Private Enemy

Two New York rappers dreamed of stardom. MF Doom got it. MF Grimm didn't.

"I remember visiting him up in Fishkill, New York, and the facilities were a little better," recalls Elinor Tatum, a friend. "But he told me about how, before, he'd basically had to crawl to the shower. In another case, medical staff didn't want to have to change his catheter, so they gave him a drug that kept him from having to urinate. He got very ill because of it, because he was not eliminating the way he should have been."

Yet Carey found ways to make the most of a miserable situation, working on his chess game, teaching himself to cook, and studying the music industry.

"I got my hands on Billboard, Forbes, Fortune—anything that dealt with marketing," he says. "And I learned the business models of people like Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, Tommy Mottola, and Jimmy Iovine. I basically took my years in prison and I used it as college."

MF Grimm
photo: David Yellen
MF Grimm

Dumile visited him only once during that stint. Adding insult to injury, upon Carey's 2003 release, Dumile told him that the album deals with Readyrock had fallen through. He'd struck new deals to release Operation: Doomsday and Bl_ck B_st_rds, but they would pay the two men only a fraction of what was guaranteed by the original agreements.

"Dumile promised that he was going to do something to make it right, to get some thing to me," Carey says. "But he never did."

Answers Dumile, "It's funny how motherfuckers want to complain about how 'The Villain jerked me, and this and that.' I'm like, 'Get a lawyer!' "

Nonetheless, Carey was willing to let bygones be bygones, and he thought Dumile felt the same way when he invited Carey to perform at an MF Doom concert at Times Square club B.B. King's last year.

"I wasn't going to do any more shows," Carey says. "It's a very uncomfortable feeling sitting down and having to rhyme. It's like boxing—you don't want to be a boxer in a wheelchair. You want to stand up and fight."

But the chance to be with Dumile was more than he could pass up, and in a video of the concert DVD Carey has, he looks as happy as a kid at his first baseball game. "All the people on the sides know MF Doom is hot, MF Doom is hot, MF Grimm is hot," Carey raps from his chair at the beginning of the show, wearing a heavy sweatshirt and winter cap. "This is my brother, I love him," he adds as the lights are cut and Dumile bounds onto the stage, clad in a Patrick Ewing Knicks jersey and, of course, his silver mask. He continuously shouts out Carey throughout the set, using his other stage names, Jet Jaguar and Grandmaster Grimm.

"It felt good being onstage with him," Carey recalls. "It was good to see him rock. And after that, I thought we would be back to normal. It's apparent that he didn't think so." Carey heard "El Chupa Nibre" shortly thereafter and became convinced that Dumile had fundamentally changed since their days as teenagers on 97th Street. "I think he's caught up in an image he can't escape from. He has to be a villain."

Dumile doesn't entirely disagree. "The whole Villain thing is really like looking at how other people see him," he says. "The oppressors usually look at the people they're oppressing as the villains. But the oppressed are the heroes to the people, so I just accept it now. I'll be the villain. I'll be the hero to the hip-hop world."

Carey's apartment is full of cardboard boxes, some packed with promotional T-shirts and copies of American Hunger. Others are troves of old mementos. After digging around for a few minutes, Carey produces old copies of Right On! magazine, a locally based hip-hop fanzine aimed at young girls in which he once authored a column called Grimm Reaper's Harvest. Also in the boxes are photos from Carey's Sesame Street days and a picture of him standing with DJ Roc Raida in the early '90s, before Carey was paralyzed.

Eventually, Carey packs up the boxes and puts them away, along with the Doom concert DVD. The sun has gone down in the South Bronx, and the interview is almost over. But before that happens, he'd like to show off a new trick he's been working on.

"I'm learning how to stand up," he says, moving from his wheelchair to a leather recliner and motioning for Warfield to hand him his aluminum walker. He grasps the walker's soft handles and, trembling, pulls himself up. After a few seconds of struggle he extends, fully vertical, his muscular arms supporting his underdeveloped legs.

"I fully expect to walk again, but it's difficult for me to put a timetable on it," Carey says, after sitting back down. "It's not my body anymore. My body's back. It's just, there's a lot of things I've got to overcome in my mind."

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