MF Doom has released more material in the last two years than some artists release during their entire careers. Nonetheless, the quantity of his releases have not affected their quality. MM..Food?, his third major album of 2004 and follow-up to the indie classic, Operation: Doomsday, was one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2004. Clocking in at under 50 minutes, Food? teases fans with the type of originality and innovation that listeners now expect from the hip-hop supervillain.

The most obvious display of creativity is the theme of food. Food? begins with an excerpt from 1982’s nostalgic, hip-hop movie, “Wild Style,” in which the main character is trying to go get some food. In the context of Doom’s contributions to hip hop — pushing the boundaries of what a rap artist can create — this is the perfect referencing point to start this album. On the battle track, “Beef Rapp,” he chastises playboy rappers as he tells them to “keep your shirt on or at least a button up.” He gives one of the more interesting entendres with “Kookies.” The occasional “Coooookie!” clip from the Cookie Monster humorously tie together the sampling of the xylophone and guitar melody from the “Sesame Street” theme song. Doom shines as his lyrics interweave Oreos and strawberry wafers with the type of cookies downloaded onto a computer from porn sites.

MF Doom is among those chosen few who can drop classics without using hooks. It is his lyrics that attract his fanbase. His stream of consciousness rhymes serve both as a type of poetry and humorous prose. The lyrical content and ingenuity alone make this one of the better albums of 2004.

Nevertheless, coupled with his lyrical prowess, Doom composes some of his most interesting beats as he puts oldie funk and soul samples over old-school drum breaks. For example he takes from Ronnie Laws’ “Friends and Strangers,” a smooth jazz favorite, over the drums of the Whodini classic, “Friends,” form the music for “Deep Fried Frenz.” And then, there is “Hoecakes.” Its classy piano, bass and cymbal crashes intro to Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” unpredictably make a nice backdrop for Doom’s kicking beatbox. It is definitely a treat of pure hip-hop sound.

The skits and interludes on the album have been a point of contention among critics and fans alike. The four consecutive skits in the middle of the album hinder its overall flow. Nevertheless, the kooky excerpts from a cooking program about “edible (w)rappers” make the interludes worthwhile. On “Fig Leaf Bi Carbonate,” Doom shows off his musical skills with a sinister and thumping beat full of horns and 1970’s cartoon sound effects. Rhymes could only mar this display of production.

As Doom continues to experiment with his music, he will transcend barriers and shed light on the numerous possibilities of what hip hop can sound like. The songs and skits could have been woven together more tightly, which is what made his previous release, Madvillainy, a cut-and-dry classic. At any rate, Doom’s understated charisma and humility make the Food? total package artistic craftsmanship.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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