MF DOOM – Mm Food

3 out of 5

Label: Rhymesayers

Produced by: MF DOOM

Ah, here for another round of “classic artist to which I’ve never listened,” eh?

With MF DOOM, my ignorance isn’t 100%, necessarily, as I’ve been exposed to a handful of his beats over the years, impressed by them to the extent to want to find out more about his work… only to be confused / discouraged by his constant cycling of identities and constantly morphing role as producer / performer / collaborator. See, my brain wants things to be fairly linear, with some kind of set discography I can point to at a beginning and pursue to an end, and I never really knew where to jump in with DOOM, leading to years of never owning an album which was credited to one of his personas.

Mm Food was, apparently, the long-awaited return to his first AKA of MF DOOM, and / or his fifth studio album. Reviews are a bit mixed on nailing down the vibe, as well as whether or not this is an ideal starting point, and after going through the album multiple times – definitely entertained throughout, definitely loving the artist’s deep and soulful and playful and inventive beats – I can sort of get the lack of strong consensus on what Mm Food is, as I sense DOOM (Daniel Dumile) wasn’t after anything in particular either.

The humorous food theme, which really just lends tracks on a usual list of topics various food puns, feels rather top-of-the-head, and DOOM’s energy on any given track generally runs its course after a couple of minutes, then switching over to cartoon samples and beat cut-ups instead. The cartoon clips – going along with this particular persona – talk up Marvel Comics’ villain Doom, but also highlight mentions of the character’s loneliness and outsider status; as a pretty big star in the underground scene at the time, it thus almost feels like Mm Food is purposefully evasive.

I mention “usual list of topics,” but that’s not to suggest Dumile’s lyrics on those topics – women, rap culture, legitimacy, drugs – are typical, often mashing together typical boasts with instant reversions of those boasts, walking back-and-forth over the line of being a rough and ready rapper and just wanting to be able to be his own weird, DOOM-y self. The songs where he can maintain this balance the whole while are few, though, spread to the beginning and end of the album, with the disc’s midsection given over to instrumentals, followed by a couple more focused tracks – Kon Karne and Guinnesses – the latter of which is DOOM on beats only, with 4Ize & Angelika providing the rhymes.

So the album is surely interesting throughout, but it’s uneven, both on the whole, and intra-song. The production is there, and any set of lines you can single out merits a chuckle or nod of approval, but before you can sink into that, DOOM is off on some other vibe, switching over to samples or letting tighter rhymes tail out into backpack-style rambling.