Album That Changed My Life
Associate Arts and Features Editor
Associate Arts and Features Editor
I first heard MF Doom’s Mm.. Food? in 2006, two years after its release. Doom, a rapper who wears a metal mask and is inspired by comic book villain Doctor Doom, had finally slowed down after releasing a long string of solo albums starting in 1999. At this point in time, a couple of friends and I were obsessed with rap and spent much of our time trading burned CDs. I still remember my friend giving me a burned copy of Mm.. Food? and being protective of his opinion, saying he wasn’t sure how I would react but that the album sounded great to him.I took it home, played it, and discovered music that was different from anything I had heard before. Everything about MF Doom’s style sounded unconventional to me—from Doom’s perverse use of audio clips and instrumental tracks to his offbeat points of reference, throaty vocals and the nonchalant flow that he rhymed with. I later realized that Mm.. Food? is not the best Doom album—that would be either Operation: Doomsday or his Madlib collaboration, Madvillainy—but it was, nonetheless, my first Doom album, and it broadened my tastes and ideas of what music should be.
Part of the fun in listening to Doom is in the way he flips phrases and words his ideas. He raps for two or three minutes at a time without conventional choruses, and references different types of old slang, pop culture, and even includes metaphors based in food. Doom’s obscurity isn’t as inaccessible as a rapper like Aesop Rock, who yaps away his dense lyricism with no flow. Rather, Doom’s stoned, husky voice adds warmth to his otherwise scattershot lyricism.
He still manages to drop candid lines and small nuggets of wisdom as well. Doom gives a shout out to his dead brother, and details his downtrodden years after losing his brother and his major label deal in “Kon Karne.” In “Deep Fried Frenz” he breaks down the overused word “friends,” while “Rap Snitch Knishes” illuminates the absurdity of rappers assuming criminal identities.
Mm..Food? is a very loose affair. Four sound collage tracks are sequenced together during the middle portion of the album. I wasn’t even aware of what a sound collage was, but Doom’s twisted, nonsensical humor hooked me into listening. At one point, a man mentions he’ll welcome his new neighbors with crack, and at another point, an unintentionally pun-filled infomercial about “edible wrappers” plays.
Mm.. Food? is constructed of samples, but its range of sources are wider than the ‘60s and ‘70s soul and jazz that I’d grown to love in my discovery of old rap. Doom was rapping over goofy ‘80s R&B sheen (“Hoe Cakes,” “Kon Queso”) and cartoon theme songs (“Beef Rapp”). Even his sampled beatbox breaks, and metallic snares that clanked over those loops sounded different from everything I was listening to at the time. Doom was in his own world, sampling parts of records no one thought to use, and not just shying away from commercial music but also from the dusty, ‘90s revivalism of many of his underground peers.
Doom wasn’t the first to reject choruses and make sound collages, but he served as my entry point to the bizarro-rap world. Playing Mm.. Food? rid me of any structural expectations that I had for music. Thereafter, I found his Madvillainy album and got into the ADD crate-digging music of his collaborator Madlib. My musical tastes expanded, and I eventually found myself trying to build my own collection of vinyl records. At the same time, MF Doom remains a wholly original character, and one of my favorite artists to this day.