Always a man of mystery, M.F. Doom has a long history of rhyming under different names and aliases, and subsequently releasing different albums with many different record labels. Having worked with many of the top indie imprints in the biz, including Fondle ‘Em, Stones Throw, and Rhymesayers, this time Doom is found back at Lex Records, where he recorded his Danger Doom collaborative record with a mouse named Brian Burton. But there’s no “Danger” this time around, or even an “M.F.”, he’s simply just Doom, with Born Like This.
Changing the blueprint from album to album, Born Like This once again scraps any pre-concieved notions of what to expect from the record, by this time enlisting several different producers to help animate his unique rhyme style. While many of his other records have either been entirely produced by him, or collaborations with one producer (Danger Mouse, Madlib), this time the production palate is varied. He starts things off with a loose-knit Dilla tribute on “Gazzillion Ear”, a track that digs up three lost beats from the late producer, as Doom recites his lyrics as if Dilla is still here, catching himself mid-verse. Later, another Dilla “Donut” is employed, as “Lightworks” finally gets a fitting rhyme tribute, while Stones Throw frontman Madlib gets dark and jazzy on “Absolutely”, evoking early his Alkaholiks / Lootpack style.
While these collabos are to be expected, Doom breaks the mold a bit bringing some new artists into his world. The ties to Wu-Tang Clan get even tighter, as both Raekwon and Ghostface make appearances in separate places on the record with vivid tales of criminology on “Yessir” and “Angelz”. Underrated Seattle based producer Jake One also helps out with his brand of raw boom bap, as Doom weaves his usual style of cadence driven rhymes on each “Ballskin”, “Microwave Mayo”, “Rap Ambush” and “More Rhymin’.
The brooding “Cellz” is built around the album’s title, which is derived from 60′s era poet Charles Bukowski, as the poet himself reads pieces of his composition, setting up Doom’s rhyme that builds upon the topic. On the lighter side of things, “Batty Boys” finds the Super-villain lambasting his homosexual superhero enemies, painting all-too-vivid pictures of the dynamic duo hand-cuffed to each other naked. While homophobia in hip-hop is nothing new, it was a bit surprising to find something like this on a 2009 release.
Other negatives on the album are instead owed to his collaborators. While Slug absolutely murders his verse on “Supervillainz”, Kurious does little to inspire any excitement for his forthcoming Doom-produced sophomore LP. Meanwhile, the random “Still Dope”, featuring a solo performance from Empress Starhh Tha Femcee, seems a bit out of place.
There’s no real method to Doom’s madness here, he is a natural at his craft. One can’t really categorize the songs on this record, as this is the forgotten art of hip-hop in it’s rawest form, and it’s also good. One thing is for sure, this is what Doom was born to do. – D.T. Swinga
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