October 12th, 2005

Behind the Mask of a Villain: Part II
MF Doom on Dr. Zizmor, the forthcoming LP with Ghostface and Noam Chomsky-style guerrilla marketing.
by Douglas Passion

For those keeping track at home, we published the first part of the MF Doom interview trill-ogy about a week and a half ago. If you missed it, go back and read the previous jammy now. It's even got an intro to assist you in getting your mottled domepiece in the right frame of mind. Otherwise, continue on, as we discuss Dr. Zizmor, Doom's forthcoming album with Ghostface and even try to work out a Noam Chomsky-esque marketing plan.


As far as references go, you namedrop people like Dr. Zizmor [a dermatologist whose ads are famous on the subways]. Are those floating around in your head all the time, or do you watch TV and pick up a weird name and file it?

Usually itís something I was thinking about for a long time. Like particularly, Dr. Zizmor, like you said. On the subway, in New York City, at the time, they had the advertisements thatís right above where youíre sitting. I donít know how much dough he paid, but Zizmor had the shit sewed up, as far as advertising, for years. Iím going uptown, coming back downtown, so I kinda see his name. But then also, the way I come up with it is New Yorker shit. So, Dr. Zizmor? Aight, fine. Go see Dr. Zizmor, he gonna pick your skin up. So Zizmor, what does it rhyme with? Every time I find a weird word, Iím going to try to rhyme it with something. Itís natural, it just comes to me like that. The more weirder the word sounds, thereís gotta be something that can go with that and be funny. That one came out like that. Zizmor.

Getting into that a bit, when I listen to your old lyrics, you had an intricate flow, but itís not like it is now. You have a devotion to rattling off syllables. How did that style develop?

Itís just a update -- itís constantly going to switch. Iím like, ďOkay, how could I make it iller?Ē What are the key points? Iím constantly looking for the key points in eliminating every extra; as Iím refining, Iím bringing out more of the thing that makes it ring Ė whatever the flow is. Thereís something in rhyming that makes people want to hear it. Itís not like youíre just talking on a beat, so it must be somewhere in it. Itís the flow of the rhyme or something. But thereís extra things you donít need in it either. Thereís a lot of the English language you can cut out. You can slang it, you can twist it. So Iím like, ďWhatever I donít need, Iím taking out.Ē Iím putting in just the core of whatever brings the appeal to a person rhyming. As I broke it down now, it comes to the point where itís just syllablistic references where the more syllables in the rhyming words the better Ė if you can make them all rhyme with the previous rhyming words. But thereís something about the frame of reference. American culture has a lot of frame of references that we can all kinda relate to. So, based on how society is structured with the TV and the witty programs we all seen and grew up to and can relate to from a certain generation, if you mix that with the appeal of ďHow you put those words together?Ē or ďHowíd you think of that?Ē, thatís just the trick to it. So I try to find new and better ways to do the same trick with less filler.

Who are some other emcees you look at as dudes who string words together really well? Paul Barman does it pretty well.

Yeah, Paul is sick with it. Like, forget it. What? Yo! I think heís too sick with it. People arenít going to recognize how ill until later. Heís one of the illest, now that you mention him. Of course, Nas. Heís one of the kings of that; he was one of the early ones who was doing it -- or recognized it -- and started really using it. Thatís the mark of a true emcee Ė you fuck with words for real. You ainít just trying to be on TV, or in style, or making money. Thatís cool too, but itís definitely a difference between emcees and rap motherfuckers. An emcee is the one that will fuck with the words and come and spit that shit and it will fuck with you like how he seen it would fuck with you ahead of time. Itís almost similar to a comedian, how heíll sit back and know that shitíll be funny before people heard it. But heís putting it together in a way that, when you hear it in a succession of jokes, you laugh in a pattern that he predicted. So I give it to Nas, he knows what he doing when it comes to that. Rakim is one of the great starters of that whole technique of wordplay, really going into it and not just rocking the party. Heíd go into the wordplay and keep doing it, like do it for the whole album, educated rapper-type style shit. But then you got Just Ice, another ill emcee from back then.

I felt like Lord Finesse doesnít get a lot of credit for doing it either.

Thatís another one too, yup. Thereís a bunch of us out there. It donít get as much shine as some of the other stuff, but I think it needs to be like that. You gotta dig deep to find the good shit.

There are rappers who have classics album that have just gotten into multiple syllables within the last few years.

Itís a constant, you can go with it forever. Language is gonna change. Thereís words that we donít even use no more, words from the Ď40s, Ď50s, so everything goes 360. We bringing them back too and flipping Ďem. Even slang from the early Ď80s that young cats right now done forgot about or never even heard. So Iíll spit them joints and cats be like, ďWhat you meant when you said that?Ē It almost brings slang back and keeps things remembered.

Some of your stuff sounds almost like 1940ís gangster shit.

Oh, yeah. Thatís funny to me, Ďcause thatís my field right now. Iím really into how they used to talk back then in America. It almost reminds me of slang now, itís as ill. So we canít forget about that.

Do you watch old movies just from the linguistic perspective?

Sometimes Iíll do that, sometimes Iíll read. Most comes from reading, just researching words.

Speaking of colorful words, letís get into the full project with Ghostface again. Whatís the progress on that?

Well, itís coming along. Thereís no way to really say. Itís like, to me, in my mind, itís already done. We got all the beats we gonna use. I already know how itís gonna come out -- but then again, I donít know how itís gonna come out. But itís coming, put it like that. Itís going to be that shit.

Iíd heard that you were going to be more involved in the beats than the rhymes on the project.

You never know Ďtil the end of it. Itís early in the game, but right now, Iím definitely producing the whole shit, probably 95 percent of it, unless we hear another beat from somebody thatís ill while weíre doing the project. We ainít going to go solicit beats from motherfuckers, but thereís cats that we fuck with. If itís somebody in the family that come with an ill beat, alright, we gotta throw that on. Other than that, Iím producing the whole shit. As an emcee, so far, itís half and half. But I donít know, Ghost, heís definitely really, really good comp. Heís the kind of motherfucker that keeps you on your toes. So I donít know, he might have more rhymes than me. I might be like, ďThatís a wrap." I might can it. [chuckles] But Iím trying to keep up with him right now.

Heís another guy whose style has adapted. He sings along with hooks now and uses multiple syllables.

Yup, it does back to the old school style. Like Slick Rick, with how he used to do the singing style. Hip-Hop is coming back to a phase where the shit is starting to come back around. The corny shit is really starting to fade, itís starting to lose its luster. Fake chains start to turn green after a while, people start noticing that shit.

In terms of artistic integrity, you pretty much stay in your lane. But weíve seen you on records with Gorillaz or with De La Ė have bigger labels tried to hit you up? How would they work with you?

Thatís a good question. To me, you canít sign me. The only way you can find me is if you got the paper; so usually they tempt you with the paper and thereís some other hitch to it. They want you to do this. So anybody with any intention of wanting anything other than giving me my paper and letting me do my thing, you ainít gonna find me. Thereís no way to sign me. I havenít heard about no labels really trying to do it like that. But Iím like this; whatever makes it major Ėeverybody in the world hear it Ė everybody can hear it still without it being on any particular label. So what makes a major label really a major label if itís not the broadness of your spectrum or how many people you can get you music to? If thatís the case, we get our music to the whole world too. So it ainít no difference.

If you were an A&R doing an MF Doom project on a big label, how the hell do you market it?

Hmmm.

Can you put Doom with Chingy over a Scott Storch beat?

Youíd have to do something with colleges or the grass roots level or some Noam Chomsky-type shit. Have him speaking on panels. Thatís the only way to market it, from the intelligent aspect of it or the wordplay aspect of it. Or the theater aspect. You couldnít come from the propaganda aspect. It wouldnít work at all. Youíd burn yourself out instantly with the mask factored into it. Thatís another reason why these cats isnít getting at me Ė the only thing they do is market shit and sell shit that you have to put propaganda on to sell. Nothing has to do with music. The way to do it though, to a smart A&R, they could G-off right now. Sign him for a few mil or whatever and come from the angle of the theater. Go back to the performance aspect, the art of it. The intellectual aspect, the words -- the etymology of it, the history of words. The way that everybodyís the same, but different at the same time. Weíre all intermingled. Hit from the college aspect, the children at that learning level. That would be the way to do it.

Stay tuned for part three, which we have creatively dubbed: "Part III".