That’s DOOM in capitals, by the way, as the necessarily didactic press release is keen to inform us. Before he was DOOM, though, he was merely MF DOOM, or Viktor Vaughn, or Zev Love X or, briefly and memorably, a three-headed alien dinosaur called King Geedorah.
Maybe you know all that. Whatever, DOOM is one of the most interesting rappers operating somewhere between the hip-hop underground and the mainstream. It’s not so much that his music is particularly difficult to assimilate – there’s none of the self-consciously quirky stuff you might find on an Anticon release, for a start, and there are plenty of similarities with fellow mythologisers like The Wu-Tang Clan (Raekwon and Ghostface Killah in his Tony Starks guise both guest here).
But I guess DOOM’s outlook, if not all his music, is defiantly awkward; a man who never takes off his Supervillain mask and shies away from the spotlight; whose meaty music, often self-produced, operates in a similar world of paranoia, sci-fi re-imaginings of urban realities and verbose mental disintegration as Kool Keith.
DOOM also shares elements of gynaecological fervour and homophobia with Kool Keith, but fortunately his records (even the Danger Doom collaboration with the mightily overrated Dangermouse) are far more consistent. “BORN LIKE THIS” (caps obligation again) is his first in a few years, but nothing much has changed.
The tunes are clipped, punchily and sometimes abruptly edited, densely packed with imagery, soundtracked by high-tension thriller soundtracks predominantly from the ‘70s, and book-ended by excitable dialogue samples that hammer home the character of DOOM. Ostensibly, that’s a man who sees street crime and performance refracted through the language of old superhero comics. In the same way as the Wu mine old kung fu movies, DOOM treats Marvel Comics as his Apocrypha, as founts of sacred and arcane knowledge.
This time, he also draws on Charles Bukowski, whose “Dinosaur, We” is featured here, to emphasise the general post-apocalyptic dystopian vibe of “BORN LIKE THIS”. The whole package might sound hokey on paper, but DOOM is brilliant at sustaining a gripping, neurotic atmosphere – check the way he rides the edgy stabs of ESG’s “UFO” on “Yessir!”, or makes something sinister out of a piece of Raymond Scott kitsch, “Lightworks”.
Not everything’s ideal: “Batty Boyz” is an extended riff on the homoerotic subtexts of Batman that isn’t exactly the most enlightened treatment of a familiar subject I’ve ever come across.
But when DOOM really lets rip, on “Ballskin”, “Gazillion Ear” (to be remixed by Thom Yorke, curiously) or the fantastic “Angelz”, this sounds like the best hip-hop album I’ve come across in a while. “Angelz” finds him indulging in a knockabout Charlie’s Angels fantasy in the company of Ghostface Killah (DOOM produced some of “Fishscale”, if memory serves) and also serves to remind that the pair promised a joint record a few years back. There’s a Great Lost Album to add to the pantheon, for sure.