MF Doom – Operation: Doomsday (2LP Ltd Edition, Random Split Color Vinyl)
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Simultaneously hailed as an underground classic and cast aside as poorly produced backpack rap, Operation: Doomsday inaugurated the reign of MF Doom in underground rap from the early to mid-2000s. The pretext for the album is very similar to that of Marvel Comics supervillain Dr. Doom; after MF Doom, then known as Zevlove X, had been devastated by the death of his brother and K.M.D. accomplice, DJ Sub-Roc, in the early '90s, Elektra dropped his group and stopped the release of its second album, Black Bastards, due to its political message and, more specifically, its cover art. Doom was left scarred with a lingering pain that didn't manifest until the late '90s as hip-hop's only masked supervillain on Bobbito Garcia's Fondle 'Em Records. Carrying the weight of the past on his shoulders, Doom opens and closes Operation: Doomsday with frank and sincere lyrics. In between, however, many of the villain's rhymes are rather hard and piercing. On his subsequent material, he developed a more steady and refined delivery, but on this debut, Doom was at his rawest and, lyrically, most dexterous. The out-of-left-field edge of Doom's production -- which features '80s soul and smooth jazz mixed with classic drum breaks -- is indeed abstract at times, but his off-kilter rhymes are palatable and absent any pretentiousness. In fact, the album arguably contains some of the freshest rhymes one might have heard around the time of its release. There are more than enough obscure but fun references (i.e. "quick to whip up a script like Rod Serling" on "Go with the Flow" or "MCs, ya style needs Velamints" on "Dead Bent") and quotable jewels from the "on-the-mike Rain Man" to feed on. Nevertheless, one would be hard-pressed to overlook the low-budget mixing that mars some of the LP's presentation. For the hardcore Doom fans, the recorded-in-the-basement quality is appealing and representative of his persona as the underdog who "came to destroy rap." In contrast, given his contributions to hip-hop during the 2000s, the masked villain offers this explanation on "Doomsday": "Definition: supervillain/A killer who loves children/One who is well-skilled in destruction as well as buildin'." Even though this album is certainly not for everyone, you can easily respect from where the man is coming.