MF Doom, the man with more aliases than a felon on the run, has managed to bless listeners with yet another cellophane–wrapped classic. On Take Me To Your Leader, MF Doom takes off the metal mask and transforms into King Geedorah: a 500-foot, three-headed, golden-plated monster bent on destroying the world. With all tracks written, produced, arranged, mixed and mastered by the Metal-Faced Villain himself, Doom fans will flock to their local record stores for this one.WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
For those poor fools who don’t know who Doom is by now, here’s a quick bio: originally one-half of the rap crew KMD, rapper Zev Love X gained much notoriety among hip-hop heads for his socially-conscious, yet street-edgy rhyme scheme. However, after only one album release, in 1994 KMD was dropped from Elektra Records due to a controversy surrounding the next KMD album cover (which depicted a Sambo figure being lynched). On top of that, the other half of the crew, Subroc, was tragically killed in a car accident not long after. By the mid-90s, Zev Love X had slowly faded from the limelight.
However, in 1997 the famed MC re-surfaced on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em record label under the moniker MF Doom – a self-proclaimed hip-hop super-villain who “came to destroy rap.” Modeled after the despotic Doctor Doom from Marvel Comics fame, MF Doom’s 1999 release Operation: Doomsday took heads on a much-needed trip back to the early ‘90s – when hip-hop was a gritty genre founded on raw beats and even rawer lyrics.
Doom continues that legacy on Take Me To Your Leader. The album opens up with “Fazers,” where we find Doom spitting fire over a soulful instrumental that sounds like a sick cross between Sebastian Bach and DJ Premier. I could bump this joint in my stereo for hours (and I have). There are no restraints on Doom’s lyrics: he goes from quoting hackneyed Star Trek rhetoric in one line, to belting out classic Phil Collin hits in the next (Su-su-sudio!). And like your typical super-villain, Doom makes sure to refer to himself in the third-person as much as humanly possible, ”His own biggest fan/And got a fan base as big as Japan/…Umm…yeah…and?/All hail the king! And give him three cheers, fam!/Like, ”Hip hip hooray!’/Do his thing for the little kids like Sling Blade.” Colorful non-sequiturs, ill similes, and the occasional wisecrack – this is Doom at his best.
Afterwards, King Geedorah decides to step back and let his lesser-known comrades do all the talking. On “Krazy World,” Gigan steps up to the mic and delivers a noteworthy performance. As he speaks upon the ills of the world – in this case, conniving women and drug deals turned sour – Gigan’s raspy, cigarette-induced voice contrasts nicely with the beat’s melodic strings. On the charismatic “Lockjaw,” rapper Trunks hammers out some incredible battle lines, “Before I rock raps, I drink a keg of Listerine/Then I spit the freshest rhymes you’ll ever hear for centuries/And I form blazing swords, and I cut your mic cord/And kill them garbage rhymes only ya’ friends get hype for.” Yikes! But alas, the song ends before it reaches the minute-marker – not enough time for the hungry MC to truly shine.
Next up is “Fastlane,” featuring guest MC Biolante (alias Kurious). Accompanied by a whiney, electric guitar riff and an occasional roaring engine in the background, Biolante flows effortlessly, pelting us with thought-provoking lyrics at every turn: “Nuff rhymes, tough times, [I] try talking to kids … Life in itself is like a bid/And if you’re scared to die, then you’re scared to live.”
And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, Doom’s true production skills shine on “Monster Zero.” The super-villain gives the mic a rest – and by splicing various voice-snippets from 1980 Godzilla flicks – listeners get to hear about the origins of King Geedorah (alias Monster Zero). Over a rhythmic, jazz track laden with off-centered kicks and snares, Doom relates a colorful bedtime story revolving around the golden space monster from Planet X; and while the tale unfolds, Geedorah’s signature shrills are heard bellowing from afar. Sci-fi fans of the old Godzilla series will appreciate this joint.
“Take Me To Your Leader” and “One Smart Nigger” are also audio collages, with socio-political topics ranging from the role TV plays in the home, child neglect, even the touchy N-word issue. If you’re like me (lucky you) then you’ll bug out when you hear how Doom throws in audio clips from the Fist Of The North Star and the Looney Tunes.
On “Next Levels,” Lil’ Sci and ID 4 Winds (Scienz Of Life) team up with Stahhr Tha F.E.M.C.E.E., and the trio do wonders on the jazzed out track. Stahhr ends the verbal barrage by boasting, “ya’ll fiending for the sequel and the beats not even EQed.”
Doom reappears later on the re-mastered “No Snakes Alive,” accompanied by two fellow monsters: Rodan and Jet-Jaguar (better known as MF Grimm). The beats get experimental on this one with the tempo speeding up mid-song, and the three MCs are forced to increase their flows double-fold in order to keep up. Although this song was first released on the Doom/Grimm EP a few years back, it still impresses me to this day.
On “Anti-Matter,” Doom teams up with Mr. Fantastik as they go back-and-forth over a smooth retro guitar loop. For the dramatic type, Hassan Chop drops a few bars on “I Wonder” as he reflects on his life on the streets. The lyrics are a tad too simplified for my tastes, but Doom manages to bless the MC with an ill violin beat that overcompensates for it.
The album ends as strong as it started with “The Fine Print.” Over a humorous mixture of majestic trumpets along with a low-budget sounding beatbox as the drums, Geedorah steps up onto his throne and serves the audience a verbal ass-whipping: “Hear ye, hear ye! How dare ye/Go up against the king, who do his thing tri-yearly/They’re too carefree with their mouth around here/Off with his head, and display it on Times Square/On top a seven-foot spike, make sure it’s on tight/In light of when the peasants throw stones with all their might/Skull gets smashed for weeks/‘Til vulture peaks eat the last meat off your cheeks/Maybe then they’ll know the right words to speak/Out loud, at home, in the world, or in the streets.” You could almost envision a caped tyrant strolling down a red carpet on one of his daily walks – snuffing random serfs along the way.
Now on to the downsides. Off the bat, what will probably upset most listeners is the realization that Doom only rhymes over 4 measly tracks – one of them (“The Final Hour”) being only 48 seconds long. And with only 13 tracks, altogether amounting to less than 45 minutes, “Take Me To Your Leader” ends up sounding like a long-winded EP rather than a full-length album.
And reminiscent to Nas’s “Illmatic,” fans will rant and rave about its short length – but in the long run, perhaps it’s better that way. Sure, Doom may be teasing his fans by blessing the mic only 4 times on his own LP, but what do you expect, the guy is slated to drop two solo albums before the year ends and a third one alongside Lootpack’s Madlib (which is already being dubbed ‘album-of-the-year’). With all of that in mind, it’s best to view Take Me To Your Leader as the appetizer before the main course – it doesn’t really satisfy your appetite, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.
Overall, the only way to describe this album is by comparing it to one of the Godzilla films it’s based on. Remember those ill, old-school Godzilla flicks from 1980s? Sure, if you look close enough, you could easily see the stunt strings hanging off of Godzilla’s body. And those sloppy monster costumes were cheesy at best – but c’mon, you can’t front like it wasn’t entertaining. Likewise, Take Me To Your Leader has a few clunky drum loops scattered here and there – and some of the syncopated samples are pretty warped – but that’s OK. In fact, that’s the beauty of it. In a glamour-obsessed era where the thin line between mainstream rap and pop music is slowly fading, hip-hop fans are once again craving for a return to the basement hip-hop of the mid-90s: those dirty ol’ boom bap beats, raspy uncleared samples, and on-point precise lyricism. It may not sound clean-cut or radio-friendly, but many will agree, that’s where its vintage appeal lies.
Undoubtedly, many listeners will almost instinctively compare this with Operation: Doomsday, but doing so would be like comparing apples and oranges. Remember, this isn’t MF Doom speaking – it’s King Geedorah – and there’s a world of difference between the two. “This whole album is Geedorah's alien perspective on humans,” Doom explains in a press release. “Geedorah is a space monster. He’s not from the Earth. I made it different on purpose. A blend of ill lyrics and instruments.”
If you ever hear someone foolishly claim that “hip-hop is dead,” kindly slap him upside the head with a copy of Take Me To Your Leader. True hip-hop will thrive as long as creative cats like MF Doom linger around.
9.0 out of 10
Written by Kenny Yusuf Rodriguez
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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