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MF Doom

Rhymesayers

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MF Doom sure looks—and sounds—like a cartoon rapper. He’s never photographed without a metal mask covering his face, and his records are chockablock with sound snippets from ’70s comixploitation discs. And the fact that the Atlanta MC’s new LP, Mm…Food, purports to be a concept album about eats doesn’t help the ol’ serious-artist image very much, either. But you don’t have to wait long to discover that the former Daniel Dumile is a lot less silly than he seems: “Beef Rapp,” the first “appetizer” on the disc’s tray-card menu, finds him punning on the dangers of feuds, not food. “It ain’t no starting back when arteries start to squeeze,” he warns. This is the kind of layered metaphor we’ve come expect from indie rappers, but Doom goes well beyond expectations on Mm…Food, offering, yes, some clever literary devices, but also looking at relationships, social mobility, and the fragility of friendship. His flow is low-key but determined, as if bluster would be too much work. The man’s idea of a boast is old-school in more ways than that, though: “Average MCs is like a TV blooper/MF Doom, he’s like D.B. Cooper” (from, ahem, “Hoe Cakes”) is as good an indication as any that he’s still stuck in the ’70s of his youth. The album’s mentions of food, in fact, are roughly matched by its references to Sesame Street. Grover makes a couple of appearances; so do Mr. Hooper and the bell-ringing chorus that plays at the end of the show. Doom serves as “chef” for most of the album’s beats, letting only a couple of others into the kitchen, among them the jazz-addled West Coast DJ Madlib, with whom Doom made the excellent Madvillainy earlier this year. Their collab, “One Beer,” opens with Doom goofing on Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” and recounting an open bar gone wrong. The track is notable for relying on a speeded-up sample à la Kanye West, and for the phrase “this yard bird tastes like fried toad turd.” Mr. Fantastik joins Doom for “Rapp Snitch Knishes,” a guitar-laden sendup of underground-rap backbiting that harks back to Dumile’s days as a member of KMD, the “conscious” rap group that burned out after making a race-obsessed second LP called Black Bastards. Of course, Doom was much younger then; these days, he’s more likely to be having fun riffing on, say, Internet porn, as he does on the album-closing “Kookies.” Yeah, he’s talking about the files that end up on your hard drive, but he manages to relate them not only to Samoas and Peek Freans, but also to the many ways the media can ruin your life and the importance of marital fidelity. His career, it seems, couldn’t have crumbled any better. —Andrew Beaujon