Doctored Doom: Unlike his recent live shows, MF Doom actually raps on his new disc.

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Expectoration is a synonym of spitting, and spitting is a synonym of rapping, so Expektoration…Live works as the title of the new MF Doom concert album. One suspects, however, that it’s also a play on the gamut-running expectations fans have had for Doom shows over the years. They were once highly anticipated—he really can spit—until a few years ago, when he was accused of not just lip-synching, but of sending out an imposter to perform in his stead. From San Francisco to Atlanta, attendees claimed he’d enlisted a slimmer associate to perform Doom karaoke; of course, they couldn’t be entirely sure, because the man was wearing Doom’s famed gladiator mask. (Doom himself is rarely seen without the mask.) Though his camp denied the allegations at first, he eventually more or less copped to the charges, insisting that Doom is a “character,” who can be “played” by anyone, just like numerous actors have portrayed Batman. Hard to say if this is ingenuous performance art or simply fraud, but there’s no doubt that this new live album, recorded at B.B. King’s in New York City, reopens the can of worms. (It’s his second concert disc, but the first since these shenanigans.) I didn’t get the booklet credits—only a stream—but even his publicist doesn’t know exactly when this music was recorded. My guess is that it’s from a 2005 show. One clue is that all the songs he performs appear on albums from before then (the majority come from MM…Food, Madvillainy, and Operation: Doomsday, but there are also cuts from his King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn aliases); another is that his former rhyming partner MF Grimm is in attendance, as the pair got into a dispute and stopped speaking shortly afterward. Whatever the case, Doom’s golden era is on display here, songs from back when he was prolific and brilliant. He’s at his wiliest and funniest, threatening to perform crunk at one point—“Sometime the crowd wanna hear the new shit, the crunk shit,” he says, another hint at the album’s mid-decade provenance. There are also some fun sound effects—like evil cackling from Fantastic Four nemesis Doctor Doom, from whom MF Doom borrows much of his shtick—and bantering with his right-hand man, Big Benn Klingon. That Klingon’s name is also on the album cover is another mystery. How many rappers co-credit their hype men? But, for the most part, it’s just Doom—the real Doom—performing, and he sounds very solid. Unlike many MCs, he’s just as good live as on record, and his best lines—“Stop feeding babies colored sugar-coated lard squares,” for example—are as funny as ever. Too bad you can no longer expect to actually see him at a Doom show. The only thing for certain is his mantra, spouted by a disembodied voice at the very end of Expektoration: “Once you have their money, you never give it back.”