Diphthong Songs


MF Doom might just be the Bobby Zimmerman of the rap game: a one-man cult of multiple personalities, oft misinterpreted raconteur, arcane seer-crackpot. Masked and Pseudonymous. But you know his old man wasn’t some kind of feudal lord. At the risk of becoming too much of a good thing, his Viktor Vaughn alter ego returns with VV:2 Venomous Villain—one of the half-dozen or so albums he’s released in the last year.

Doom’s last (real) album, Madvillain, quickly became the hip-hop disc for non-rap fans. Critics all loved it—even The New Yorker signed on. Ironically, Doom has more in common with the old New Yorker set; he might just be the James Thurber of the rap game, but that’s not important.

The important thing is Doom doesn’t believe the hype—especially not his own. Instead of another must-get for the don’t-get-it set, VV:2 has Doom flowing over brittle beats—crisp, streamlined material; one for the fans. Doom’s vicious flow tends to get overshadowed by his humor; he’s got the breathless delivery of a Raekwon or a Nas, throaty float sailing effortlessly, never forced.

VV:2 may not be an overt step in the MC’s likely eventual transition from Madvillain to Melvillean, but it does mark a slight departure. Some songs actually have choruses, which Doom usually eschews, but which here provide a more weighted, elastic feeling. The music still retains a cut-up feel—both in the Burroughsian and class-clown senses. He’s a posse of one, a solo Doom Tang Clan(g), but instead of all those kung fu interludes about dudes getting heads chopped off, he samples guys talking about “haberdashery.” Where the other rappers rock chicks with thongs, Doom spits mad diphthongs. Real karate-kid shit, like Ginsu-knifing mosquitoes with chopsticks.

Straddling the fine line between the ‘hood and the hoodwinked, serious joker Doom rubs out the ego in his own music (and everybody knows ego is central to hip-hop). Yes, he refers to himself in the third person, but only when speaking of an alias; he’s as much a channel as an MC.

VV:2 does have a bit of a for-hire feel. In another departure, Doom doesn’t get any production credits here. Executive producer and label head Israel “Iz-Real” Vasquetelle—who also happens to edit and publish the indie hip-hop magazine Insomniac—pushes his own mediocre rap skills in two songs (while seasoned underground masher Kool Keith only gets 12 bars). Another odd guest choice, Christian MC Manchild at least doesn’t fail miserably. Still, maybe Doom’s opening lines should serve as the last word: “Dub it off your man/Don’t spend the 10 bucks/I did it for the advance/The back end sucks.”

MF Doom plays B.B. King’s November 24.

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