(Today's Reader Review finds Will Schmitt taking a look at MF DOOM's second release under the DOOM name, Mm...Food? Leave some notes for him below.)
MF DOOM, born Daniel Dumile and known by God knows how many aliases, is usually the subject of much debate within hip hop blogs and circles (or squares, depending on the mood). Some say his eccentric-at-best style of rhyming is completely incoherent and just the result of one too many bong hits before recording. Those same critics will also say that the beats he tends to rap over (primarily his own) are repetitive and annoying. However, these are usually the same people that tend to view Lil' Wayne as their lord and master. On the other side of the spectrum, there are people (such as myself) who view Weezy as a (very) poor man's DOOM, who say that the beats are at times majestic and are always, at the very least, interesting.
As for his rhymes...well, I'll leave that up to you.
Mm...Food? was released on the Rhymesayers label in 2004, and it sold fairly well for an underground release, moving about twenty-five thousand units in roughly five months. That being said, with the unrelenting support that the underground music scene is known for, it has probably been downloaded quite a bit more than that. Here's looking at you, stoners.
If you're just discovering MF DOOM or listening to Mm...Food? for the first time, you should probably turn down your radio, draw the shades and relax to the pleasant sounds of...
1. BEEF RAPP
..what the hell? The album doesn't kick off so much as it groggily wakes up from being sedated. This beginning comes in the form of many food-related samples placed together (is that a dolphin in the background? Cute!) in order to help the title make just a tiny little bit of sense. Well, it's interesting and it keeps you guessing; as a bonus, it helps acclimate you to the general idea of DOOM, so that you are much more accepting of his style by the time the song actually starts, which is about a minute-and-a-half in. The rhymes are fairly intricate and loosely food-centric. DOOM displays his tendency to angle his words to create a rhyme scheme that seems slightly forced: however, the bars are clever and our host's flow meshes with the beat nicely.
2. HOE CAKES
Starts with the sound of beatboxing and boom bap, then transforms into a piano melody punctuated by a J.J. Fad "Supersonic" sample. This song seems stuck on the previous beat, but somehow still works. DOOM provides a vague tale of a pimp on a track that you will either love or hate. The song ends with a minute of an extended sample continuing the story. If you're familiar with DOOM's debut, Operation: Doomsday, these samples will probably seem familiar. Side note: This track was produced by DOOM's deceased brother (and partner in his old group KMD), DJ Subroc; he passed away in the early 1990s, which explains the old-school vibe of the beat.
3. POTHOLDERZ (FEAT. COUNT BASS D)
We move right into the next aural adventure, which features a couple of guitars and another plodding beat. For the second straight track, a short burst of a sample, this time taken from Dr. Dre ("Hot shit"), plays a role in fitting into the rhyme, albeit nowhere near as much of a force as the sound bite on “Hoe Cakes”. (Interestingly, this song was produced by Count Bass D and not Daniel: I guess he requires guest producers to incorporate one second bits of dialogue into their songs, too.) Our host spits his usual bars filled with complexities and God knows what else (which, in any other rapper's arsenal, would be considered a shark jump) while Count Bass D does a nice job, even playing along with DOOM's pot-addled food theme.
4. ONE BEER
Ah, here we go. Over a Madlib-handled beat, Daniel starts the track off by imitating Frank Sinatra, with predictable results. The sample that carries the song is quite pretty, if just a tad shrill, and DOOM does his best job on the mic so far on this project. He walks away about halfway through to let the beat ride out, which lets you focus on the way the sample works with the bass line and draws some attention to the nice drum fills. Somewhat inevitably, with about a minute left, the cartoon sound bites make a comeback and attempt to get a few laughs with what I suppose is mild success (he got one chuckle and two snickers out of me, anyway). Goofy sampling at the end notwithstanding, this was a pretty cool song.
5. DEEP FRIED FRENZ
One of the best songs on Mm...Food? Fueled by a Whodini sample (and a saxophone line that you may recognize from the Wale song "The Friends N Strangers”), DOOM talks about friendship and grabs the listener's attention with his words, including one of my personal favorite lines from the album: "It don't make no sense, what happened to the loyalty? / Honor amongst crooks, trust amongst royalty / I'd rather go out in a blaze than give 'em the glory / 'How many of us have them?' A similar story”. Once again, the last twenty percent of the song consists entirely of samples' however, this particular sequence seems to be a metaphor for DOOM's experiences after the death of his brother.
6. POO-PUTT PLATTER
Now that the THC has full control of the studio, DOOM creates the mother of all sample-led stories, complete with Scooby Doo, child amputation, flying monkey men, and so much more. I actually laughed at a few parts of this just because it was so ridiculous. On a more serious note, this track completely guts the momentum generated by the last two songs, which is unfortunate, as they were really fucking good. The best part of this song, musically speaking, is the beat, which you can find being put to much better use on a Vast Aire collaboration entitled “Da Superfriendz” (off of DOOM's Unexpected Guests album).
More sample-story, this time detailing a recipe of something you should never eat, unless your ideal dessert is pork butt. Oh well.
If you prefer “normal” hip hop, you should probably stay away from the next stretch of "songs". I got a laugh out of one sample, which seems to be from an interview on edible food wrappers: "You would only want to use the wraps where there is no food associated with the use of the wrap”. This track aims for a metaphor about (w)rapping that is mildly interesting, but skipping this track would be no great loss.
9. FIG LEAF BI-CARBONATE
Seriously, four of these motherfuckers in a row? Oh well. The instrumental here is one you may have heard elsewhere, on Ghostface Killah's “Guns n' Razors” (off of More Fish). I admit I laughed again at what sounded like a Muppet roaring, just from the sheer out-of-place vibe it carries. More metaphorical sampling at the end of the song, but that could also just be me reaching. For all I know, Daniel is just fucking around at this point.
10. KON KARNE
An actual real song? Awesome! DOOM spits some nice bars ("What a steal for real on wheels of steel / stunner a funner summer number one meal deal bummer") over what amounts to hip hop elevator music. However, for the first time since I don't know when, the drums on this song have an interesting bounce to them, and by the end of the song it's not elevator music anymore; it has become a strange concoction consisting of a love song, but with superb rhyming. (I may be wrong, but based on the dedication at the end of the song, it seems like it's not about your typical "I wanna fuck you" rap love, but actually about the platonic love he has for his deceased brother, and if that's the case, that's a pretty cool gesture.)
11. GUINESSES (FEAT. ANGELIKA & 4IZE)
DOOM takes his bong behind the boards for this one, letting two rappers I've never heard from before (or since) go at it. 4ize sing/raps the “hook” Nelly-style, while Angelika does a pretty good job over one of the best beats on Mm...Food? This song could have been near-amazing, had Doom deigned to rap at least a verse, but it still turned out nicely. It ends again with another interesting group of samples: regardless of whether you like his music, DOOM continues to be a master of not knowing how to end songs so as to keep his album moving along.
12. KON QUESO
This song, produced by PNS of the Molemen, features (in my opinion) the best lyrics of the entire album. There are too many examples to point out; you really just have to listen to the song to know what I'm talking about. It seems that while food is still the main theme of the tracklisting, DOOM has completely forgotten about it since the grouping of four sample-led tracks in a row. Which of course means that our host will fuck up the flow with another run of sampling, and that's exactly how this song ends. Nevertheless, the actual rapping part of the song is pretty fucking great.
13. RAPP SNITCH KNISHES (FEAT. MR. FANTASTIK)
After researching Mm...Food? (read: glancing at Wikipedia), I learned that the guitar bit that powers this track taken from is from the David Matthews' version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity". Cool! Anyway, the subject of this song is the ever-popular hip hop snitch, and while the beat is good and DOOM does a decent enough job, Mr. Fantastik is pretty useless. This track deserved better.
Well, so much for that ongoing “food” theme. That said, “Vomit” features a great beat, proving once again that DOOM is not only a great rapper, he is also one hell of a producer. This would have been a nice, mellow way to end Mm...Food?, but we have one more gem ahead of us.
A song about Internet porn, because why the hell not? This was, amazingly, the only song with sample clearance issues on this entire album. The original version sounds like an outtake from the Danger Doom project The Mouse & The Mask, in that I could see it as the theme song for some obscure Adult Swim show tinged with a fairly funky guitar. This album cut, however, is a lot different. The lyrics are similar (possibly even exactly the same, but I can't remember much from the original song aside from the beat at the moment), but the update is fueled by a more low-key bass guitar and is decidedly more somber.
FINAL THOUGHTS: What a ride. Chances are if you're on of Max's two readers, you're well-versed in the dark, dank underground of hip-hop and you may even already love MF DOOM's Mm...Food?, but it goes without saying that some of this is far too weird for your average music listener. Shit, I didn't even really care for it at first. However, successive listens (and general maturation) have helped me acquire a strong liking for it. Overall, I believe it to be a great album, even with the middle portion, consisting of the somewhat unfortunate placement of four straight sample-led songs featuring no rapping whatso-fucking-ever, filled with "jokes" and metaphors you would have to be stoned to laugh at and/or understand. Had DOOM saw fit to spread out some of those little fuckers (or even eliminate some of them altogether: “Fillet-O-Rapper” is essentially useless), we could have had one of the greatest albums of all time. While there is definitely some areas that need polishing, the main focus of Mm...Food? is still the quality of MF DOOM's work, both on the mic and behind the mixing boards. If you like alternative hip hop, and you haven't listened to this yet...
BUY OR BURN? ...buy! Please buy! This is such a good album, and it can lead you to so many other high points in DOOM's career, such as Madvillain or KMD. This could change your life.
BEST TRACKS: “One Beer”; “Deep Fried Frenz”; “Kon Karne”; “Guinesses”; “Kon Queso”
(Questions? Comments? Leave your notes below.)