The Work of a Villain: Mm.. Food
Graham McFarland ’19
In November of 2004, MF DOOM, one of the most prominent underground rappers of his time, released “Mm.. Food.” The album marked Daniel Dumile’s third installment under the DOOM persona – a violent, aggressive, and caricatured villain.
“Mm.. Food” succeeded his collaboration with producer Madlib “Madvillainy,” widely considered the greatest underground hip hop album, by only 8 months and rivals his famous collaboration in his signature flow; dark, grimy timbre; inventive instrumentals and production; creative sampling; and incredible, dense rhyme structures.
While “Madvillainy” excelled in its focus on the world of MF DOOM, Dumile takes a step back to get more creative on “Mm.. Food.” Every song off this record is laden with food puns, metaphors, and double entendres. The very opening track, “Beef Rapp,” has a fairly self-explanatory meaning. In proper DOOM fashion, he holds nothing back and threatens other artists that try to badmouth him: “Beef rap, could lead to getting teeth capped” (getting teeth capped refers to New York slang meaning getting hit in the face or mouth). On the very same track, DOOM flaunts his lyrical ability with the lines “For a mil’ do a commercial for Mello Yello Tell ’em devil’s hell no, sell y’all own Jello,” a prime example of his incredibly rich rhyme structure.
While DOOM goes all out with the puns and metaphors in “Beef Rapp” and other tracks like “Hoe Cakes”(spelled like the gardening tool, not like the expletive) and “Kookies,” he waxes towards a more sincere tone in “Kon Karne.” Though he seems to stick with his tough, villainous persona in the track (the title itself translates to “with meat,” which likely refers to beef with other rappers), DOOM dedicates the song to “Subroc, the Hip Hop Hendrix,” his brother who tragically died in 1993. Many of the bars are in reference to his love for his brother, which is “wilder than the Nile,” “vaster than the seven seas,” and “bigger than Mount Kilimanjaro.” He refers to him and his brother as the “brown Smothers Brothers,” the Smothers Brothers being a music and comedy duo who were kicked off television for being too controversial (much like DOOM and his brother when they were a part of KMD, an early hip hop group that disbanded in part due to imagery their label deemed too controversial.
DOOM keeps up a more personal sort of storytelling with “Deep Fried Frenz” and “Rapp Snitch Knishes (Ft. Mr. Fantastik),” both of which focus on betrayal from friends and learning not to trust anyone. “Deep Fried Frenz” in particular deals with how DOOM has felt betrayed and tricked by friends, and why “nowadays he ain’t so friendly.” He talks about the jealousy and faux amiability of these “friends,” which, in his description, includes siblings and parents. This track builds up the unsavory character that is DOOM, explaining how he can be so icy and malevolent.
It’s hard to pin down the style behind many of the tracks off this record outside of DOOM’s constant, unique flow and odd beats. Songs like “One Beer” and “Guinnesses (Ft. 4ize & Stahhr)” diverge heavily from the typical DOOM formula. “One Beer” opens with Dumile’s deep, gritty voice wailing out a parody of the 1934 song “I Get a Kick Out of You,” then transitions to his rough vocals rapping over angelic backup vocals and some lively drums. “Guinnesses” follows the grimy but heartfelt “Kon Karne” with a heavy focus on the features, completely barren of any of DOOM’s rapping. The track centers on Stahhr’s rapping and 4ize’s soulful singing, making for a much softer song that strays from the rest of the album in mood.
Despite all this, DOOM returns to his comfort zone in songs like “Kon Queso” and “Vomitspit,” which easily feel like they could be slotted on one of his heavier records. DOOM is at his grittiest on the record in these tracks, as well as “Beef Rapp.” You can feel DOOM leaning into the mic, getting right on top of it and emphasizing his dark and gritty tone. He gets especially violent in “Kon Queso,” referencing himself “eating rhymers like pomegranates” and “troops asking truce, truce” when faced against the supervillain. The track as a whole is DOOM’s style on showcase: dense bars upon dense bars delivered with almost no break and a staccato beat behind him complimenting his flow.
As Dumile is always building his character and the world of MF DOOM, the album spends a significant amount of time with samples and rhymes alluding to DOOM’s escapades. “Mm.. Food” opens up with DOOM returning to villaining, reminding other rappers who’s in charge. After a four song intermission that leaves, for the most part, leaves DOOM out, he finishes up his scheme but is betrayed. The record reveals a backstory of sorts for DOOM, explaining why he carries out his villainy so ruthlessly. He doesn’t trust anyone anymore as explained on “Deep Fried Frenz,” and the heartache from the death of his brother has left him a bitter, violent man. The final track, “Kookies,” shows a DOOM making due with what he has in jail.
The album as a whole comes together fantastically in its theme, sound, and overall arch. Fourteen years later, “Mm.. Food” still triumphs as a must-listen for any fan of underground hip hop, and earns a 8.5/10 for its creative and captivating instrumentals, accompanied by DOOM’s evergreen wit and remarkable rhyming.