It is difficult to narrow down the extensive catalogue of Daniel Dumile’s output, for he is both an accomplished MC and a prolific producer for everyone from Nas to Masta Ace to Ghostface Killah. Daniel started out as Zev Love X when he and his littler brother, DJ Subroc, started the group KMD. After their first album, Mr. Hood, they lost their other member, Onyx, and became a duo who sought to release their second album, Black Bastards, but the album was ultimately shelved due to its “obscene” artwork depicting a stereotyped “Sambo” cartoon being lynched. DJ Subroc died around this time, and this sent Daniel into a self-imposed sabbatical, where he was “damn near homeless, walking the streets of Manhattan, sleeping on benches and sh*t,” as he described in The Wire Magazine.
It was his return that created his central, villainous persona: M(etal) F(ace) Doom. Wearing a woman’s stocking on his head, he would freestyle at open mic events at cafés in Manhattan. He would become Doom with a metal mask, seldom showing his face in public, pictures, or videos without it. Daniel came back as a villain to antagonize the music industry that forced KMD to disband. He came back a villain for all of us, to rebel against the forces that seek to dehumanize us. Being a villain depends on perspective and who is telling the story. A villain according to the Capitalist structures that made him. However, to the rest of us, he is a hero.
In honor of MF Doom, here is a list of his 10 perfect tracks narrowed down to his actual rap albums. This list does not include tracks from the many tracks he produced for others or his hip-hop instrumental albums. To include all of these would be too grand of an undertaking. So without further ado, here are the perfect 10 by MF Doom (and his multitude of aliases).
Track 1: “Dead Bent” by MF Doom, Operation: Doomsday
Featuring a heavy sample of Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By,” punctuated by samples of “Super Hoe” from Boogie Down Productions’ classic album Criminal Minded, and Atlantic Starr’s “Always.” MF Doom describes the stories he tells as imagination. Most are made up, but that’s the fun of it according to him. He can create a mythos around MF Doom. Doom weaves his braggadocio with ease, yet is endearing in a comic book kind of way, which is exactly what he was going for.
Track 2: “Anti-Matter (ft. MF Doom & Mr. Fantastik)” by King Geedorah, Take Me To Your Leader
King Geedorah, another alias, came out of The M.I.C. (Monsta Island Czars) Collective when they all chose monster names from the Godzilla mythos and Doom took on the three-head dragon, King Ghidorah, which is fitting with the multiple “heads” that Doom takes on during his career. He is one but many.
The central sample in this track is “Message from a Black Man” by The Whatnauts, pitched and sped up. And the feature is by Mr. Fantastik, whose true identity is unknown. He only appears on a couple of MF Doom tracks and nowhere else. Some think it is Count Bass D, but others deny it. Yet what is known is the absolute energy and cohesion that these voices create over one of Doom’s, er…I mean Geedorah’s best beats.
Track 3: “Saliva” by Viktor Vaughn, Vaudeville Villain
This song features drum samples from The Detroit Emeralds’ “You’re Getting A Little Too Smart” from 1973 and the rhythm and horn samples from Jean Knight’s “Carry On” melded into a circular bed of sound that rides and punctuates Doom’s flow:
“Great balls of fire
Guess who just crawled out the muck or mire
That could make you trust a motherf*ckin’ liar
A real shuck n’ jiver
Vaughn never been a duck-‘n’-diver
He spit on the mic, yuck—saliva”
Viktor Vaughn is a play on one of Doom’s comic villain inspirations, Victor von Doom. Another alias that fills out the supervillain collective that are contained within the myth and mind of Doom. Once again, his lyrics contain a mixture of bravado, food and culture references, and evil plots for world domination. His lyrics are for the taking. Seeking meaning in them is a multifaceted activity. One of the reasons why Doom remains from of the greatest rappers of all time.
Track 4: “Strange Ways” by Madvillain, Madvillainy
Madvillainy remains Doom’s most critically acclaimed and loved albums. It is this perfect mix of all of the elements that came before it. Add in the great production of Madlib outta Oxnard, CA and you have a classic hip-hop album. This is the album that hooked me on MF Doom and Madlib’s production. Back when I was starting to explore hip-hop, this album and De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate made me “get” the genre and fall in love with it.
The sample here is from a, sadly, obscure folk rock band called Gentle Giant. The song is “Funny Ways” from their self-titled 1970 album. I could listen to this song on repeat and often did back in the day. The song takes a stab at the American warmongers who reacted to 9/11 by the Iraq War. It’s a moment of tough seriousness from the supervillain:
“They pray four times a day, they pray five
Who ways is strange when it’s time to survive
Some will go of they own free will to die
Others take them with you when they blow sky high
What’s the difference? All you get is lost children
While the bosses sit up behind the desks, it cost billions
To blast humans in half, into calves and arms
Only one side is allowed to have bombs”
Track 5: “Fall Back-Titty Fat” by Viktor Vaughn, VV2: Venomous Villain
There is a moment within this track, from the only album represented here that can’t be found on Spotify, where the largely original electronic beat drops to allow a banjo rhythm that sounds like it comes from the Appalachian backwoods only then to drop back into a chaos of scratches, bleeps and blips by the end of the track. The composition is the reason this song is on this list. Within the scope of Doom’s production work, this is unique. No samples. All original soundscapes. How his flows shift from beat to seamless beat is an auditory treat. Easily a standout track from this album.
Track 6: “Supervillainz (ft. Posdnous, Kurious, Mobonix, & Slug)” by MF Doom, Born Like This
I love massive rap collaborations. This tracks feeds that love over a sample from the score of The Challenge of the Superfriends (1978), but subverted and reappropriated for the meeting of “supervillains.” This track is high octane and delivers on flows and energy in all the ways I want from a Doom track.
Track 7: “Vomitspit,” MF Doom, MM..Food
“Happy You Should Be” by Mashmakhan is one of my all-time favorite samples in any hip-hop track, and “Vomitspit” uses it to perfection. Once again, one of those tracks that just fits perfectly together in the harmonies, production, and flow. The stream of consciousness that Doom is known for will make you scratch your head in parsing out its meaning, but, in the end, it won’t matter because you’ll be under his spell within seconds. You’ll get the meaning through osmosis.
Track 8: “Pause Tape” by JJ Doom, Key to the Kuffs
The horror fanatic in me loves that Jneiro Jarel (the “JJ” of JJ Doom) uses the main theme from Fabio Frizzi’s Zombi (1979) soundtrack for the Fulci classic. The tone of this track feels grungy and industrial like Nine Inch Nails. Between Jarel and Doom, their back and forth verses while electronic musical beds in the background sound like Gregorian chants give this track a haunting quality, which is fitting for the central sample used. A true auditory experience.
Track 9: “Fancy Clown (ft. Viktor Vaughn)” by Madvillain, Madvillainy
Madvillain meets Viktor Vaughn on this track that features samples from “That Ain’t The Way You Make Love” by Z.Z. Hill and vocals from “Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love” by Love Unlimited. His aliases show up from time to time on the albums of other aliases. They all support the other aliases, giving substance to the the wider world of Doom. The way Madlib weaves the instrumental and vocal samples into the music bed behind Doom’s abstract flow is stunning and continues to make this whole album thematically and musically cohesive.
Track 10: “Deep Fried Frenz” by MF Doom, MM..Food
Between Whodini’s “Friends” sample and Ronnie Laws’ “Friends and Strangers,” this song sounds like this delightful throwback to 1980s new wave and hip-hop. It sounds like it could have been a lost Milli Vanilli song with Doom featured on the track. The pure musicality of this track earns a spot on this list, especially for an ’80s music connoisseur.