June 7, 2010
King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader (June 17, 2003)
In 1999, Daniel Dumile, abandoning his Zev Love X persona from his former crew KMD in favor of the masked villian MF Doom, released what turned out to be his comeback into the rap game, Operation: Doomsday. Regardless of what I might have written about what I still feel to be an overrated underground nugget made up almost entirely of music samples taped off of Saturday morning cartoons, combined with nonsensical phrases tied together to form verses that make less sense than the rising popularity of Two & A Half Men, Doom garnered quite a cult following. So, as most artists tend to do whenever they reach a certain level of success, Daniel retreated into the relative darkness of his studio to craft more goofy instrumentals.
He also caught up on his rubber monster movies, teaming up with his friend MF Grimm and a gaggle of other acts to form the Monsta Island Czars, a loosely knit rap collective whose love of that particular subgenre of science fiction inspired them to take on the names of the monsters from the Godzilla series as their own monikers. Doom adopted the alias King Ghidra, who was also a three-headed golden dragon; this persona actually made his debut on Operation: Doomsday, although he sounded suspiciously like MF Doom when it comes to his rhyme abilities and general subject matter.
So after the Monsta Island Czars released their Escape From Monsta Island! album, King Geedorah (why the spelling of his name changed is unknown, but I'm going to go ahead and claim copyright infringement issues with Toho, the company that owns the Godzilla/Gojira series) quietly unleashed his solo debut, Take Me To Your Leader. Produced entirely by Doom himself, the project claimed to be a concept album featuring “a space monster” intended to “show the listener a mirror image of his/herself and the way we see each other”. (The quotes were taken directly from an interview Doom gave regarding the project; I did not make those up.)
Take Me To Your Leader is essentially Doom's love of science fiction manifesting itself in the form of a hip hop album, complete with the entirely random beats, goofy time signatures, and nonsensical lyrical wizardry that his fans have grown accustomed to. Surprisingly, given the name of his fucking persona that technically released the album, Doom does not limit the guest list to only those in the Czars: he somehow convinced the likes of Scienz of Life and Hassan Chop to stop by the office before they left for the weekend.
So let's see where this goes. At the very least, Take Me To Your Leader should prove fun for Doom enthusiasts who enjoy finding out which of his many “special herbs” (or “instrumentals from his series Special Herbs”, for those of you unfamiliar with Daniel's work ethic) were utilized on each track.
Whatever Doom believes the King Geedorah concept was supposed to be about, it all goes out the fucking window once the first track, “Fazers”, kicks in. Fans of Operation: Doomsday know the drill: non-sequiturs layered over instrumentals which were dragged away, kicking and screaming, from their original purpose in life. I can't tell where this beat came from originally, but it lends Doom's random bars much more heft than the Hanna Barbera scores he usually toys with. This was actually not bad, mainly due to the music itself.
2. FASTLANE (FEAT BIOLANTE A/K/A KURIOUS)
Kurious spits one long verse, but is nice enough to leave some empty spaces, just in case Doom decided at the last minute to insert a chorus or two. The beat is nothing more than a loop (as are most rap beats, to be fair), and a fairly annoying one at that, so this track is won or lost based on the contribution of the rapper involved, and he manages to make this sound much more interesting than what our host could pull off with “Fazers”, so that counts for something. However, as Kurious is clearly following Doom's lyrical blueprint, you should expect more of the same here.
3. KRAZY WORLD (FEAT GIGAN A/K/A ZYMEER)
Zymeer sounds incredibly congested during his performance, which is distracting enough, but since he is also completely overwhelmed by the instrumental, “Krazy World” is a no-win situation. The actual beat is alright, but Gigan isn't the right match for it, and the fact that he includes a chorus in between his verses would be laughable if the overall song weren't so bad.
4. THE FINAL HOUR (FEAT MF DOOM)
Yes, you read that right: this song is by King Geedorah featuring himself. Doom fucks with the speed of the beat, causing the listeners to subconsciously latch on to his every word because you've been tricked into anticipating when (if?) the next drum kick will occur. This experiment causes “The Final Hour” to sound like one of the longest songs ever recorded, and it runs less than one minute long. It's fairly obvious that Doom isn't just deliberately messing with the audience, though: the speed of the instrumental dictates his follow-up rhymes, so this was simply an interesting one-verse wonder and nothing more. (Side note: fans of the beat on “The Final Hour” will be happy to learn that it is actually a running theme throughout Take Me To Your Leader.)
5. MONSTER ZERO
Film sound bites set to music. Doom doesn't make a vocal appearance, but his presence is certainly felt, and his soul is still dancing.
6. NEXT LEVELS (FEAT LIL' SCI, ID 4 WINDS, & STAHHR THE FEMCEE)
This understated jazzy number represents a slight departure from MF Doom's normal repertoire, and the overall outcome works: Stahhr and the two members of underground stalwarts Scienz of Life sound engaged on this track, and while no one artists stands out from the rest, this effort is still really fucking good.
7. NO SNAKES ALIVE (FEAT JET JAGUAR A/K/A MF GRIMM & RODAN)
This track also technically appears on the MF EP (a joint project between Grimm and Doom), but don't hold that against King Geedorah. I actually really liked the experimental vibe on “No Snakes Alive”: the instrumental (sampled from the score of Godzilla vs. Megalon) is at once dramatic, confusing, halting, fast-paced, and haunting. Doom has successfully crafted the score for your recurring nightmare featuring those marionette puppets in the attic with the dead eyes and the doll hair. Aside from Doom, this track features the only name-brand artist on Take Me To Your Leader in the form of MF Grimm, and even that description's pushing it a bit (even with the many accolades his graphic novel Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm has garnered, not every hip hop fan knows who MF Grimm is or what he sounds like), but both MFs simply contribute toe the overall group effort, not trying to set themselves apart. This was awkwardly nice.
8. ANTI-MATTER (FEAT MF DOOM & MR. FANTASTIK)
Doom uses the “Message From A Black Man” (from The Whatnauts) sample that both The Rza and Nas have recently borrowed, although his take is far more freeform than either of those two mainstream darlings. Mr. Fantastik sounds just fine on here, though, as he comes across as a subdued Prince Rakeem, and Doom, thankfully, only chimes in occasionally, with contributions short enough for the song to still work. The chorus is dumb, but it's a small price to pay to be entertained.
9. TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER
Another instrumental interlude with sound bites laid over it, in an attempt to construct a narrative out of thin air.
10. LOCKJAW (FEAT TRUNKS)
A quick and impressive one-verse wonder from Trunks, evaporating from your consciousness almost instantly after it ends. But I remember liking it, at least.
11. I WONDER (FEAT HASSAN CHOP)
Oddly poignant, and a true stretch for an album that's supposed to be about how a space alien views humanity. Ignore the alleged concept of Take Me To Your Leader (Doom certainly has, so you wouldn't be the first) and enjoy this for what it is: an assault by Hassan Chop upon your senses. Doom gives his friend a swooping, majestic beat, and Chop follows suit with one of the finest performances of the entire album.
12. ONE SMART N----R
Yet another compilation of beats and sound bites that refuse to combine and create an actual song. This one purports to confront the race issue head-on, but I feel that, with only one more track left on the album, it's kind of too late for social consciousness.
13. THE FINE PRINT
Ending Take Me To Your Leader the same way that it began, Doom's alien persona kicks an overly long verse filled with nonsensical ramblings that only barely reign themselves in toward the end of his performance to honor the overall concept of the project. The bombastic beat is actually really good, though, and Doom does sound pretty decent over it. Take Me To Your Leader ends with another gaggle of sound bites, taking on an odd homophobic air that comes out of left field, which was unnecessary and just weird. So yeah, that just happened.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Hip hop heads who ignore the underground entirely and left their backpacks behind when they finished up their degree would do best to walk away from this write-up, but for the rest of you who stuck around, King Geedorah's Take Me To Your Leader is a surprisingly cohesive mess. The hook of the album is bullshit anyway, as the alien concept is thrown away almost immediately: instead, you should look at this as MF Doom's attempt at a Kool Keith album, although Daniel does manage to swing the sci-fi theme a bit better (thanks to the overt cheesiness of movie monsters, as opposed to the terrifying concept of an alien gynecologist who is interested in mating all of the animals on Earth together). However, that very comparison might help explain why I liked Take Me To Your Leader much more that Operation: Doomsday: Doom reigns in his nervous tics just a bit, allowing his friends to essentially determine the direction of the project, only stepping in when he feels it to be appropriate. Take Me To Your Leader is also much shorter than Operation: Doomsday, with only thirteen tracks, three of which aren't even real songs, so instead of investing your time with MF Doom's overlong solo debut, you get to simply enjoy what was probably a throwaway project recorded in one day by the ever-elusive King Geedorah persona. The instrumentals provided also give the album a scope that wasn't previously seen on Operation: Doomsday: while they're still not perfect (Doom relies on his loops far too often, and never seems to be concerned with crafting actual songs, which can be both a good and a bad thing), they fit the proceedings well enough. Take Me To Your Leader was shockingly entertaining, mostly because you receive such a small dose of Doom that you hardly notice that it's his fucking album.
BUY OR BURN? Surprise! I would actually recommend that you buy this one, but I admit that it won't be for most audiences. It's an obvious comparison, but it still has to be made: if you're a fan of Kool Keith and his self-induced schizophrenia, then you may appreciate what MF Doom was going for that much more. If you're on the fence, give the tracks below a spin, and tell me what you think.
BEAT TRACKS: “I Wonder”; “No Snakes Alive”; “Lockjaw”; “Anti-Matter”; “Next Levels”
MF Doom – Operation: Doomsday