The Illest Villain

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Sometimes you have to wait a long time for your favorite artist to make a new album. And sometimes, you wait a long time, find out the album is finally coming out, and it’s a tremendous disappointment. Fans of Guns ‘n’ Roses know what I’m talking about, but let’s face it – if you were on the edge of your seat for a decade and a half waiting for Axl Rose to drop the fetid turd that was Chinese Democracy, your priorities are fucked.

It was, all things being equal, much easier to wait three years for MF Doom to drop his MF, enlarge the remaining letters, and release Born Like This as DOOM. Last time the Supervillain graced us with his offbeat and awesome rhymes, he was flowing over Danger Mouse beats and screening calls from Master Shake. Rumors of Born Like This being released last year abounded, only to have the release date pushed back like an unattractive groupie trying to wile her way backstage. But DOOM is no unattractive groupie. No sir, he’s  a dude in a metal goddamn mask.

You know how you think something is going to be awesome and then it isn’t awesome – it’s not bad either, just not awesome – but it’s not-awesomeness diminishes it so much in your esteem that you have to abandon it all together, forgetting it ever happened? Hmm. Perhaps an example: I thought last year’s Gutter Twins album was going to be fucking awesome. It was not fucking awesome. It was barely good. And now I have banished it from my thoughts. Well, you’ll be happy to note that Born Like This is not at all like that thing I just took way too long to describe.

It would seem that three years is not too long to wait (although DOOM does us the courtesy of asking if he’s been away too long on “That’s That”) for new DOOM music and, indeed, it would seem that for some artists, three years is some sort of magic incubating period. Consider: Neko Case released Middle Cyclone three years after Fox Confessor Brings the Flood; The Yeah Yeah Yeahs waited three years after Show Your Bones to drop It’s Blitz! And DOOM took three years from the release of The Mouse and the Mask to release Born Like This. If this trend continues, one can safely predict that the new Sonic Youth album will be un-fucking-believable.

There’s a lot of the old DOOM stuff on Born Like This: the album is ushered in with a skit where a guy talks about joining forces with the Supervillain. The guy sounds like a bad American voice actor who would be hired to shittily dub into English your favorite anime shows.  And he has some of the more hilarious lines on the album, like “Time to get the feta” and “That’s right, punk – I’ll slap the black off ya.” The beats are, as ever, exremely choice – Pitchfork bemoaned the fact that DOOM is the Nth rapper to sample Dilla’s “Lightworks,” but when you consider what he did with it, it’s extremely forgivable.

DOOM isn’t without a few new tricks on Born Like This either. For instance, he samples Charles Bukowski’s “Dinosauria, We” on “Cellz,” making that apocalyptically awesome track the title track for the album and cementing DOOM and Charles Bukowski as 2009’s outta-left-field rap collaboration of the year. I’m pretty sure Kanye West has no idea who Bukowski is – if you can prove me wrong, Kanye, I’ll let you buy me a sandwich. While I smash your autotuner.  Speaking of Autotune, DOOM mangles it to bits on “Supervillainz,” coming closer than anyone before to using it against the purpose for which it was designed. The damn thing still autotunes the vocals, but the song itself is pretty clearly DOOM lampooning the autotune school of rappers, all the while proving that no one can more adeptly turn a phrase. Born Like This features references to the Hadron Collider, rhyme-propelled grenades, and to the fact that DOOM’s rhymes often make scant sense (“don’t know what he sayin’ but the words be funny” he raps on “Cellz”).

The guests spots are not atypical – Ghostface stops by and is adequate. I’m not a huge fan of his solo work, but he can stop by a DOOM album on occasion. The star collaborator in my mind, however, is Empress Starhh Tha Femcee, who gets “Still Dope” all to herself and hits it out of the park.  Really, Born Like This could only be better if my other favorite MC, Atmosphere’s Slug, dropped by to kick a few rhymes.

But wait – he totally does on “Supervillainz.” Which means that Born Like This does everything I want a rap album to do, short of making Sage Francis no longer a whiny bitch. Yeah, there’s the needless intro and outro tracks, and the voicemail “song” (“Bumpy’s Message,” which I forgive DOOM for, based on a principle I established while listening to another answering machine song, Sonic Youth’s “Providence” on the otherwise unparalleled Daydream Nation. The principle is this – as regards answering machine/voicemail songs, everybody gets one. Provided, of course, the rest of the album is worth the effort. Born Like This most definitely is), but if you take those away, you’re left with 14 solid tracks of awesomeness, including a long overdue song about how Superman, Batman, and Robin are all gay. This is the kind of review you wrap up by saying “I hope DOOM doesn’t make me wait three more years,” but I say fuck it; if DOOM takes three years to make another album that is as good or better than Born Like This, put me on the waiting list.

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