MF Doom, Operation: Doomsday (1999)
“I sell rhymes like dimes/The one who mostly keeps cash but tells about the broke times,” MF Doom sighs on “Rhymes Like Dimes” from Doomsday as a yearning, 80s-era adult contemporary track accompanies him. For him, hard times could refer to his former, failed career as Zev Love X, one-half of 90s cult group KMD; his late brother and DJ Subroc, to whom Doomsday is dedicated; the suppression of KMD’s second album, Black Bastards, by his then-record company, Elektra; and the years-long depression he suffered as a result. Just as seminal 60s comic series The Fantastic Four finds super villain Dr. Doom seeking revenge on master scientist Reed Richards through world domination, MF Doom, a paragon of underground rap “well-versed in destruction as well as building,” wants to take over the record industry. Accordingly, Doomsday is filled with plot devices charting Doom’s various machinations. In between lies seventeen prose poems, plainspoken and filtered through Doom’s coarse vocals. Sifting through trash piles of pop culture, he uncovers zingers like, “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo/That’s an audio daily double/Rappers need to fall off just to save me the trouble” from TV game show Jeopardy on the title track, itself backed by Sade’s “Kiss of Life.” R&B hits like the S.O.S. Band’s “The Finest” and the Deele’s “Shoot ‘Em Up Movies” are lovingly sampled, while Doom’s friends MF Grimm, Kurious, Bobbito, Megalon, and several others drop in to add their two cents. Together, they share memories of street corner escapades, drinking 40s and smoking blunts, and making early inroads into the recording industry. “Nobody knows the trouble I see,” Doom says on “Hey” over a loop from cartoon classic Scooby-Doo before recalling, “They locked Lex Luthor up in Greenhaven/Since then, a nigga never really been too clean shaven.” There’s no crazy drug deals, avant-garde hip-hop production, outlandish sex stories, or amazingly ornate rhyme deliveries to dress up these world-weary takes on everyday life and the incessant cipher sessions that makes living tolerable. Fondle ‘Em originally released Operation: Doomsday in 1999; it has been since been reissued by several labels.