Every culture needs a mentor to thrive. For the much-maligned world of independent hip-hop, MF Doom is a beloved father figure, an eccentric who briefly thrived in the early Nineties rap world as a member of KMD, before the duo was banished for featuring a Sambo cartoon in a noose on the cover of its 1993 effort, Black Bastards. That infraction got KMD kicked off Elektra Records, which didn't even release the album; one measure of Doom's growing popularity is that he was able to put it out legitimately seven years later through his own imprint, Metal Face Records.
This year has seen Doom's presence quietly seep into the mainstream, thanks to his amazing collaboration with the equally nonconformist MC/producer Madlib as Madvillain. Their resulting album together, Madvillainy, drew praise for its frenetic, jump cut approach, as Madlib whipped up jazz-soul breaks and Doom slurred snarky crime tales into tangy ambrosia. Unlike Madlib, who has made forays into jazz and broken beat, Doom is a fast worker who mostly relies on formula. His beats are usually nothing more than the choicest bits of an old record looped into a heavenly framework for his relentless lyrical punchlines. At best, his music has a deceptively simple consistency that sparkles and fascinates, like a runner in motion.
The long-delayed MM...Food is the third release from Doom this year after Madvillainy and his uneven pairing, as Viktor Vaughn, with a team of producers on Vaudeville Villain 2, not counting miscellaneous instrumental records such as his Special Herbs and Spices series. MM...Food is split into three courses (with no dessert). The first course, a five-part meal titled "Appetizers," is simply brilliant. The beat for "Hoe Cakes" blends J.J. Fad shouting "Super," the opening bars of Anita Baker' s "Sweet Love," and a random beatboxer. Doom's "Special Recipes" are equally strong, allowing him to explore his knack for chopping up vocal snippets from various sources over thematic numbers such as "Gumbo" and "Poo-Putt Platter."
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The "Entrees" aren't as impressive as the earlier courses, but there's still much to recommend among them, from the staccato, early Seventies keyboard loop on "Kon Queso" to the smooth R&B heaven that is "Rapp Snitch Knishes," a mike-trading session between Doom and Mr. Fantastik. "Doggone it/Do the statistics/How he bust lyrics is too futuristic for ballistics," raps Doom on "Kon Karne," "And far too eccentric for forensics/I'm dedicating this mix to Subroc, the hip-hop Hendrix."