It was the fall of 2004, and the oeuvre of Daniel Dumile expanded far past prolific; the word was far too inappropriate for the scale of what he accomplished in a two-year window, which at the time we didn’t know was a record away from sealing itself shut. Sprawling across aliases and independent imprints alike, Dumile had a hand in eleven releases between 2003 and 2004: this included several volumes of his Special Herbs instrumental series, two Viktor Vaughn albums, a King Geedorah album, the Madlib-helmed Madvillainy, and executive production on albums by MF Grimm and Monsta Island Czars. No matter which mask he donned, he kept classics on hand, each universe its own formidable dive into the world’s absurdities.
MM.. FOOD is the final album of this period, released via Midwestern indie rap giant Rhymesayers Entertainment. It lives on as a seminal text in the Dumile universe, arriving as the golden era began to fade, on the cusp of transitioning into bling and ringtones and the power of cyberspace. Rekindling his MF DOOM moniker, Dumile lures us into the supervillian driver seat, building his food-obsessed character somewhere between fearless power and bumbling fool. The best DOOM merges and remixes these tropes; even when he’s five ales deep and caught with his pants down, the Villain knows no limits, colorfully sketching and turning subjects to a dime. From the NYC blocks he wandered through, to the gallows of his darkest experiences, DOOM regurgitates his findings with a stunning technicality proving time and again that he’s one of the greatest bar-for-bar MCs to walk the Earth.
While accessible may be last on the list of descriptors for any DOOM work, MM.. FOOD is certainly one of the most inviting works in the Dumile catalog. You can count the hooks on half-a-hand. He keeps the features minimal and the beats even more bare, a few sample and drum loop driving most of the records. But the latter comes not from abandonment, but from a gentle intuition, his bars calling and responding to the beat in a symbiosis that ages like an artifact. You can’t imagine “Hoe Cakes” without the “Super!” weaving and reappearing on DOOM’s whim, or Whodini’s cries for companionship rearranged to fit the ills and thrills of kinship on “Deep Fried Frenz.” Every record flips a food in its moniker, engulfed by superhero snippets, film nd interview clips; the subject matter builds the villain ethos as a sworn enemy of all wack rappers, and reinforcing the food narratives running through the album’s core.
So what lies in the gumbo? When he’s not flossing his competition from his teeth, DOOM uses food in any which way imaginable. He’ll critique the crooked ways of our modern diets, pay homage to the Black cuisines of survival, articulate a fear of our processed future where we’ll eat the wrapper with the TV dinner. Without a strict narrative in place, DOOM allows himself the room to fluctuate between free-associative quips and charged metaphors running amuck over soulful ballads and doomsday theme music. Within mere breaths, the listener’s thrust into a madman’s psyche, but it’s warm and enchanting in his head. Together, we wonder why rappers insist on telling on themselves, why we run on drive-thru doctrines, and where the hell the local pub is, but there’s no pulpit to look down from and we’re too drunk and full to bare our own cross. No one’s more equipped with belly laughter and grim prophecies; that’s to say, the mask never conceals the human.
MM.. FOOD was hailed as a critical success upon release, peaking at #17 on Independent Albums and #9 on the Heatseekers chart. It’s often considered a blessed product of a weathered veteran, his stubborn empathy being tested by the changing tides of the game he’s dedicated his life to. While that bears some truth - you can hear the disdain in his grizzly accent - there’s not a spiteful ligament in its bones. When the industry threw him away and the park bench became the sleeping bag, Daniel Dumile tore the underground to shreds with a relentless attitude that predates Mixtape-era Lil Wayne, the SoundCloud endless scroll, and the resurgence of the long player as an algorithm hack. The DOOM we knew in ‘04 would surely grind his molars at the new damnation, in-between a hawkspit and a sip of lager, but he’d return to what made him such an elder statesman of rap that was unapologetically free to be whatever the fuck it wanted to be.