Alright, this is how it is. You don't know it yet, but this is your favorite album of the summer. Shit, of this whole foul, corporate-owned, Republican-approved year of our lord, two thousand and three. What MF Doom can do is on par with anyone you can name off the top of your clever, underground noggin', and he most likely does it better. Never mind that his re-entry into the game, Operation: Doomsday, was a masterstroke of genre-shaming samples and virgin-tight beats that stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Kool Keith's otherworldly approach to hip-hop (while keeping in touch with the asphalt, and digging a little deeper, one finger on the trigger and the other checking the TV Guide for B-movies on cable). Heads will be discovering that album for the next ten years, and it'll still sound fresh. So: What to do when you've dropped a classic and carved your name in granite after returning to the scene?
First step is to smoke trees, and catch up on your monster movies.
Using the same lo-fi, direct-from-the-VCR dubbing he used to narrate the rise and fall of the iron-faced ruler of Latveria on Doomsday, MF lies out the mythos of King Geedorah over the course of Take Me to Your Leader, drafting an outline of the rubbery behemoth's exploits (it doesn't quite qualify as a concept album), then uses it as a guide to piece together some of the most jaw-droppingly, neck-twistingly, brain-meltingly inspired cuts this side of Q-Bert's Wave Twisters. "Monster Zero" is the epicenter of that approach, a cut-n-paste narration of Geedorah's arrival on planet Earth via visitors from the future, backed by a languid soul loop and distorted, bizarrely syncopated snares; the monster in question-- a mutated, irradiated, three-headed fucker who once terrorized the inhabitants of Planet X-- is namechecked and invoked throughout Take Me to Your Leader, and a few of the guest emcees hide behind the monikers of other Godzilla friends and foes to cement the theme.
The King Geedorah project, unlike Doom's recent outing as Viktor Vaughn, finds MF almost exclusively behind the boards, comfortable with rocking the SP1200 and letting others turn out the mic. Only two tracks feature Doom rhyming, but at least one of them is an album highlight: Along with Mr. Fantastik's GZA-by-way-of Humpty Hump delivery and a sleazy, greasy blues guitar, Doom pushes "Anti-Matter" straight to the top of the heap. Even without Doom's verbal skills, the roster here lives up to Metal Fingers standards, with nary a wack emcee in sight (compare that to a record like Peanut Butter Wolf's My Vinyl Weighs a Ton, which featured a few lightweights in the pack). Kurious (billed here as Biolante) sets the bar high on "Fastlane" with an unflappable and confident delivery that fits in amazingly well with the squealing guitar riff that forms the track's hook. In a rare moment of introspection, Hassan Chop does some ruminating on past mistakes and lost friends in "I Wonder", and it's to his credit that the song is affecting without tripping headlong into melodramatic cliché.
"Next Level" throws another curveball, eschewing Doom's taste in bizarre source material with a sultry, piano-laced jazz groove that hearkens back to early 90s fixtures A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde, complimented by lyrics from Lil Sci ("I got a gift called/ Hip-hop prophecy/ 2003/ The year of the jiggy emcee"), Stahhr and ID 4 Winds that bring a smooth Black Star flavor to the proceedings. Gigan takes the prize for delivery, though. "Krazy World" finds him delivering couplets at a cross-country runner's pace like Jack Kerouac with a dutchie in his back pocket: "Check it, playin' em/ Bungle them chumps till I abolish 'em/ Been doin' it since double-oh-one with five dollars/ We be sparklin' in a Siegfried shirt/ With wide collars." Just as Prince Paul pulled quite a crew together for A Prince Among Thieves, MF has enlisted some strong soldiers here, heads that don't find his expansive vinyl universe intimidating.
Kutmasta Kurt and Madlib aside, I haven't heard anyone lace a track like Doom. Take one listen to the Quincy Jones soul loops on "Krazy World" or the indelible Motown strings backing Hassan Chop on "I Wonder" and I think you'll agree. The sharp spacescape of "Lockjaw" is straight out of Fantastic Planet, right down to the hokey 70s science fiction flourishes and theremin frequencies. And most of the album cuts do double duty, breaking ground in the disjointed rhythm department ("No Snakes Alive"), while bridging the gap between the sci-fi themes of King Geedorah and Doom's established jazz tastes ("Fazers", "Next Level"). The beatboxing on "The Fine Print"? Don't get me started. And when an emcee just won't do, Doom enlists the aid of his crates and the wheels of steel to get his message across. Besides "Monster Zero"-- which is more a silly-as-shit audio collage anyway-- Doom applies his cut/paste technique to "One Smart Nigger", exploring racism and linguistic symbolism by letting his wax do the talking. The effect should have emcees checking their notebooks before they attempt another "socially conscious" verse.
Take Me to Your Leader will excite you in a way most hip-hop projects just aren't able: It's not straining for credibility nor putting effort into being revelatory; it just is. Everyone involved got their kicks making this record, and the enthusiasm drips off the jewel case. Like Bobbitto Garcia says: "Create and share with the world." In the album's press release over at Big Dada, MF says: "You should listen to the album for what it is and not expect it to be like the average 'rap' stuff you're probably used to... a blend of ill lyrics and instrumentals. To me, it's way iller than any of the wack shit out now." And not like you'd expect a chef to say his dishes taste like shit, but this time the horse's mouth speaks the absolute truth.