Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

MF Doom - Born Like This (2009)

4.5 ★/9.0 - 9.9

Daniel Dumille truly is a villain. After almost four years of terrorizing his fans with inactivity and rumors of imposters on stage at his shows, he finally drops an album self-described as "encapsulating but surpassing all of his previous work", and it turns out to be nothing more than a glorified compilation! But wait, since when did calling something a compilation become a criticism? Don't compilations benefit from being able to take the absolute best of an artist's career and tie them into a single listening experience? Green Day's major compilation album, International Superhits remains their most acclaimed album, even better than what many may consider their masterpiece, Dookie. Similarly, Born Like This triumphs as a simple collection of some of Doom's best ideas in the past 4 years of dormancy.

Certainly though, the villain has had albums with much better beats than this. There's not quite a "Rap Snitch Knishes" on Born Like This nor anything that compares to the better half of King Geedorah's Take Me To Your Leader (although a handful of tracks get pretty close, such as "Still Dope," featuring a typically vicious performance by Empress Stahhr), but Doom makes up for the lack of an obvious centerpiece with simple consistency. From start to finish, there's barely any weak tracks. "Gazillion Ear" is as fascinating as J Dilla ever got, featuring a puzzling side step into lush spirals of middle-eastern synths, "Cellz" perfectly traverses the tightrope between silly and terrifying and "Absolutely" finds Madlib toying with a beautifully relaxing drone, and getting mouths watering for a true Madvillainy sequel. Initially, a couple of the Jake One produced tracks appear to be low points, such as "Microwave Mayo" or "More Rhymin," but over time they become simple pleasures; understated, catchy and functioning as essential transition tracks with subtle intricacies that move the album forward. Besides, Jake One more than pays his dues in terms of immediacy with his instant classic single, "Ballskin," as well as the subterranean, pounding "Rap Ambush".

Yes, some of these tracks have been used before. Yes, the snare that's been added to the otherwise brilliant Ghostface collaboration, "Angelz," couldn't be more distracting. And yes, "Bumpy's Message" is completely pointless. But all of the inconsistencies, random inclusions, and hodgepodge elements are what makes it so definitively Doom. Such arbitrary recklessness has always been an essential part of the Dumille persona and to criticize any single album of his for that haphazard quality is to miss his point of his "villain" aesthetic. If you disconnect yourself from any preconceived notions of what should go into a perfectly constructed album, then Born Like This quickly reveals itself to be one of Dumille's many shining moments; a brilliant epilogue to one of the most prolific and rewarding careers in hip hop today.

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