Take Me To Your Leader

Take Me To Your Leader

In the late '80s and early '90s, a rapper named Zev Love X flashed briefly on hip-hop's radar as a member of KMD, as well as the man behind the classic 3rd Bass single "Gas Face." Alas, KMD's 1994 album Black Bastards became primarily known for its incendiary cover (of a Sambo figure being hanged), and by the time Operation Doomsday came out in 1999, Zev Love X had traded in the gas face for a metal face, and his old rap name for "MF Doom," a name linked to a hip-hop supervillain patterned after a Fantastic Four bad guy. Though released on a tiny label, Operation Doomsday became a cult sensation: Its fans include MC Paul Barman, Count Bass D, and Madlib, who recognized a kindred spirit in MF Doom, and recently collaborated with him on an album-length project. If its first single is any indication, the disc promises to be a highlight in both rapper-producers' careers, but until then, fans can make do with two new albums showcasing different sides of MF Doom. In keeping with his love of alter egos, aliases, and trash culture, the records are being released under different names on different labels. King Geedorah's Take Me To Your Leader, named after the star of a Japanese monster movie, is essentially a producer's album, showcasing MF Doom's mastery of buttery beats, left-field samples, and warped instrumentals. The proceedings get off to a roaring start with "Fazers," which, MF Doom's new moniker aside, wouldn't sound out of place on Operation Doomsday. MF Doom takes center stage lyrically on that track, but keeps a low profile elsewhere, letting other rappers dominate. On "Next Levels," Lil Sci, 1D 4 Windz, and Stahhr take inspired turns rhyming over a blissed-out after-midnight jazz track dominated by moody piano and smoky horns. "One Smart Nigger" transforms America's racial history into sonic slapstick, suggesting a sonic version of Ego Trip's provocative Big Book Of Racism. MF Doom moves from comedy to tragedy on "I Wonder," where Hassan Chop delivers a clipped, noir-hued street narrative over sad, insistent strings. Like Operation Doomsday, Take Me To Your Leader has its rough spots, but its lofty highs and brisk run time make them easy to get through. Where Leader focuses on its star's production, the Viktor Vaughan-credited Vaudeville Villain showcases MF Doom's rapping, with production handled by others. He possesses one of the most unusual, infectious flows this side of Ghostface Killah, rapping in Roy Lichtenstein pop-art panels. Listening to him rap is like watching a stoned TiVo flip randomly among 'hood movies, Krush Groove, science-fiction serials, and superhero cartoons, stitching them together with impeccable dream logic. Doom/Vaughan's audio vaudeville overflows with pop-culture references, charming anachronisms, skewed bits of wisdom, hip-hop quotables, and weirdly indelible turns of phrase. There's a strange poetry to the way MF Doom puts words together, and Vaudeville Villain provides a high-powered dose of his ineffable metal-face madness. The album's production isn't as strong as Take Me To Your Leader's, but MF Doom doesn't need great production, because his ultra-magnetic lyrics and delivery enliven even forgettable beats. Between the two discs, MF Doom gives his rabid fan base everything but what they want most: a new recording that focuses on him both as rapper and producer. Considering the cult sensation's workaholic pace, it'll come soon enough.

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