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Whether or not Dumile intended to hurt him, Carey reacted viscerally and immediately crafted a response. "He just gets in [the studio] and starts ripping this verse, and I'm just like, 'Oh my gosh!' " recalls producer DJ Crucial. "I'm looking around at everyone, 'cause Doom is like everyone's favorite right now."
"Book of Daniel" has listeners around the country duking it out on Internet message boards. Some see Carey's rage as justified, while others find the song a pathetic attempt to cash in on Dumile's celebrity. "Maybe Grimm looked at his sagging sales and said, 'Damn, I need to start a beef with someone,' " reads a comment to a blog posting about the song written by someone calling himself "i'm the skwidawd."
Carey insists "Book of Daniel" is not a publicity grab. "I do mean what I say. If I'm going to kill somebody, I'm gonna kill them. Am I looking to go hunt him down and kill him? Nah. But can it get to the point where someone could get hurt? Yeah. It's about respect. People get beat up for less."
So-called "dis tracks" are commonplace in rap music, of course. But "Book of Daniel" is different. When Carey isn't threatening Dumile, he's appealing for reconciliation. "Come home, Zev," he pleads near the song's end. "I can't act like I don't have no love for him," Carey says now. "I care about him so much that it caused the conflict that we have today. The more I speak about him, the more it becomes to the world like I'm bitter toward his success. He was boundto be successful, but the plan was for him to direct that success toward the others. If our plan is to get up over a wall, and I push you up and help you get over the wall and you don't throw a rope for me, then it's going to be an issue."
Dumile hasn't heard the song, but says he has no time for Carey's issues.
"It's funny, how, once it gets to where the name is getting recognized, everybody want to act like they got a problem with the Villain," he says. "I ain't got no friends. As soon as you think somebody's your friend, that's when you gotta watch out. When you're successful, there's always somebody that's cornering you, somebody that used to be your friend, talking about, 'He did this, he did that.' I open up my home to people, help people, and then motherfuckers turn around and try to stab me in the back."
Out on bail and awaiting trial for narcotics and weapons charges, Carey made a risky move in early 2000. Lacking a driver's license, he bought a fake one and used it to board a plane to Los Angeles.
There, he met Dumile. They came to negotiate with executives from Readyrock Records, who planned to release MF Doom's solo debut, Operation: Doomsday, and K.M.D.'s second and final album, Bl_ck B_st_rds. Carey contributed financially to and is credited as an executive producer on both albums.
Carey hadn't seen his friend in a while, as Dumile had moved to suburban Atlanta with his wife and their young son, Daniel Jr.Carey's godson. After the meeting, the two men revived their bond and, stepping into a record studio, quickly recorded hours of songs, one of which Carey would use for Grimm's own The Downfall of Ibliys: A Ghetto Opera, which was dedicated to stepbrothershooting victim Jansen Smalls. "I expected me and Doom to make good music and become legends," Carey remembers of the session.
Miranda Jane, a Los Angelesbased music consultant, came to the studio to interview the guys for Stress, a now defunct hip-hop publication subtitled "NY's Illest Magazine." She even brought along dinner for them: homemade jambalaya and smothered cabbage. "They had a really good synergy together," she recalls.
Jane, who later became Dumile's manager, was one of last people to see his face. Since Operation: Doomsday, MF Doom has taken to wearing a metal gladiator mask onstage, in press and album photos, and even in everyday life around people he doesn't know very well. "Hip-hop tends to be about who's the flyest, who has the biggest chain," Dumile explains. "So it's kind of like the mask is the opposite of that. It's like, it don't matter what he looks like, what race he is. All that matters is the vocals, the spit, the beats, the rhymes."
The mask has metaphorical implications as well, Jane says. Having been scarred by the music industry, Dumile was reinventing himself as someone who wouldn't be played for a fool. "Doom was concerned with making money right nowand feeding his family by any means necessary," she says, adding that this differed from Carey's long-term goal of building a black-owned distribution company from the bottom up.
"I got a different agenda," Dumile agrees. "It's about getting money, and that's that. I got children to feed." As for Carey: He "ain't got no kids."
Shortly after the L.A. meeting, Dumile returned to Atlanta, and Carey to the penitentiary. During his three-year confinement, he was transferred to institutions all over New York State. "I've been moved and moved. . . . Most of them wasn't wheelchair accessible," he says.