Aside from wearing a metal mask on his face, DOOM is your typical everyday artist. Yea right. Having accumulated a cult following for his off-brand style of unorthodox wordplay, MF DOOM has reveled in his obscurity. Recently dropping the MF from his moniker, the New York-bred mic slayer recently released his latest LP, Born Like This, on indie imprint Lex Records. Being one of the most misunderstood phenomenas in hip-hop today, XXLMag.com got deep into the mind of the man himself to chop it up on why he’s actually not DOOM, hiring people to perform at his shows, a collab album with Ghostface Killah and…children’s books. Read at your own risk.
XXLMag.com: For those who may not be familiar with you, it’s safe to say you’re a pretty left field kind of artist…
DOOM: Um, yea, compared to everything else that’s out there right now. I guess it’s safe to say that. However people see it, that’s up to them, from their perspective. It’s hard for me to see it though, cause I just do it.
XXL: I know you got the new album, Born Like This, that just dropped. Is this album at all different from your previous work that your fans know you for?
DOOM: I’d have to say yea. It’s different in the respect that the previous DOOM records were more like an introduction to the character. So you know, a lot of it was in third person in the rhymes. Some of it was in first person point of view. But this particular record is almost totally in the third person and it’s more like you’re in the mind of the character. It’s like you’ve been introduced so now you know him. This record is more personal. Like a one on one, if you right there with a nigga on some chilling type shit. Almost like a person can put themselves in the Villain’s shoes.
XXL: That’s very unique. You’ve cultivated a character in your music over the years, the same way people cultivate brands. How have you been able to familiarize people with the DOOM character outside of just the music?
DOOM: Well, I think a lot of people catch on to it by word of mouth. People who are fans already and they already get the character and kinda see the angle, they’ll bring it to a friend. It seems like that’s how it really spreads. It’s the opposite of the traditional hip-hop shit where you might hear the guy’s name first and then you hear him. It’s a whole different approach, bringing it back to how it started. It used to be like you hear something and be like ‘oh snap, who is that?’ Then you find out more about it. I’d prefer they find out about it that way. But either way is good because it all leads back to the music anyway. But it’s just the craftsmanship of the music. When something is well crafted, you don’t even have to really advertise because the shit is butter anyway, nah mean?
XXL: You get very intricate with your lyrics and use a very broad canvas with your words. What’s your writing process like now and where do you draw inspiration?
DOOM: I just, if I get an idea, I’ll write it, ‘cause I ain’t gonna remember that shit the next day. I just keep a notebook. I write like I was a short story writer. Like even if the lyrics weren’t on a CD, like if they were in a novel, a sci-fi novel or something like that. I think it would read just as well as it’s heard. There’s a certain appeal to just grabbing the mic and talking shit. But after a while, that starts to get like, ‘ok, the same shit over and over again.’ You can’t just always just talk about yourself and how much shit you do and how much money you get. There’s so much more to life than that.
XXL: Did you do any production on this album?
DOOM: Yea, I produced about 75% of it.
XXL: Speaking of production, I know you produced joints on Ghostface’s last two albums. I heard you all are doing an album together called Swift and Changeable…
DOOM: Yea, that album is like 45% done. It came about when I got the deal to do this record and he was doing Fishscale at the time. It was just like, let’s get these projects out the way first. But later on this year, niggas’ll hear the Doom/Ghost shit. It’s raw as hell by the way. It’s about to be bonkers. You can’t even imagine.
XXL: Let’s clear something else up. I heard a rumor that you’ve had people show up to shows as you with the mask on and everything, that obviously weren’t you. Is there truth to that?
DOOM: Show up as the character? I’m not the character. You’re talking to the writer right now. In that respect, think about it like this. If you write a screenplay, or a stage joint, some type of theater presentation, like Tyler Perry’s a perfect example. He writes the joints, but then he plays the character of Madea, the old lady and shit. If he decided to outsource that, and get another actor to play Madea, it’s still Madea, you know what I mean? I’m trying to snap niggas out of that getting too caught up in the person as opposed to the music. It’s sound. Go with what you hear, not what you see. So if somebody comes to the show expecting to see me, the writer, you might not. But you will hear the work. So if I feel the need to hire somebody to do the character, I will. I might hire Denzel [Washington] to do it and really get it rockin’. He costs a lot though probably [laughs].
XXL: Speaking of collaborations, Thom Yorke from Radiohead did a remix of your song “Gazzillion Ear.” Seems like an odd pairing. How did y’all hook up?
DOOM: Oh yea, Thom’s my man. It came out ill. He actually approached us. He heard a rough version of the song when I was still working on it and reached out to the label. He wanted to do it on the strength. I wasn’t too familiar with his work but then I did my research on him and saw he’s a pretty prolific dude. I saw how both of our styles could compliment each other and bring more people together with it because his fans are hardcore, if not more hardcore than my fans. It was a good way to bridge the two.
XXL: Can you break down the science behind your other characters besides DOOM? And are you’re working on other projects as the writer?
DOOM: Yea, of course I got the character King Geedorah, a three-headed dragon and shit. He’s working on his second shit now. That’s a whole other separate thing from DOOM. Then I got Vik[tor Vaughn]. He’s like a younger version of DOOM, but he’s still his own character. He got a little more slick mouth with him. Little young nigga think he know it all and shit. He’s nice in his own respect. Then with the evolution of the character DOOM, it’s definitely gonna change up. This one I came straight lyrical, but the next record may be a whole set of ballads. Have the Villain hitting the notes, on some Freddy Jackson shit [laughs]. I’m also working on a series of children’s books. That’s still in the works. And also a book on the Unified Field Theory, which is just a theory of everything and how it pertains to us as a people. It expands on Einstein’s theory of relativity. So I’m breaking it down in layman’s terms of how it pertains to us. It’s more of a serious book based on facts and research. – Anthony Roberts