Check the Technique – MF DOOM

Born Daniel Dumile, the inception of MF DOOM can be traced back to 1997 when he returned from a five-year hiatus after the untimely death of his brother DJ Subroc. His new moniker allowed him to play the part of  ‘The Villain’ – birthing his mythos to wreak havoc “against the industry that so badly deformed him.” Over the years DOOM has dawned many masks as part of duos Madvillain (with Madlib) and Danger Doom (with Danger Mouse) as well as a three-headed space monster in King Geedorah and a time travelling miscreant in Viktor Vaughn.

DOOM is one of many emcees who often fall under the umbrella of ‘your favourite rappers’ favourite rapper’ and for good reason. Despite his cartoonish alter egos, DOOM’s lyrical prowess is far from comical.

This new ongoing segment – Check the Technique – is designed to showcase the craft of such lyrical wordsmiths, analysing their best bars and listing their most impressive verses. Check the technique of DOOM below.

MF DOOM’s Top Ten Bars

10. (Born Like This, 2009) – ‘That’s That.’

“Cornish hens switching positions, auditioning morticians,
Saw it in a vision, ignoring prison,
Ignoramuses enlist and sound dumb,
Found ’em drowned in cow’s dung, crowns flung…”

Ignorant civilians (cornish hens) that become rappers/ soldiers (switching position) are about to die hence “auditioning” for “morticians.” The Cornish is a certain breed of chicken that is raised for butchering. DOOM is dissing generic rappers/ soliders who take part in hip-hop/ the war effort despite their simplistic gangster raps/ excuses that ignore prison sentences for their actions. They end up drowned in bullshit with their head blown off.

 9. (Dangerdoom, 2005) – ‘El Chupa Nibre.’

“The super flow with more jokes than Bazooka Joe,
A mix between Superfly Snuka and a superhoe,
Chew a MC like El Chupa Nibre,
Digest a group and sell the poop on eBay…”

Every piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum came with a little comic in it. Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka was a legendary WWF wrestler and ‘Super Hoe’ is a reference to the Boogie Down Productions song of the same name. The next bar is alluding to an episode of Futurama which featured a monster called the ‘El Chupanibre’, and the end bar could be referring to Nibbler (the aforementioned creature in the show) as he excretes dark matter which is an extremely expensive space fuel. It also means that DOOM is so nice he will metaphorically eat emcees and if they can make money selling shit, then so can he.

8. (Madvillainy, 2004) – ‘Great Day.’

“Looky here, it’s just the way the cookie tear,
Prepare to get hurt and mangled like Kurt Angle rookie year,
The rocket scientist, with the pocket wine list,
Some even say he might need some pus-sychiatrist…”

The first line is a play on the cliché phrase “the way the cookie crumbles.” The second references professional wrestler Kurt Angle. Since Angle’s 1996 Olympic games was remarkably successful despite having a broken neck, two herniated disks and two cracked vertebrae, the metal-faced villain seems to be implying that he will hurt and mangle you like Angle was as an amateur wrestler. DOOM then informs us it takes a certain level of intelligence to create his rhymes as he finishes with a Freudian slip, thus showing his true intentions and refusal of psychiatric assistance.

7. (Vaudeville Villain, 2003) – ‘Vaudeville Villain.’

“Viktor the director flip a script like Rob Reiner,
The way a lotta dudes rhyme their name should be “knob shiner”,
For a buck, they’d likely dance the Jig or do the Hucklebuck,
To Vik it’s no big deal, they’re just a buncha knuckle-fucks…”

The way DOOM rhymes is comparable to how director Rob Reiner brings his movies to life, (When Harry Met Sally/ A Few Good Men). He also mentions that it appears emcees will do anything to get rich these days which Vik doesn’t care for. “Knuckle-fuck” could also be interpreted literally as to fuck one’s knuckles, meaning these rappers are a bunch of wankers bolstering his “knob shiner” claim in the previous bar.

6. (Madvillainy, 2004) – ‘Rhinestone Cowboy.’

“Overthrow ’em like throwing Rover a biscuit,
A lot of bitches think he’s overly chauvinistic,
Let go his dick if that’s the case,
Rats, what a waste there’s more cats to chase—
Dogs, he got it like new powers,
Woke up, wrote and spit the shit in a few hours…”

A connotation of a takeover metaphor, comparing this coup d’etat of the rap game with throwing a treat to a dog. DOOM doesn’t use the word ‘bitch’ often so he employs it here to make a point, like the use of the word itself is overly chauvinistic – he is being purposefully ironic by doing so. DOOM then questions if he is chauvinistic then why don’t you get off his dick if that’s the case with his bluff being called. The wordplay using animals “rats”, “cats” and “dogs” intertwines the underlying idea that rappers are on his dick due to his skill with “cats” also meaning pussy. The over the bar rhyme to “dogs” has MF breaking the fourth wall informing us directly that this song was thrown together quickly – which he states in his 2011 Red Bull Music Academy Lecture in Madrid.

5. (MM…FOOD, 2004) – ‘Kookies.’

“It’s horrible, one little evening alone, home,
End up with carpal tunnel syndrome,
And here I am, known for giving heavy back aches,
Grown and living off of Little Debbie snack cakes,
Supposed to be checking emails,
All I got is messages from ass naked females…”

These hilarious bars set the scene for this track, which is about masturbating to online pornography. When home alone, DOOM does this so furiously he ends up with carpal tunnel syndrome. He can’t believe his luck as he’s known for being a top tier tactician in the bedroom, although this night he’s left to his own devices; eating cookies while trying to deal with the numerous cookies that pop up while browsing online porn – something I know nothing about…

4. (Vaudeville Villain, 2003) – ‘The Drop.’

“Don’t let the drama getcha,
In the only genre of music where the fans shoot the messenger,
Bitch n***** talk behind your back like a catcher,
Either M-Y-O-B or B-Y-O stretcher…”

A macabre line, but one with some sense in light of hip-hop’s violent history – those who kill hip-hop’s icons tend to be fans of the music. DOOM is comparing these “bitch n*****” to catchers in baseball, who frequently stand behind the batter and talk trash. “Catcher” is an intentional word choice as Mark David Chapman who shot and killed John Lennon, calmly opened up Catcher in the Rye and proceeded to read it before being apprehended. DOOM finishes by stating Mind Your Own Business or Bring Your Own stretcher – lyrically and physically, Viktor Vaughn will wreck you.

3. (Madvillainy, 2004) – ‘Figaro.’

“The rest is empty with no brain, but the clever nerd,
The best emcee with no chain ya ever heard,
Take it from the Tec-9 holder,
They’ve bit, don’t know their neck shine from Shinola,
Everything that glitters ain’t fishscale,
Lemme think, don’t let her faint get Ishmael…”

DOOM is announcing his aversion to jewellery simultaneously maintaining he is the best emcee you have never heard. Steadfast in his belief, MF politely asks you to believe him informing you he is packing a Tec-9. The popular American phrase “you don’t know shit from Shinola,” refers to the popular manufacturer of shoe polish. Replacing ‘shit’ with “neck shine”, DOOM is maintaining those who bit his style couldn’t tell the difference between inferior emcees who wear gold chains and himself. “Fishscale” is high quality, uncut cocaine, which looks flaky and glittery. This is a variation on the idiom, “all that glitters is not gold”, meaning that while rappers look fancy and act like drug dealers, looks can be deceiving; fishscale is also a half rhyme of the word fiscal meaning monetary. From a famous verse from the Book of Genesis, Hagar and her son Ishmael were expelled from their respective cities. After they strayed into the wilderness, Ishmael almost died because of thirst if it were not for God producing a well.

2. (MM…FOOD, 2004) – ‘Beef Rapp.’

“What up? To all rappers: shut up with your shutting up,
And keep a shirt on, at least a button-up,
Yuck, is they rhymers or strippin’ males?
Out of work jerks since they shut down Chippendales…”

In other words, shut up with your nonsense, keep your shirt on, this is rap not a modelling contest. His point is that rappers walking around with their shirts off are basically Chippendale’s rejects looking for a paycheck in rap – beefcakes, as they are sometimes referred too. This turn of phrasing even had Mos Def in fits of laughter.

1. (Madvillainy, 2004) – ‘Accordian.’

“It’s like the end to the means,
Fucked type of message that sends to the fiends,
That’s why he brings his own needles,
And get more cheese than Doritos, Cheetos or Fritos,
Slip like Freudian,
Your first and last step to playing yourself like accordion…”

The phrase is usually ‘means to an end’ hereby stating the “means” (perhaps a mundane job/ a journey) is less important than the “end” (usually money/ fame/ recognition). Here, DOOM signifies through wordplay that “the means” (i.e. the getting of money/ the journey) is more important than “the end” (the money itself). The following line is an assertion that he is thinking like a fiend himself; drug fiends don’t care what they have to do to acquire drugs (the means), just so far as they get it (the end) – DOOM has a very complex understanding of idioms. Like a composed drug addict, he knows to bring his own needle/ mic rather than use a diseased needle/ mic from someone before him. MF is never second on the mic. Cheese means money and also a slang term for heroin mixed with Tylenol – so it blends well with the “brings his own needles” line. A Freudian slip is a term that, in general use, means any slip of the tongue that seems to reveal the hidden thoughts of the speaker. DOOM is warning rappers that if they “slip”, they will be ended – thus playing themselves like an accordion.

DOOM’s Top Five Verses 

*All the tracks listed below are singular verse.

5. (Madvillainy, 2004) ‘Great Day’ – this jazzy piece of production supplied by Madlib has the metal-faced villain rapping in free-form fashion. Stringing together a braggadocio laden verse, where he is angling to get a young lady’s phone number while reinforcing that his “rhymes are ill.”

4. (Vaudeville Villain, 2003) ‘Vaudeville Villain’ – MF DOOM introduces us to his alter-ego Viktor Vaughn for the first time – a scientist and rapper from another dimension in which hip-hop is banned. The opening alliterative bars allude to the loose time-travelling plot of the album while Viktor uses this verse to define his character.

3. (Madvillainy, 2004) ‘Figaro’ – paying homage to Mozart’s 1786 composition ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ DOOM is confident he too will get the girl against all odds. Figaro is a double entendre in this case as it also refers to the figaro style of linked necklace reflected in the rhyme scheme. DOOM pairs successive bars with a daisy-chain style of rhyming couplet to reinforce this imagery with beginning, middle and end rhyme throughout the verse.

2. (MM…FOOD, 2004) ‘Deep Fried Frenz’ – no stranger to psychoanalysis references in his rhymes, DOOM raps about the Hedgehog Dilemma – a metaphor for challenges of human intimacy. Arguably his most introspective song to date, DOOM still manages to inject his humourous juxtapositions of realism and fantasy.

1. (Born Like This, 2009) ‘That’s That’ – DOOM had one thing in mind when penning this verse – to send a message to his peers that although he had been absent for a few years, they still cannot compete with him lyrically. The technical prowess displayed here is absolutely astonishing. Almost every syllable is placed within a holorhime (where two very similar sequence of sounds can form phrases) start to finish at the same time maintaining a stream of strong visualisation, personification and outrageous aspersions towards inferior emcees.

Like any great art, subjectivity is key. If you disagree with the above selections please let us know, via the comments box, Twitter or Instagram – and ‘That’s That!’

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