The masses will remember 2003 and '04 as the years of Jay-Z [click to read] and Kanye West, and they aren't wrong in doing so. However, that doesn't mean a case can't be made for MF DOOM, who likely had the most prolific two years in Hip Hop history. 2003 saw him release a group project (M.I.C.), two solo albums (as King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn), one of the very first full concept remix albums (NastraDOOMus) and another installment of his instrumental series (Special Herbs Vol. 3 & 4). If that wasn't enough, he did even more in 2004. He returned as Vik Vaughn for Venomous Villain, teamed up with Madlib for Madvillain [click to read], and released his second album as MF DOOM with MM..Food [click to read]. Plus there was another Special Herbs, a Special Herbs & Spices with MF Grimm and a Special Blends, not to mention MM..LeftOvers and MM..More Food. This is all on top of his freelance production and doing cameos (usually show stealing) with everyone from C-Rayz Walz [click to read] to De La Soul.
The following year he released The Mouse & The Mask with Danger Mouse and then quietly slipped into hibernation. That didn't totally keep the enigmatic supervillain out of news, as reports surfaced that imposter's were performing for him at shows around the nation. Even when you're a grown man wearing a mask who has rapped alongside cartoon milkshakes, life can be stranger than art.
While the caps remain, DOOM has dropped the MF from his name. That is about all that has changed for the man with the metal face. BORN LIKE THIS is peppered with sub three minute songs, no choruses and head-scratching, side-splitting non sequiter rhymes. The Jake One-produced "Ballskin" [click to listen] fits all of the above as DOOM quips "all big letters but it isn't no acronym/smack the thin grin of a chin for crack smokin/DDT the first bar, leave the track back broken," before cutting the song at a criminally short minute-thirty. Equally as short and nearly as good, "Rap Ambush" [click to listen] sees the normally laid back Villain getting aggressive on the mic.
The man's uncanny knack for rhyming entire bars didn't deteriorate in his absence, witness the sublime rhymes of standout "That's That." In an era of uninspired, trash-talking rappers, you've got to appreciate The Villian's creativity; "give a emcee a rectal hysterectomy/lecture on removal of the bowels, foul technically/don't expect to see the recipe, until we see the check and the collection fee." "Gazillion Ear" is another pinnacle of BORN LIKE THIS, despite being one of most uncharacteristic DOOM songs in recent memory. Over four minutes with two production changes? Never fear, it is still far from normal when you listen closely; "one man's waste is another man's soap/son's fanbase know the brother-man's dope/a real weirdo with a bug, rare flow/and the way his hair grow was as ugly as a scarecrow/he wears a mask so the charge won't grab/on a rooftop with a large stone slab/heads up, talk white and thought niggerish"
Unfortunately, the LP isn't all dope beats and DOOM antics. "Microwave Mayo" and "More Rhymin'" don't reach DOOM's usual lofty standards, sounding he finally scooped them off the cutting room floor after a few tries. Plus there is likely no interest in a DOOM-less song, which is exactly what "Still Dope" is featuring Empress Starhh. She fairs okay, but no one bought this album to hear a solo track from her. Astute fans may feel shortchanged by the inclusion of Special Herbs' productions or the long-leaked "Angelz" with Ghostface, but its tough to complain about good songs. It is no Doomsday or Madvillainy, but BORN LIKE THIS is still more than enough to satisfy as DOOM cuts as sharp ever. Even without the metal fingers.