[Lex; 2009]

Styles: once-classic, now-stale Doom
Others: Doctor Doom, {Supreme Clientele}, J Dilla

Will the real MF Doom please stand up? From missed shows to unfulfilled projects (his longtime promised collaboration with Ghostface Killah, for example) to simply not releasing an album for four years, rap enthusiasts were seemingly willing to let nearly anyone grab the mic and take the throne for a while there. (How else do you explain the popularity of Immortal Technique?) But, now, with BORN LIKE THIS., DOOM has returned. However, gone is the MF, leaving one wondering if DOOM had gone the route of his hero (Doctor) and decided to switch consciousnesses? But such is not the case, as his newest release is all classic Doom, not for better but unfortunately for worse.

It’s not that classic Doom is bad. After all, this is the man who along with Madlib graced us with the singular Madvillainy. It’s just that, after four years, you can’t help but want something fresh and clean, not classic and been-there-done-that. And, when your major touchstone is overtly Ghostface’s (who appears as Tony Starks on the mediocre “Angelz”) nearly decade-old Supreme Clientele -- peep its structure and comic-book sound bites -- your work can’t help but sound dated. But, even worse, numerous times we get something much less than classic Doom.

Take tracks like “Microwave Mayo” and “More Rhymin,’” which feature Jake One’s boring, tedious beats, nonsensical rhymes (even by DOOM’s standards) and no-flow flow. And, then there are “Bumpy’s Message” and “Thank Yah,” which sound like nothing more than filler, and by tacking them onto the end of the album, DOOM leaves his listeners with a sour aftertaste. But even worse is the DOOM-less “Still Dope”; the hapless Empress Sharhh nonsensically gets her own solo track in the middle of DOOM’s album, leaving one wondering who exactly is “still dope”?

If any particular trope stands out over BORN LIKE THIS.' 40 minutes, it is DOOM’s refusal to move forward. He seems content to just remain stuck in different eras, all of them bygone. This stasis is nowhere better demonstrated than on “Supervillianz.” A track that seems to have no other purpose than to make fun of pop rap’s favorite crutch: autotune. While autotune can be truly heinous, DOOM’s lampooning should be read as a symptom of his failure to embrace anything new. If DOOM’s latest work is read through this lens, then we can better understand the truly heinous “Ballskin.”

In the uber-masculine, LGBT-scared world of hip-hop, where acerbic punchline raps are meant to cut deep, gay-bashing becomes a favored weapon. On “Batty Boyz,” DOOM plays ball: “It's like a leotard-fest/ How it got started is any retard's guess.” Here, he likens superheros like Batman and Superman to gay culture. DOOM supporters say he's simply adopting the "villain" role, but if that were the case, how are we to judge DOOM's previous anti-war lyrics ("Strange Ways")? Are we to believe that DOOM the villain is anti-war?

BORN LIKE THIS. could have been an enjoyable album. After all, there are many individual tracks that do classic DOOM so right, including "Gazillion Ear" (check: the mercurial, grand J Dilla beat) and “Lightworks.” Also, there are those signature DOOM rhymes, from simple ("Turn dirt to dollars like Don Henley") to complex (“Give a emcee a rectal hysterectomy/ Lecture on removal of the bowels, foul technically/ Don't expect to see the recipe, until we see the check and the collection fee”), that remain nearly unparalleled in modern hip-hop. But, in the end, BORN LIKE THIS. is simply not as forward-thinking as his best works. Even though DOOM (minus the MF) was "born like this," let’s hope he matures with age.

1. Supervillain Intro
2. Gazillion Ear
3. Ballskin
4. Yessir (ft. Raekwon)
5. Absolutely
6. Rap Ambush
7. Lightworks
8. Batty-Boys
9. Angelz (ft. Ghostface Killah)
10. Cellz
11. Still Dope (ft. Empress Sharhh)
12. Microwave Mayo
13. More Rhymin' (ft. Kurious)
14. That's That
15. Suppervillainz
16. Bump's Message
17. Thank Ya

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