On Halloween last year, one of the most talented lyricists of all time signed out. The masked rap wizard MF DOOM (Daniel Dumile) was in a league of his own and there’ll never be anyone quite like him. For 30 years, the London born, New York convert kept his fans in awe with quirky, intelligent, imaginative verses.
DOOM’s rhymes were playful. You can hear in his music, the joy he received from creating odd narratives through songwriting. These weren’t just any words though, Dumile spoke on etymology, dialects and different cultures. In every record, he lathered his bars with hopes, dreams and a seemingly bottomless pit of knowledge.
With the Metal Face master now floating in the ether, we thought we’d dive headfirst into some of his cleverest lines. We’re talking bars that made listeners nod and scratch their heads simultaneously, at what is none other than unique rhyming prowess.
“Rhyming wasn’t that popular when I first started out, but it was fun. People be like, Oh…you rhyme? Oh, snap, say a rhyme for me!”
“He’d rather eat a sand sandwich salad
It might need salt like your man’s bland ballad”
“Sand sandwich salad”. Try saying that quickly a few times. DOOM loved a tongue twister and this one’s from the top shelf. Peel the onion back a little further and there’s a treasure chest of hidden meaning. Obviously munching through a sand sandwich would be horrendous but DOOM would rather that, than swallow any record industry bullshit. “Eat a sand sandwich” is also another way of saying “bite the dust”, as Dumile lets listeners know he’ll never sell out and the only alternative would be calling his career quits.
Here, a “bland ballad” is cheesy hip-hop, music that’s dumbed down by record label schmucks. DOOM wants the raps to stay pure, with no outside intervention. Adding salt to food brings flavour and that’s what he’s advocating for. MF won’t consume any of the pop-rap rubbish the labels are trying to feed him, he’ll sit back and take it all with a grain of salt.
Food and beverage references are plentiful throughout his catalogue and this play on “salt” is just another ode to his love of cuisine and wordplay. Appropriately, ‘Vomitspit’ features on the album “MM..FOOD”, an anagram of his most revered stage name.
“Remember, our vacation out to Maryland?
I dooked the maid Carolyn, she made me throw the towel in
Like all foul men the time I hit your moms off
I told her knock it off, but she had to set the rocket off”
‘Fancy Clown’ is a cryptic record buried deep on the stellar collaborative LP between MF DOOM and Madlib – Madvilliany. Performing as Viktor Vaughan, one of his many alter-ego’s, he spits aggressively about a girl who has cheated on him, ironically with DOOM of all people.
This four bar stanza we’ve chosen at the death is a clinic. As Viktor fuels the flames of his ex’s jealousy, he recalls a time he slept with a maid named Carolyn as well as his ex’s mother. Cleverly, Viktor uses the age-old saying “throw the towel in” as a double entendre, leaning into the fact he couldn’t resist the maid advances, while also having to use a hotel towel to clean himself up after sex and shoot it in a laundry basket.
Before you’ve had time to come up for air, Vaughn comes again with some precocious phrasing. “I told her knock it off, but she had to set the rocket off”. Dripping in double meaning, “had to set the rocket off” speaks to her Mum’s eagerness to get Viktor hard, whilst also inciting the thought that her mother was desperate to jump his bones and the risk of getting caught turned her on even further. What’s more, if you say it quickly enough “rocket off” sounds like “rocks off”. Brilliant.
“Learnt from a pro as a mentor
Started with a bird nest and burnt it to a cinder
That’ll get the party kickin
Plus your little charred body smelted like chicken”
Whilst we’re on the subject of aliases, meet JJ DOOM. A project that saw Dumile spit alongside close confidant Jneiro Jarel. ‘Guv’nor’ hits hard with marching drums and bell tones, thanks to Jarel’s tight production. From the get-go, DOOM is measured and meaningful, not giving an inch.
“Learnt from a pro as a mentor” is all about sending praise to the underworld, a place he now dwells in alongside his younger brother DJ Subroc (Dingilizwe Thompson Dumile), with whom he started his rap career as a member of KMD. Running with this idea of personal development, he then rhymes “Started with a bird nest and burnt it to a cinder”. The bird nest in this case is New York City and by the time DOOM hit his strides, he’d literally set the place alight with his skill behind the mic. He then casually insinuates “That’ll get the party kicking”, imagining the other birds he shares the nest with flapping about as they’re burned alive by his lyrical wit, just like humans getting hype at a party. Finishing off deftly, MF licks his lips, letting us know their charred little bodies smell like well-cooked chicken.
“It’s like me holding up the line at the kissing booth
I took her back to the truck, she was uncouth
Spittin’ all out the sunroof, through her missing tooth”
To cap things off, we had to feature marvellous bars from ‘Doomsday’, Dumile’s debut track from his most revered persona. This three-line section, polishing off verse two, highlights the cheeky tales and outstanding flow that would define the villain’s career for many moons to come.
Fancying himself the player, MF insinuates he gets up to a whole lot more mischief in the booth than most others. The opening line also leans into his villainous flare, suggesting he robs the couples lining up to hop in after him and his girl. We then discover this girl’s a redneck and the MC paints a hilarious picture as he takes her back to his truck to carry on, where she’s spitting out the sunroof between missing teeth as he pleasures her.
Like I said at the top, there’ll never be anyone to do it as DOOM did. Keep him in your airwaves as he looks down on us and smiles behind the mask. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the great enigma, one that sums him up perfectly. “Yeah…you might’ve seen me in your local electronics store…but you’d never know though”.