15 Years Ago MF DOOM & Aesop Rock Shined Light Upon The “Black List” (Audio)
Earlier this year, Aesop Rock released The Impossible Kid. Down with the Rhymesayers crew, the LP marked the New Yorker’s fourth consecutive solo work to appear on the Top 200. In this particular case, the album was the Hail Mary Mallon front-man’s second straight Top 30 entry. This is a long road from the Labor Days (and before) era, when the Weathermen member was widely considered to be one of the best MCs that the mainstream was seemingly ignoring. Today, after moving around the country and diversifying his sounds and talents, Aesop’s consistency made them come to him.
While Rock was introducing himself to Heads with his Def Jux peers, MF DOOM was shifting gears. The former KMD front-man had left an Elektra Records contract, complete with videos in rotation. After the death of his twin brother Subroc, DOOM changed his name, covered his face, and reinvented his highly-technical style. Once rolling with 3rd Bass, Brand Nubian, and Prince Paul, DOOM now surrounded himself with artists like MF Grimm, Kurious Jorge, and Count Bass D. Now an introvert, the artist formerly known as Zev Love X found a stride that would propel him up the charts. While 1999’s Operation Doomsday wasn’t the ultimate success it arguably should have been, it was the kindling that started a mid-2000s blaze. By the early 2000s, grassroots Heads knew that Daniel Dumile was on a tear.
In 2001, Aesop and DOOM were both at critical junctures. In the last days before the Internet would completely reshape the distribution, digestion, and coverage of music, both MCs were taking chances. At a time when collaborations were burgeoning but not as arguably overblown as they have become today, both artists signed on to appear alongside producer/DJ Prefuse 73. The artist behind Prefuse 73, Scott Heren, was working as an Atlanta, Georgia club DJ. Like DOOM, Heren enjoyed compartmentalizing releases. Already garnering acclaim for Delarosa and Asora as well as Savath & Savalas, the New York-raised musician launched his next project.
2001’s Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives was at the forefront of a wave of celebrated Electronic albums that strongly dabbled with Rap and Hip-Hop. As artists like RJD2, Blockhead, Ayatollah, and Wale Oyejide (p/k/a Science Fiction) were inking with the indie label boom, Herren was on the frontier. This album employed minced samples, distorted vocals, and complex rhythms that were quite distinct from the competition. Moreover, Prefuse had access to respected MCs that he believed fit on his unique canvases. Later working with Mos Def, Vocal Studies… featured Freestyle Fellowship’s Myka 9, as well as Aesop and DOOM.
The latter two appeared together on “Black List.” On a simple piano arrangement with brushed up drums and an ominous horn accent, the pair of MCs overlap as two hungry lyricists who could never have estimated the success they would enjoy over the next 15 years.
#BonusBeat: Aesop Rock and MF DOOM would also work together via Chicago, Illinois production outfit, The Molemen. Here is one such track, “Put Your Quarter Up,” which also features Atmosphere’s Slug.
In 2016, all three are Rhymesayers familia—while Prefuse 73 is as active as ever, albeit a bit more distant from MCs on his LP.