit though that Operation Doomsday isn't his greater outing, but it holds a place in my heart. Every time I listen to a doom joint there is something new I pick up on that I hadn't realized before. What seems like drunken rambling by Doom at first begins to make sense after some time.

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  16. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    mf doom will never be nothing more than mediocre as a rapper.

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  17. well, I am glad I'm not the only one who never understood what the fuss was about with this one here. And looking at the comments I really am not alone at all here in this opinion. OK the cartoon style is funny and entertaining and it has a few good tracks but really ... "classic" ??? Not at Tcha's household !

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  18. Well, I'll be the one to disagree with everybody here.

    Honestly, I found this album to be great. The description of Doom "trying way too hard to fit as many words as possible into a single bar" doesn't really fit this album. DOOM didn't really get like that until his later 03-04 joints. Still, I thought his rhyming performance on this album was one of his best. It felt like he had more to say on this than most of his other albums. Usually for his other albums, I sometimes get the feeling he's rhyming for the sake of rhyming or being weird just to be weird (which isn't a BAD thing). Just doing what's expected of him. With this one, its a cool blend of battle rhyming, nerdy references and some (kinda) gully shit. His later stuff at times leans too heavily on the weird, nerdy stuff mixed with a few battle raps. He later grew to be a really great technical rapper, but I felt his rhyming on this one than most of the other stuff. Kinda just feels more "real" to me. Don't know how, but it does more so than most of his other work.

    As for the beats, I dug 'em.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    Sorry for the long post, man! LOL.

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  19. Its kind of good to see that there are people who don't ride on the jock of this album. But personally, I can't really say it has any bad points, it appeals to me a good bit for its delivery on the whole. I bump only a few tracks from this in my car from time to time but I definitely listen to the majority of it when in the mood at home.

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  20. I think it's an album that improves as it goes on, it starts reletively slow but once Tick, Tick starts you've got it up at full blast, only to quickly stick it down to mute when Red and Gold comes on, and then it starts to really pick up. Personally I detest skits and intros but the skits in this were actually quite enjoyable. I think his wordplay is definitely up to scratch, and in all fairness the first official KMD album was pretty poor.

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  21. AnonymousMay 26, 2009

    Fuck I dont even care anymore this Guy is getting me mad, have you even listened to the lyrics you dim wit?? The Finest, the Mic, Red and Gold etc are all bonafied classics, to me this is Doom at his rawest and hungriest, one of my favourite albums of all time, I really cant see how a hip hop head could say bullshit like that about such a stellar joint. Also this guy said 'The Most Beautfilest Thing in the World' (the song) was wack!?!?!?! WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!??!?! dont listen to dude get this album you will not regret it

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  22. AnonymousJuly 01, 2009

    You should definitely review MM.. Food, but keep an open mind about it. That's probably my favorite doom solo album.

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  23. i have to say daniel you are a faggot.

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  24. yo - how can u hate on rhymes like dimes? that is one of my favorite hip hop beats of all time. real talk.

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  25. Best NYC underground album of the 90's.
    Simple as

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  26. "Best NYC underground album of the 90's.
    Simple as"

    get real.

    i do like dooms (lack of) style though, i always found maxs' reviews to be worth reading because more often than not i'd disagree with you but not on a level where "this guy is a fuckin idiot" just where, ok that was a valid point but allow me to retort

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  27. when i saw this album on the shelf @ fatbeats ny i thought who's this wack rapper using dr doom on his cover, hope he gets sued! at the same time there was this song i heard on stretch and bobbito that i didnt know the title or artist and was looking for like crazy...

    Deadbent
    glad i bought it and it got many rotations...

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  28. I don't understand why GFK gets so much praise here and yet DOOM's lyrics aren't great? I'll admit he didn't perfect his style till Vaudeville Villain, but COME ON!

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  29. AnonymousMay 21, 2010

    This is a great album. You're all crazy.
    This album sounds exactly as it was meant to sound,
    low budget and full of lyrics that you might have to listen
    to more than once to understand the context they were meant
    to taken in. Also there is no way in hell that mf grimm is a better
    rapper than doom, I like grimm but everything he did after his cameo on 4,5,6
    has been sub par compared to his old work.

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  30. AnonymousJune 15, 2010

    This is a great album. You're all crazy.
    This album sounds exactly as it was meant to sound,
    low budget and full of lyrics that you might have to listen
    to more than once to understand the context they were meant
    to taken in. Also there is no way in hell that mf grimm is a better
    rapper than doom, I like grimm but everything he did after his cameo on 4,5,6
    has been sub par compared to his old work.

    I have to agree with you.
    This Review is absolutely terrible.

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  31. I Love this album, but is soooo fuckin overrated

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  32. This review actually isn't to hard on the album. You have to realize that a DOOM album is more than the sum of its part, and while the individual criticisms were mostly valid I still feel that it's hard to convince anyone there's something wrong with this album. This album is up there personally with Led Zeppelin: IV and to think DOOM cobbled this album together relatively unprofessionally is damn impressive, and now that this album is well known I don't think there is any problem with this album a mostly unbiased review.

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