The Best of MF DOOM
The MF DOOM experience is one of great frustration, longing, and patience. Daniel Dumile is a Long Island–raised rapper, born in the UK, who created a comic-book alter ego in the wake of losses so harrowing they verged on cartoonish.
In 1993 Dumile’s younger brother, Dingilizwe, was killed by a car as he tried to cross an expressway; a week later, the sophomore album from KMD, the group that Dumile and his brother were members of, was halted by the record company over concerns about the album cover. Black Bastards featured a caricature of a public lynching. Years of homelessness and exile followed before Dumile returned to rap, this time his face shielded in a metallic mask. Doom, though disfigured by catastrophic defeat, had survived and was prepared to avenge himself upon the world.
Making frequent lyrical references to nerd-culture staples of the ’80s and ’90s and producing his own instrumentals, DOOM plotted Vengeance on the industry that had him scorend. Rapping wittily and with skill, and generating vast amounts of material, DOOM plotted his return: Years before 50Cent flooded New York with mixtapes Doom, a new Atlanta resident, was uncorking torrents worth of albums, loosies, mixtapes, instrumentals and collaborative tapes with other rappers and producers, across the web.
In an era when major-label rap was mired in a particularly leaden form of materialism DOOM’s output made him a legend on the underground circuit. His fan base soon became a distinct branch of the geek-indie-rap cultures, obsessed with marginality and arcana, the same ethos that inspired DOOM’s music. DOOM was never going to cross over into the spotlight being a stubborn relic of an era obsessed with lyrical brilliance, rather than materialism.
The lead up to Missing Rhymes Notebook
Since ‘09 DOOM’s production has slowed considerably. Visa troubles prevented him from returning to the U.S. after an overseas tour and between that and sheer exhaustion from which even prolific creators suffer, there hasn’t been much time or energy for new albums.
In the past seven years, DOOM’s created two collaborative albums (with rappers Jneiro Jarel and Bishop Nehru, two fellow London-based underground artists) and little else. There was great rejoicing among the faithful fan base when Adult Swim announced DOOM would partner to release fresh material once every week for 15 weeks from August – under the name ‘The Missing Notebook Rhymes’. There was speculation as to whether the new tracks amounted to a new album. Optimists even dared believe each track would originate from a different new album. Anything seemed possible In the case of DOOM, an artist renowned for being, how shall we put this…odd.
Missing Rhymes Notebook Review
The results were decidedly mixed. If we’re going to count the Missing Notebook Rhymes material as fresh, which it isn’t (fresh in the sense of new, rather than lyrical) much of it it barely touches efforts of his career highlights. “Notebook 06,” is a barely remixed version of “Pause Tape” from 2013’s JJ DOOM joint album; “Notebook 05” has been online for years doing the rounds on compilations under the name of “No Refunds”; “Notebook 03” is suspiciously like an outtake from his and Danger Mouse’s 2005 DangerDoom album; the “Notebook 02,” verse, although layered over Alchemist, has been knocking around since at least 2012; “Negus,” the mixtape’s initial offering, is actually a Sean Price song featuring DOOM from Imperius Rex, the posthumous album Price released in 2017.
Frustration has always been as essential to the MF DOOM fan experience as it has been to the artist itself – episodes like the Missing Rhymes Notebook are a useful reminder. Passing off old material as new goes back to times when DOOM used imposters at live shows to mimic and perform in his stead. On “No Refunds” (“Notebook 05”) it’s funny to hear DOOM rap “I sell them bums a scrap verse that’s so-so, nice / You get what you pays for, raps for the low-low price”; as if to signal to Adult Swim, who could barely purchase the contents of a dustbin lid, having offered the artist scrap-metal prices they would be customarily returned with slag.
The EP/mixtape is not complete garbage though: “True Light Years,” featuring Jay Electronica, the comparatively low-key U.K.-based expatriate, and Exhibit-C famed lyricist goes in over a high flute line; “Notebook 04,” stays relevant with lines about Trump, how “the forces of evil keep winning,” and announcement of Doom’s 25th anniversary (KMD’s dropped their 1st album in 1991, 26 years ago) which makes missing rhymes sound present and potent to the modern listener.
It’s hard for Doom loyalists to receive so little in return for their patience, though. Fortunately, mainstream Hip-hop is in far better shape now than it was 10 or 15 years ago, when the need for DOOM was at its cresending peak. Animé references are replete in the work of countless younger rappers, such as Lil Uzi Vert and others of the new breed generation. The West Coast artists, Kendrick Lamar in particular, have resurrected old-school priority of high-lyricism, proving it’s still possible to sell out stadium tours without selling out.
The mystique of DOOM endures, while DOOM remains, like the final eight weeks of The Missing Notebook Rhymes, an open question.
MF DOOM in Review – Where did the Missing Notebook Rhymes Go Wrong?
Adult Swim always made an attempt to give innovative and provocative artists a platform to release fresh content. August 2017 signified the start of their partnership with MF DOOM, legendary rapper, to release a collection of loosies from upcoming projects.
The compilation album, or mixtape, or EP, depending on what you want to call it, is entitled The Missing Notebook Rhymes.
Born Like This was the last time we got an MF DOOM album, after letting the world know he’d voted for John McCain in 2009. Ever since, hardcore DOOM fans have been starved for new music until in August 2017 when Adult Swim’s creative director and senior vice president Jason DeMarco announced a new 15-song series called The Missing Notebook Rhymes. DeMarco, who has a personal relationship with the masked rapper, very quickly shot down the allegation that DOOM had fleeced the network for a check by selling them 15 throwaways.
In 2005 DJ Danger Mouse was doing music for a block of cartoons on Cartoon Network called Toonami and working with DOOM on some new music. Mouse approached DeMarco about getting Adult Swim involved with the project. The Mouse and the Mask album was originally supposed to be based on Toonami cartoons. DeMarco saw a different opportunity though: “I said, ‘Well I don’t think anybody wants a Toonami album, but an Adult Swim album might be cool,’” he remembers. “DOOM loves all those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and at that time, we were still showing Sealab 2021, so it just seemed like a more natural fit. Basically, Adult Swim funded the album and put it out with Epitaph, and for the time, it was sort of an indie hit.”
When DOOM and his manager Devin Horwitz approached DeMarco about new tracks they’d cultivated sometime in 2016 it was the perfect opportunity to rekindle the relationship and release something resembling a new project.
Songs in The Missing Notebook Rhymes series were not brand new, some being collaborations while others solo DOOM songs featuring new production. The team premiered with a collab with Sean Price off the late Brownsville MC’s posthumous album Imperius Rex; “Negus,”. On Wednesday Aug 16th, they dropped “True Light Years” off an upcoming KMD album called Crack in Time, the first LP from the group since Black Bastards dropped in 1993, the same year DOOM’s brother Subroc died in a car accident.
When Sean Price died, DOOM released a video on a boat saying rest in peace to the Heltah Skeltah legend. It was reported DOOM was stopped from re-entering the states and the video of him on a boat sparked inquiries about where he was. DeMarco knows where he’s located, but won’t let on:
“I know where he is, and he’s not in the country. I think that’s perfect. He’s on DOOM Island. That’s where he should be.”
Not all 15 of the planned DOOM songs ever surfaced and it’s not known if they ever will be released. DeMarco hopes someone will put them all out officially. “My hope is this project catapults him back out there and somebody at a label who wasn’t gonna spend money on DOOM will now call him up and put these tracks out. We’re a television network, we’re not a label, so we’re not gonna be putting out vinyl and selling records, but I do think, I hope, anyway, this project reminds everybody how great DOOM is and that somebody needs to gather this music and put it out for his fans.”