MF DOOM Collaborations
by Andres Davila
Looking at the list of artists Doom has worked with, you can't help but admire the abundance of ideas he has created and ventured to. From young rappers to other legends that have been in the game for decades, Doom grew as both a person and MC to create a diverse catalogue of experimental music mixed with daring rhymes. Here's a list depicting all of Doom's collaborative albums ranked from worst to best taking in all the ideas, impact, and overall fan impression of each project.
ED NOTE: Doom's Czarface Meets Metal Face collab just came out now and it's a good one too.
7. NehruvianDoom Nehruviandoom
This collaboration includes Doom producing the beats for young and upcoming rapper Bishop Nehru. Doom's production is solid as always and the standout aspect of the project, Nehru does display interesting patterns about his rapping style but the main reason for listening to the album is for Doom's beats. I wouldn't fully call this an MC drowning in the production as Bishop Nehru does keep an interesting flow throughout the project and provides an interesting subject matter that keeps you engaged as you listen. The main weakness for Nehru would be his hook game which in songs like "So Alone," "Darkness (HBU)." "Mean the Most" and even "Great Things." You can't help but cringe at the chorus while still bobbing your head at Doom's instrumental. I congratulate Doom for collaborating with a young rapper who shows potential in flow and even shows signs of lyrical skill. But you begin to wonder if Doom could have approached this idea differently with other young rappers who have similar style to Doom due to his influence including Milo, Earl Sweatshirt, and even Vince Staples. In Nehruviandoom MF Doom is the highlight providing fans with a set of sounds that could be added to his brilliant Special Herbs Collection.
6. MF Doom/MF Grimm Special Herbs+Spices Volume 1
This project included MF Grimm, one of MF Doom's close friends from the '90's, rapping over Doom's first collection of Special Herbs beats. MF Grimm is most likely the closest MC that can pull off a flow similar to that of Doom's and not sound foolish on the mic. The gritty delivery is there, the off-kilter flows are there, and the hard-hitting lyrics are there which is a necessity as Doom's presence throughout the album is very limited despite the beats that the listener is already familiar with. Grimm freestyled or wrote every verse right before getting in the booth as he tried to capture the essence of his early battle rapping days and the abundance of lyrics depicting hatred towards other MC's proves why he was so successful early in his career, "I'm bigger than both of the dippers... but when it comes to rappers y'all just little whipper snappers." This approach can be compared to the style Doom's himself brought to the Mask and the Mouse LP as one of the main themes was calling out subpar rappers who gain fame despite their lackluster rhymes. Grimm provides surprising subject matter due to the fact he spent such little time on his verses, but on songs like "Stress Box," Grimm speaks on the downfalls of fame and how it is getting in the way from keeping up with past friends/acquaintances. "Rain Blood Pt.2" delivers more of the rugged rhymes we are accustomed to as Grimm speaks on the troubles of police brutality against African Americans as Grimm refers to himself as Huey P. Newton, a famous political activist. Special Herbs Vol. 1, while lacking the Doom presence in the MC standpoint, is a very surprising musical experience in which Grimm nicely fills the pocket of Dumile with his own style that Doom fans will find familiar but also refreshing. There's no reason to complain with this project as it serves good lyrics, outstanding beats, and crucial individuality. Nothing less was expected as the original collaboration between MF Doom and MF Grimm, "Tick Tick," was nothing short of a masterpiece from Doom classic debut album Doomsday.
5. Monsta Island Czars Escape from Monsta Island!
This first album from New York group Monsta Island Czars but the absence of the group's leader MF Grimm makes the album even more unpredictable which is truly the best word to describe the project. Monsta Island incorporates boom bap beats, extravagant wordplay, serious topics, an array of unique personalities, humorous anecdotes, and even R&B performances towards the tail end of the LP. All of these components are put together and like nearly every Doom album it somehow works. Despite their being very minimal contribution from Doom besides a few verses and beats, Monsta Island does feel like a Doom album due to the artists featured in the track list whom have previously recorded many songs with him and thoroughly captured the expected persona. The album can be compared to King Geedorah's Take Me to Your Leader due to the production along with the similar feature list. Kamacker is one of the featured acts throughout the album who really makes himself standout due to his subject matter giving off the ideal that he is very fed up with everything around him which is evident in the track "Take Control." He curses out everything that is deemed as important in life crippling into a state of hopelessness very similar to the 2013 Flatbush Zombies track "Bliss." Doom gives one of the best verses in the album in "Mic Line" in which he shows off the genius wordplay in his arsenal: "Known for making a deal with the devil and beating him." Monsta Island is a mixture of serious topics and adequate comedy which is something that is notorious to the Doom figure. In "Became a Monsta," Spiega utilizes his unorthodox flow to talk about the disadvantages of being a black man in today's society reciting the fact that because of the color of his skin he would be lucky to make it to the age of 40. On the other hand, tracks like "M.I.N.Y.A." show off the funny side of Monsta Island Czars: "Gotta dream, shoot-out your local KKK fundraiser." Escape from Monsta Island is another eerie listen that combines a variety of characteristics from Doom's arsenal through the Monsta Island Czars. The theme of being stuck in Monsta Island could be taken as a symbol for the state of underground Hip-Hop at the time in which rappers could be expressing mastery of every aspect of rap but still won't receive the recognition they deserve. Kamackeris, Rodan, Kong, Megalon, Spiega, King Caesar and King Geedorah himself all express charisma, style, lyrics, strong subject matter, and their own personalities but still will not be shed light on due to them being stuck in the island that is Hip-Hop.
4. JJ Doom Key to the Kuffs
What makes Key to the Kuffs such a standout in MF Doom's collaborative discography is the concept of the album. Throughout the album, Doom hinges on the topic of control being placed on citizens when it comes to the different aspects of life including social, political, and economical issues. On "Banished," Doom depicts his participation going through airport security and all the exaggerated precautions he experiences due to his personal physique. He includes humorous lines about his encounters "Refused out the US, he ain't even Spanish." In "Guv'nor," Doom tackles the political side of human control as he speaks on the US military describing it as power hungry, with its main goal simply being the conquering of other countries. "GMO" sees Doom criticizing Genetically Modified Organisms, speaking on the dangers of certain foods and how some humans are ignorant when it comes to what they're putting into their bodies. The song also has a deeper meaning in which Doom hints that us as humans are also becoming Genetically Modified Organisms who are very easily manipulated by any source of information. Key to the Kuffs really sees Doom diving deeper with his subject matter- it is not an album strictly to spit bars or appeal to the fans that live for the jokes that Doom expresses. It is a statement with each song being very detailed with claustrophobic beats that make the listener uncomfortable, that meshes perfectly with the unconformity of Doom's lyrics. Key to the Kuffs makes you feel as if you yourself are handcuffed to your habits and if these habits are restricting you from being further enlightened.
3. Danger Doom The Mask and the Mouse
With each collaboration Doom seems to be the leader in dictating which direction the project is going to sonically sound like. I believe that's a major set of merit for an artist to obtain. Each collab seems to adjust to Doom's way of creating songs in which producers are understood to push their own limits to create very intriguing and unique music. Mask and the Mouse is no different. The term "never waste a bar" can easily be attributed to Doom's approach to this album as he packs every line with attacks aimed at mainstream rappers. He takes aim at the corny personas coined by rappers, which at times seem to get more attention than the music itself, which is something Doom has stated about Hip-Hop artists throughout many interviews. Even the skits placed throughout the project involve an upcoming rapper constantly filling up Doom's inbox, trying to get his attention to include him in the album process. The last skit is the unknown rapper realizing that his phone calls haven't been successful in including him in the album, resulting in him cursing out Doom depicting how in the music industry people only want to work with you for their own benefits and not for the well-being of the culture. The feature list was filled with big name talents who all delivered including: Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, and even the unexpected Cee Lo Green feature was a breath of fresh air. Collaboration albums are something that has risen in popularity in today's rap game, and the Mouse and the Mask provide a benchmark as to the importance of linking with someone who is going to make the album making process a form of competition. Danger Mouse produced his beats to sound cohesive with Doom's flow while also experimenting with sounds we don't usually hear Doom rap over like in "Crosshairs" in which Mouse uses guitar chords to dictate the beat. Nowadays, many collaborative albums involve the same producer making the same music but with a different rapper and a different title. When Doom attacks other MC's, it always makes for a great showcase of hard hitting bars, with my favorite coming from the track "Sofa King" in which he says, "I order a rapper for lunch and spit out his chain." "Vats of Urine" includes some of the weirdest subject matter Doom has ever spoken on in which he tells an intricate commentary on (one relieving themselves). Mask and the Mouse can be deemed as Doom at his most comfortable point in his career, along with Madvillainy. He already has a few classics under his belt and is now venturing into experimenting as far as he can with his sound which he can easily do due to how respected and recognized he is throughout the game.
2. KMD Mr. Hood
The Mr. Hood album gives the impression that Doom could have been a very attributing member to the prolific Zulu Nation as it gives some of the same feel and vibes of the acts in the collection. This makes sense as acts like Brand Nubian are involved in the track listing. The quirky off beat flow that Doom fans are accustomed seems to be teased at in the track "Bananapeel Blues" and with the intro of the track saying, "A lot of brothers don't like this joint cause it might not be funk or funky" it really seems as if Doom is foreshadowing his career as he is starting to play around with the flow that made him so renowned. This album depicts all the criteria that Doom would later master throughout his career. The deep subject matter is present through the album opener in which Doom relates the owner of the pawn shop to everyone who target the weak wanting to take everything they can out of them. The wittiness is all over this project especially in the track "Hard with No Hoe" in which Zev Love X (Doom's original nom de plume) describes three different farmers stories with all of them neglecting their hoe (tool) and connecting it to how women are neglected throughout many relationships. The comedic aspect of Dumile is a big part of the album through the skits of Mr. Hood and the funny/clever conversations he has with all the different characters he meets. Mr. Hood sonically fits perfectly in the realm of 90's Hip-Hop which only displays the great amount of versatility Doom has been able to perfect throughout his career. Doom could have stuck with the flow he chose for Mr. Hood and created several classics resembling the typical funky sounding Hip-Hop made famous by groups like Brand Nubian and a Tribe Called Quest. Instead, Doom decided to push his own boundaries when it came to his style and that is the reason he is now recognized as one of the most unique acts in Hip-Hop.
1. Madvillain Madvillainy
This is the bible for Doom fans. Undoubtedly the most detailed of all of Doom's projects Madlib and Daniel created a perfect rap representation consisting of hard hitting and soulful beats mixed with the witty and intriguing rhymes Doom is known for delivering. MF Doom and Madlib were a match made in heaven and the intro to the album, "Accordion," exemplifies why. Madlib lays the loop of an accordion from Daedelus's "The Experience" and Doom proceeds to perform his complex rhymes with no hook included. This is a pattern repeated throughout Madvillainy with MF Doom ignoring any use of a hook and making short songs consisting of one or two verses. This song structure today is very difficult to pull off while still making the song sound like complete fulfilled track, but this is something that Doom has mastered. Despite the songs being short Doom packs quotable after quotable behind his bars as he goes deeper into each spoken subject matter, the listener gets so indulged in the topic Doom speaks of until the song stops, and a new topic is introduced by Doom making the listener feel eager once again. Doom switches from talking about drugs, sex, culture in society, and other subjects giving a witty expression to very dark topics. Standouts like "Figaro," "All Caps" and "Meat Grinder" are essential songs in the Doom discography, showing him pushing the envelope to the maximum with his already legendary flow. Madvillainy sparked artists from the song structure itself: Open Mike Eagle, L'Orange, Earl Sweatshirt all seem to make songs referring to Doom's creative way of making songs in this album. Madvillainy is a certified underground classic, a piece many try to gimmick but can't repeat. One of the greatest Hip-Hop experiences in history further proving that Doom is the Hip-Hop villain we deserve. When it comes to Doom's collaborative albums one main reason for them sounding exceptional or not is based on the amount of freedom the producer gives Doom when making the beats, and nobody gave him more than Madlib. The dark and deep baselines along with the mere genius of mixed samples gives Doom authority on where he wants the song to venture into. Madlib and Doom broke the rules to song structure- most of the songs are between one to two minutes but feel like complete pieces of work due to how detailed both the beats and the rhymes were articulated. Besides Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus and Cannibal Ox The Cold Vein, Madlib and MF Doom got together to create one of the greatest if not the greatest underground album in Hip-Hop history.
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