By Dan McQuade
By Brian McManus
By Hilary Hughes
By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
Comics aside, Carey's days are dominated with running the company he founded in 1999, before he went to prison, Day by Day Entertainment. Its musical arm has become a major independent hip-hop player in recent years, securing worldwide distribution and selling nearly 100,000 units by Carey's count. That figure includes 10,000 or so of an MF GrimmMF Doom collaboration called Special Herbs and Spices, Volume One, released in 2004 though produced years earlier.
Originally conceived as a vanity rap label, since Carey's release from prison three years ago Day by Day has taken on more than two dozen artists (Rob Swift, Hasan Salaam, Mudville) and now features a successful rock 'n' roll division (Serengeti, the Shadow). Carey is also in discussion with Verve to collaborate on a pair of jazz albums. Day by Day's film division is set to release a low-budget, straight-to-DVD Australian horror movie called When Evil Reigns. Finally, there's an energy drink called MF Potion in the works, not to mention a makeup line featuring lip gloss, blush, fragrances, and soap.
"There's not a lot of products for women of color, from my understanding," Carey says. "It has to do with the pigments. A woman my complexion, normally, whatever type of makeup they use has elements of pink in it. But they need something that's based in yellow."
Expect Day by Day cosmetics at a store near you this summer.
His varied projects aside, Carey's focus for now is his own new triple CD American Hunger. After spending much of the '90s working on other people's projects (he wrote songs for Kool G Rap's classic album 4, 5, 6 and, he says, Dr. Dre's The Chronic, though he's uncredited for his work on the latter), it's his fourth solo album, following The Downfall of Ibliys: A Ghetto Opera, Digital Tears,and Scars & Memories.
Released in July, Hunger is among the most ambitious projects in rap history, featuring 60 tracks, including collaborations with hip-hop royalty like Large Professor and PMD of EPMD. At its heart a pop album, it sashays between themes of love and loss, redemption and revenge, flirting with the political but finally settling on the personal. "Trapped in the belly of the beast/Trying to get regurgitated because I am the feast," Carey raps on the first of the album's three title tracks.
"The oppressed are the heroes to the people," Doom says. "I'll be the villian."
photo: Sven Slimm
Making a three-hours-long album is, of course, insane, but Carey somehow makes it work, partially through his compelling story and partially by stacking the deck with top-notch underground beat-makers like St. Louis's DJ Crucial, who plans to release his own album featuring the 12 songs he produced. "I was told it could not be done, but I like to do things people say can't be done; gives you a reason to still be on the planet," Carey says. "They can say the other 59 of them suck, but if somebody likes one song, I'm happy." (American Hungeris available at daybydayent.com for $13.50.)
A recent, largely praiseworthy Spin print review called Carey "the rapper who's taken almost as many bullets as 50 Cent." Wrong. "He was shot nine times, and I was shot 10 times," Carey grumbles, referring to both the crippling 1994 assault and a 1986 party in which he was shot in the stomach, knee, and wrist.
The Spin review also notes the album's Molotov cocktail of a final song, "Book of Daniel," which threatens Dumile by his first name and his stage name from his K.M.D. days: Zev Love X. "Zev Love X used to be merry/The mask took control of you like Jim Carrey," Carey raps over a blistering acid-rock sample, adding: "When the bullets start flying, who's gonna hide you?"
"You ain't a man/You a character," puts in crewmate MF Mez, adding, "M.I.C. gave you life/And we can take that shit away."
"Book of Daniel" is a response to a track on Doom's biggest success story to date: The Mouse and the Mask, his 2005 collaboration with superstar producer Danger Mouse, he of the Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up The Grey Album and this year's buzz phenom Gnarls Barkley. A goofy, literally cartoonish venture featuring the voices of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim stable (itself a favorite of Doom's largely white, frequently stoned fan base), Maskwas a critical and commercial smash. The Washington Post called it "the craziest, coolest CD of the year," and it reached 41 on Billboard's album chart.
On the Mask track in question, "El Chupa Nibre," Dumile obliquely references his past: "Once joined a rap clique, Midgets into Crunk/He did a solo on the oboe, could have sold a million/Then the Villain went for dolo and cited creative differences."
Carey sees the "Midgets into Crunk" line as a dis of M.I.C. "I view 'Midgets' as saying he's big-time and we're small. And he probably thinks crunk is like a fad, so that's just his way of saying we're out of here."
"I never looked at it like thatif I want to dis niggas, I'll say it straight up," Dumile responds. "But, if the shoe fit . . . you know what I'm saying? People can take it how they want to take it. If somebody feels offended by it, that's on they own self."