It’s hard to believe Daniel Dumile was Born Like This. I’d be impressed if he popped out of the womb with the metal mask and the ridiculous rap skills he has now. DOOM (“just remember, all caps when you spell the man’s name”) hasn’t even been his nom de plume very long. After cycling through aliases including Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Zev Love X, Metal Fingers and MF Doom, he’s settled (maybe) on a name inspired by the track “All Caps” off of Madvillainy, his sublime collaboration with Madlib.
Regardless of what name he’s using today, DOOM is one eccentric dude. But, don’t chalk up his success to sampling Charles Bukowski, Mr. T and Adult Swim cartoons or wearing a weird mask. DOOM’s got one of the best voices in the game, a zany personality and easily one of the most interesting vocabularies.
DOOM fans may find a lot of the beats familiar; nearly entirely self-produced, a bunch of tracks feature instrumental sections from old projects. He grabs a few J Dilla beats to rhyme over as well, plus one track by frequent collaborator Madlib. But, the production has always been an interesting (often strange) side note to DOOM’s confounding rhymes. He flips around between interests and references every few seconds like he’s getting distracted while in the booth by a TV flipping through a million different channels.
The most important “channel” DOOM falls into is usually comic books and the accompanying villain myth (especially Dr. Doom, the Marvel Fantastic Four villain his mask equates him with). Whether it’s the excellent “All Caps” video that finds a cartoon DOOM plunging through comic strip frames, directly discussing his villainy on Madvillainy or his sampling of audio directly taken from Fantastic Four source material, the concept is carried in various forms throughout DOOM’s career. The big comic book discussion on Born Like This, though, is something not quite as fun.
“Batty Boyz” is somewhat upsetting, an offensive, homophobic rant. He talks about writing the rhymes while “in bed with a chick”; samples include a dude getting upset about “a faggot,” a Robin sound-alike saying “holy homos”; DOOM himself drops some lines about Batman and Robin sleeping together. The whole track comes together like DOOM being more teenage bully than true villain, resorting to name-calling and homophobia. DOOM’s never been Mr. Friendly, but this is just juvenile tough-guy posturing, a move that seems completely out of character. I’d love to applaud the aggressive, choppy symphony sample that stutters behind him, but I really can’t.
After losing that one track, DOOM largely keeps on pace with his impressive flow. “Angelz”, featuring Tony Starks (aka Ghostface Killah), is a boom-bap shoot-out to Charlie’s Angels, putting Ghost in the Charlie role. DOOM mentions Mr. Roper and Mr. T. If the promised Ghostface-DOOM collaboration “Swift & Changeable” would ever come out, one could only hope it’s as zany and fun as this track.
“Yessir” features another Wu Tang member, namely Wu-Gambino Raekwon rhyming over a strange, droning one-note trumpet and drum sample. “Cellz” features a sample of poet Charles Bukowski reading his poem “Dinosauria, We” over a B-horror movie ready soundtrack full of blaring horns and heavy timpani.
But, I’d be remiss to not leave you with a few more direct quotes from the tracks. “That’s That” has DOOM discussing the funereal practices of fowls: “Cornish hens switching positions, auditioning morticians, saw it in a vision, ignoring prison.” “Microwave Mayo” features the killer line “Hold it down like Shatner to Spock, rapper jocks need to put a sock in their chatter box, the block got lined to VIAC stock, folks gather round, it’s no joke like knock knock.”
When DOOM does what he does, he’s impossible to ignore. He’s fun, he’s impressive, he’s damn entertaining. In short, he’s one of, if not the best rapper going. But when he steps into the macho bravado like “Batty Boyz”, it becomes throwaway and no amount of wacky, left-field references can make it better.