Daniel Dumile is one of the most enigmatic figures in rap music, recording under numerous names – such as Viktor Vaughn and King Geedorah – but most famously as MF Doom. Always seen in a distinctive face-obscuring metal mask (modelled after Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom, hence the name), his musical persona is that of a slightly tongue in cheek rapper-supervillain character of sorts. The argument could be made that the man is more style than substance, but Dumile’s second album under the MF Doom moniker is proof that there is genuine skill backing up the occasionally distracting image.
Mm..Food is full of sampling, a rap staple; but the way they’re implemented gives the album real personality, and the peppering of audio clips from 60s Marvel cartoons are particularly entertaining in and of themselves. They seem to form a loose kind of narrative, with mentions of Doom hatching some kind of scheme, battling his foes and eventually becoming “master of the world”. And as you might expect from the anagrammatic title, there are multiple references to food throughout, both in the samples and the lyrics, giving the whole thing a slightly absurd sense of humour.
The overall tone of the album is very light, with the sampling dovetailing perfectly with some great laidback, funk-inflected West Coast-style beats. One of the album’s best tracks, ‘Deep Fried Frenz’, combines samples from ‘Friends’ by groundbreaking hip hop group Whodini, and ‘Friends and Strangers’ by Ronnie Laws. The result is a diss to fairweather friends and two-faced backstabbers which is both lyrically scathing and infectiously groovy. In fact, fake friends and lack of trust are themes which pop up in another one of Mm..Food’s finest numbers, ‘Rapp Snitch Knishes’, featuring Mr Fantastik. The bouncing bassline and guitar – from Dave Matthews’ version of ‘Space Oddity’ – are irresistibly funky when set to Fantastik’s verse in particular, and the chorus is the kind of catchy earworm that takes up welcome residence in your head for days.
Doom’s flow and command of language are really something to behold. His distinctive vocal delivery sounds oddly casual even when he’s reeling off deceptively tricky rhymes; tracks such as ‘One Beer’ (a fan favourite) and ‘Vomitspit’ (which samples Mashmakhan’s ‘Happy You Should Be’ to effortlessly smile-inducing, head-bobbing effect) really showcase his sharp humour and talent for a witty turn of phrase. Overall, Mm..Food is an example of a rapper at the peak of his skills, boasting memorable rhymes and samples, perfect beats and an appealing sense of humour throughout. If a lot of modern rap albums are bland morsels offering barely any sustenance, then this is the flipside – a satisfying meal indeed.