One of the crown jewels of the underground Hip Hop glory years is MF DOOM’s 1999 album, Operation Doomsday. The KMD front-man returned from hiatus with no desire to show his face, but a linguistic outlet that elevated him to one of the greatest emcees of the last decade. Confined to a crate of sample references, a few close associates and six years of pain, drinking, and a bout with homelessness after the loss of his brother Subroc, DOOM emerged as a stream of conscious enigma. His simple productions and complex rhyme schemes made him a cult classic, propelling him to the masses with a persona and mystique that both opened doors and provided closure. Remastered and packaged by Metal Face (in conjunction with Stones Throw Records) with a metal lunchbox, this relic, as it has before, returns to retail, as a testament to Indie Rap’s greatness, collectibility and an offering to new fans, hoping to get “dead bent” with the drunken master.
Unlike past re-pressings, Stones Throw actually remastered DOOM’s solo classic. It’s arguable that both DOOM and Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em Records intended for the original to sound sparse, dubbed and dirty. Just as they’ve done with archival recordings by Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf and slews of compilations, the Stones Throw crew was careful not to make DOOM’s isolated masterpiece sound like it was made in any semblance of a big studio. Instead, the muddied recordings are simply crisper for the ear and quality is enhanced as DOOM and Bob may have intended, had this project had a few extra dollars behind it, and come to CD in larger run. Moreover, this edition deeds all bootleg notions. 42 tracks in total compiled the minor nuances of the vinyl single versions of popular songs, include instrumentals, and even some alternate versions, which in the case of “?” and “Go With The Flow” are raw recordings of ciphers, impromptu sessions and the kind of spontaneity that made this album, and this time in Hip Hop so damn exciting.
It could be the collector-savvy packaging (complete with trading cards), the remaster or just the 12 years of resonance, but Operation Doomsday finally gets the presentation and attention it deserves. As arguably DOOM’s finest hour, the release is definitively late ’90s New York, and with all of its technical mastery, still sounds like effortless music-making. Guests such as Kurious Jorge, MF Grimm and Bobbito’s own Cucumber Slice alias make this work an interesting intersection of early ’90s emcees adapting to the Fat Beats-era of Hip Hop, as the birth of Monsta Island Czars and DOOM’s ’00s-era entourage pivot towards the King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn and Madvillain years. That link between DOOM’s KMD years and his Internet-era resurgence makes this album so special, and such a pleasure to revisit.
With a handful of late ’90s singles compiled together, MF DOOM made an album that seemed more thematic than most structured releases. Daniel Dumile’s ability to channel pain through aggressive emceeing, and invent a character and world when his own appeared unstable made him not only a would-be magazine cover icon, but also one of the greatest comeback stories in Hip Hop history. For those who opened the book at later chapters, Operation Doomsday‘s return to retail is a welcomed history lesson, a study of isolation, as well as a reminder in just how fun and powerful Hip Hop and can be.