MF DOOM Says He & Madlib Have Recorded Several Albums Worth Of Songs
This past weekend, Madvillain’s Madvillainy celebrated its 15th-anniversary. Having released on March 23, 2004, the union of Madlib and MF DOOM marked a transformative moment in the careers of two Hip-Hop veterans with a passion for reinvention, character creation, and wildly inventive Rap music.
Both of these artists rarely speak to press about their music. However, DOOM gave a recent and rare interview to Spin‘s Will Gottsegen about the 2004 Stones Throw album. He recalled its creation and discussed the unreleased follow-up material he has made with Madlib. DOOM also speaks at length about his late son, King Malachi Dumile, who died in late 2017 at the age of 14. For fans of the MC who has some of the most asymmetrical rhymes in all of music, DOOM also explains how he treats writing verses like a game. As an artist who many believe is far-and-above his peers, Daniel Dumile has created a way to make songwriting fun and competitive, even if most MCs are not in his league.
MF DOOM is asked about the creative layout leading up to the LP. “Both of us are producers. We both have our set of equipment that we use. And Madlib be having drums and all kinds of sh*t in the crib. We were at a big house, and we could be anywhere in the house doing what we do.” DOOM was credited with production on intro “The Illest Villains,” and recording throughout the album. The rest of the beats belonged to Madlib, who the KMD co-founder refers to as “Otis” or “O.”
The Long Island, New York representative recalls writing and recording while puffing on Sour Diesel in particular. He and Madlib laid tracks in a space originally purposed as a bomb shelter. “There was a room we used to call the bomb shelter. There was no windows in there. It was like a real bomb shelter, like if something went off, you could be down there and you’d be alright. And that’s where we had some of the recording equipment, where we could actually record. We would only go in there when it was time to record. The rest of the time, I’m writing around the crib, listening to the beat on the deck, or in the whip, driving around. The whole house was the studio.”
Having worked with other producers, DOOM also explains the Madvillain aesthetic he formed with Madlib, as he recalls it. “Madvillain, the approach I took on that one is like, I’m talking to Otis. Like, ‘Yo O, check it out, ha ha.’ Making jokes at somebody, like I’m speaking to somebody audibly, out loud. So that’s the difference. That’s what I did to differentiate the DOOM realm, which is an in-thought realm, from Madvillain, which is more like an outside realm.”
DOOM, who has veiled his face following the death of his brother (and KMD band-mate) Subroc, recalls going out in Cali’ and leaving the mask back at the lab. “Most of the time I don’t go out, so the couple of times I did go out, it was memorable. We’d go to the club and listen to music, basically. Every once in a while, you get a clown in there. Otis is kind of popular; people know his face. I don’t get no problems; motherf*ckers don’t know me. But sometimes, when people know your face like that, they’ll target you. They might be like, ‘Yo, that ni**a be with my girl,’ or whatever, or be a little jealous, and sh*t like that. One time, some cat got jealous and sh*t, and he started trying to front on O. But he didn’t do nothing! He was about to get smashed, but I wasn’t rolling like that. That night, I parlayed. I was on some peaceful sh*t at that moment. O was alright; he wouldn’t care. Dude was jealous.” DOOM also admits that he only listens to one of the definitive albums in his catalog “every other year” or so.
The rarely accessible MC/producer gives an interesting answer when asked if he would change anything about Madvillainy. “Nah, I can’t change nothing on it. It’s perfect the way we did it. I remember when we was doing it, I remember the days, and things that was going on. When I was hearing a beat that day, like a Sunday, it might have rained a little bit that day, it was wet on the ground a little bit. Very quiet up there in them hills, so we could focus and think. To me, if I would say, ‘Oh, I would change that now,’ it’s like changing part of the day. Even if you had a day when you stubbed your toe, when you stubbed your toe you met that girl after that. If you ain’t stubbed your toe, would you have met that girl? You know what I mean? I wouldn’t change anything about it, it was perfect, it was the way how a day would go.”
Gottsegen brings up DOOM’s intricate rhyme writing, a quality that glows on Madvillainy. “You have to go the extra mile to use a technique like [I do] in your writing. When you’re looking at quality of wordplay, you’re looking at, how many words repeat in a bar, or two bars? How many syllables can you use that still make sense in a song?” DOOM says that he equates writing rhymes to word-based board games. “In certain ways, you get a triple-word-score. You know how in Scrabble, you have triple word score joints, the way you get points based on words, and how they correlate on the board? It’s similar to getting points like that, if you really take it to the next level.”
He continues, “What I be looking at is the quality of the rhyming word: phonetically, how the tone is, in the pronunciation of the word. Regardless of language—you can be fluent and speaking Spanish, Arabic, whatever. You can use an Arabic word to rhyme with a Spanish word and have English slang all in between it. As long as the word itself rhymes, you still get points for that word. And the reference is another way of bringing that same thing home. How many references can you cross and still stay on topic? And still rhyme? The more complex the subject matter and wordplay is, that’s where you get your points.” He puts it simply, “I’m a rhymer, so I go for points.”
Notably, DOOM also describes why he favors certain subject matters that stand out in Rap. “I ain’t going to be talking sh*t about the next dude, or bragging about sh*t I got. I talk broke sh*t, I talk about sh*t I don’t got, or things I’m striving for. Say you’re speaking from a point of view where you’re talking to yourself, in maybe a sad mood. How do your tones come across? Can people feel what you’re saying? Can they hear what you’re saying? Are you well pronounced? Maybe you purposely were a little bit sloppy with it, to bring the point across. Can you bring the point across and still get the rhyme points? It’s like gymnastics on paper.”
“I don’t really do music at home,” DOOM reveals later in the conversation. “I do that sh*t just to get money. I write rhymes and sh*t to get money. Other than that, I don’t listen to Hip-Hop music. I listen to Jazz music and instrumentals and sh*t like that. I only do this for the simple fact of points-per-rhyme, the point game. It seems to be a profitable thing these days, and nobody else is really paying attention to it. You can be about your points, and if nobody else can do it, you can get some change off that joint, because you’re the only one doing it like that. That’s what I get out of the rhyming.”
He continues, “I didn’t know it was gonna be such a popular thing. It’s something we used to do for a side hobby, to keep your mind fresh. Word games. You might be walking down the street, playing with words in your mind, so you throw them back and forth, and words that rhyme just come to you. It’s something we did as a hobby, like practicing thoughts, brain exercises. Word searches and things like that, studying different languages, where words come from.” Looking at a career that’s been active for more than 30 years, the artist who in the 2000s called Georgia his home continues, “I’m blessed to be part of this whole thing, from this Hip-Hop experience.”
Metal Face also spoke about his late son, who was born in the same year DOOM and Madlib recorded. “I had a chance to be there when he was born, and then I went out to L.A. to do the record, for a month or two or three, some sh*t like that,” he remembers. “When a baby’s first born, they be so little. You can hold him, but you can’t really do nothing. By the time I came back, he was a little older, but he wasn’t walking yet.”
He adds that while he was not an MC, King Malachi upheld his father’s trade as far as words. “[King Malachi] didn’t ever like that kind of music. But he was a word game-type dude. Every morning, he would write down his dreams, and that would keep him writing. He worked on a book of short stories, and he was just about to get it all in order so he could publish it. He turned out to be quite the young writer. I’m really proud of him, still, right now. And I’m definitely going to make sure that book gets published, and his ideas come out.” DOOM reveals that his child never cursed, even when he tried to prompt him.
DOOM admits that he did sign permission for 2008’s Madvillain remix album, with new beats by Madlib. However, for fans wondering if a beloved 2000s duo can make its return, MF DOOM gives hope. “Since then, we’ve recorded a lot more stuff. There’s a few of them we could put out as whole albums. I’m just looking for the right time. It’s hard to choose a time, as far as the manufacturing side, and the business side. Once that’s all out of the way, people will hear more of it. It’s a ton of stuff that we got.” In the last decade, Madlib left Stones Throw to release many projects through his Madlib Invasion imprint. Meanwhile, DOOM has independently released projects through Metal Face Records along with various labels.
DOOM could not specifically recall when he last recorded with Madlib for Madvillain (which reportedly included one summer-long residency in California). However, he does claim that there are three or four albums worth of material in the vaults. “If you heard them back to back, it would sound like both of them are interchangeable [with Madvillainy]. All three of them, there’s actually three or four of them by now.” Several songs claiming to be Madvillain tracks have leaked in the 2010s. Although it is unclear of their authenticity.
Last week, Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf appeared on Questlove Supreme. The San Jose, California native addressed the original, leaked version of Madvillainy, known as “The Retarded Hard Copy.” He also described Madlib’s creative intricacies and the MC/producer/DJ’s relationship with Stones Throw today.
While Madlib has released two songs (“Flat Tummy Tea” and “Bandana”) from his upcoming second Freddie Gibbs collaborative album, Bandana, DOOM linked up with Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric in 2018 for Czarface Meets Metal Face.