Metal Fingers Presents Special Herbs: The Box Set (Vol. 0-9) (2006)
Instrumental music hasn’t occupied center stage in hip-hop culture for nearly a decade. These days, if a well-regarded producer doesn’t just call up his favorite MCs and crank out a compilation, he at least makes sure to include a song featuring a rapper or singer, just to break up the monotony. Even DJ Shadow, whose classic debut Endtroducing redefined the template for instrumental hip-hop upon its 1996 release, included rap vocals on his 2001 follow-up, The Private Press. Under these circumstances, MF Doom would appear to be something of a contrarian, since he has issued 10 editions of his all-instrumental Special Herbs and Spices under yet another pseudonym, Metal Fingers. But these aren’t auteur excursions in the vein of Shadow’s work. They’re simply beats from Doom’s various albums (Operation Doomsday, Mm…Food) and a handful of joints not found anywhere else. Similar to the 45 King’s (who is infamous for producing Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” among other classic tracks) Beats of the Month series, the Special Herbs and Spices records were intended for DJs and collectors only. Of course, MF Doom has become a cult icon since Female Fun Records pressed up less than 5000 copies of Special Herbs and Spices Vol. 1 in 2001. (That first edition, with its since-banned Marvel artwork of Dr. Doom, sells for upwards of $100 on EBay.) Everything he makes now is considered a major statement. Special Herbs: The Box Set Vol. 0-9 is a three-disc set that collects all the beats from the series into two eighty-minute “megamixes,” then adds a third disc featuring instrumentals from MF Doom’s early Nineties group KMD. Ingeniously, each track is given a new, herb or spice-related title: the instrumental for “Doomsday” from Operation: Doomsday, for example, is re-titled “Arrow Root,” and the beat for “Next Levels” from his King Geedorah project Take Me to Your Leader is called “Elder Blossoms.” For Doom, this box set is potentially revealing. Thanks to his acclaimed collaborations with producers Madlib and Danger Mouse, Doom is known more as a sly and sarcastic MC, not a beatmaker. Classic R&B and soundtracks from cartoons and films loops throughout this collection, reminding listeners that childhood memories and fantasies are as much a part of his musical sensibility as witty punchlines. Nature Sounds.