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Music Review: DOOM – Born Like This

April 1, 2009

doom-born-like-this

I’ve come to realize that a high level of enjoyment with certain artists will eventually, undoubtedly be matched with a level of frustration that has you questioning why you even became a fan of those artists in the first place. MF DOOM certainly fits into this category. His off-kilter lyrics and sinister beats helped me focus my attention on the wealth of underground artists grinding day by day to keep hip-hop alive, and his collaborative efforts only made me love him more as an artist. But long waits for dream projects that have yet to materialize, and claims of imposters being used at concerts have certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of many a DOOM fan, myself included. Gone was the MF DOOM whose output of material was so prolific, it seemed like something new came out from him every week. In the three or four years since the brilliant MM . . . FOOD, he’s made the occasional guest spot on a number of artists’ tracks, but all it would do was have me wondering when he’d return with a new album of his own.

 

DOOM certainly takes no prisoners as he opens Born Like This with “Gazzillion Ear”, serving as a thunderous announcement of his return over spooky organ-fueled Dilla beats, while “Ballskin” targets any and all rappers who have yet to step their games up during his absence. DOOM is quick to take a break from the mic, however, leaving Raekwon to carry the lyrical load on the old-school inspired “Yessir!”. The Chef is as sharp as ever, reminding us that a return to form for the Wu veteran may be just around the corner. Things only get better with “Absolutely”, which sees an inspired re-teaming of DOOM and Madlib. With a down-tempo smooth groove reminiscent of “Rhinestone” from Madvillainy, DOOM expounds on the pitfalls of street life while shedding light on government corruption with remarkable ease. On “Batty Boys”, DOOM draws parallels between the idea of Batman and Robin being gay lovers and the increasingly flamboyant tendencies of rappers coming up in the game today. Despite the somewhat questionable allusions, it’s still one of Born Like This’ best showcases for DOOM’s deliriously complex lyrical style and clever use of metaphor. Call it juvenile if you want, few can weave words the way DOOM does here.  

 

Reminding us that the much-fabled DOOM/Ghostface collab album may never see the light of day, “Angelz” finds the two emcees crafting a noir-ish crime narrative using Charlie’s Angels as a backdrop. The ominous horns and strings create a moody atmosphere that leads perfectly into “Cellz”. A defining break point for Born Like This, the two-minute opening is lifted from poet Charles Butowski, offering a disturbingly bleak commentary on the ills of society, before DOOM kicks his rhyme. Once the moment passes, the album moves on to flightier fare like Empress Starhh on “Still Dope”, and “That’s That”. Meanwhile, “Supervillainz” features competent verses from the likes of Kurious, Mobonix, and Slug of Atmosphere.  The hilarious moments of auto-tune complement the decidedly choppy beats. A remix to “Gazzilion Ear” courtesy of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke closes out the album, offering up a strong ambient vibe that works better than expected.  

 

On a purely surface level, Born Like This may seem indecipherable, even for a DOOM album. It’s oddly constructed, and isn’t particularly overt in terms of its concept, if one is to be found at all. Even after multiple plays, it’s hard to find any real theme to hold the album together. All the more surprising that it still manages to be such an enjoyable offering from one of hip-hop’s most enigmatic characters. One can only hope that DOOM will continue to re-focus his efforts, reminding all his fans why they fell in love with him in the first place.

 

(3.75 out of 5)

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One comment

  1. I’m not so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of DOOM’s new album, either. I’ll keep listening though…



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