American underground rap iconoclast Doom (formerly MF Doom) releases his new album Born Like This. on Lex Records tomorrow, March 24th. The U.K.-born, New York-raised rapper’s LP features contributions from Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and the beats of late production genius J Dilla, and represents seven years of work recorded on and off at home in Atlanta. Thom Yorke recently remixed sexy single “Gazillion Ear” and funky, Jake One-produced “Ballskin” is bouncing across the major music blogs. The centerpiece of the record is “Cellz”, which explodes with apocalyptic fury. On it, the late, great American poet Charles Bukowski reads of one of his best poems, “Dinosauria, We,” for almost two minutes while missiles fire and the Earth is laid to waste.
“Don’t freak with old Buke. Buke is nice. He’s as good as the rest of the rappers on there,” Doom says. “He kind of sets the tone for the record, being that we’re living in what he was kind of describing. He might’ve been reaching for the worst description based on what he saw us heading to, but it happened and that made me go, ‘Wow, that’s ill. Kinda prophetic words.’ ”
With a career modeled on the Marvel comics arch-villain Doctor Doom, the metal mask-wearing fortysomething remains characteristically cryptic about future live dates. “I tell you one thing: when you come to a Doom show, come expecting to hear music, don’t come expecting to see. You never know who you might see. It has nothing to do with a visual thing. Use your mind and think. I might be there. Next time I do a show, I might tell everybody to close they eyes. Use your own mind’s eye. That’s better than a camera phone, know what I’m sayin’?’ ”
He says Michael Jackson — who just sold out 50 shows in the U.K. — might be doing the same thing. “Word. That nigga was crazy as hell. How do you even know he’s still him? He might’ve been doing the technique.”
The Doom live experience caused controversy in 2007, when the highly acclaimed lyricist behind Madvillainy and The Mouse and the Mask allegedly sent an impostor to perform several of his dates in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Furious crowds booed and took their rage to the Internet, reporting that the impostor lip-synced to MF Doom’s songs. Self-proclaimed super-villain Doom posted no response to his fan’s rage until now, when he tells Rolling Stone that he couldn’t care less.
“Everything that we do is villain style,” Doom says. “Everybody has the right to get it or not get it. Once I throw it out, it’s there for interpretation. It might’ve seemed like it didn’t go well, but how do we know that wasn’t just pre-orchestrated so that we’re talking about it now? I tell you one thing: People are asking more now for live shows and I’m charging more, so it must’ve worked somewhere.”
Such weirdness is par for the course for the erratic artist, born Daniel Dumile. In the late ’80s, Dumile signed to major label Elektra with his sibling. But his brother was killed in a car accident, Elektra dropped him, and Dumile vanished.
In the late ’90s, a metal-faced rapper spitting inimitable flow on debut underground LP Operation: Doomsday materialized named MF Doom. More than a dozen LPs and two dozen EPs later, Born Like This. is highly anticipated hip-hop eclecticism; a follow-up to 2004’s widely lauded Madvilliany with producer Madlib and 2005’s The Mouse and the Mask with platinum producer Danger Mouse. Those hits cracked the Billboard 200 — commercially and critically validating Dumile’s brutal, funny, literate, street style.
Lasering in on Armageddon on his new disc puts Doom smack in the middle of a morbid trend, with the Dow melting away, Watchmen blowing up the box office and the globe warming. But the ending of “Dinosauria, We” also posits a beautiful new beginning, begging the question: is the apocalypse actually cleansing?
“No doubt,” says the father and admitted McCain voter. “If something ends, then something’s gonna start. So it’s like, what side are you on? Do you feel like your world is ending? Or do you feel like, ‘Wow, it seems like that’s ending and it’s the start of something new.’”
Born Like This. is about the next chapter, he says and more is coming. “I got a hundred albums in me. I’m gonna rock this shit forever.”