An easily-digested route into the rapper’s superhero world.
Adam Kennedy 2009-11-24
Unleashing superhuman levels of output since 1999 full-length debut Operation: Doomsday, mysterious masked emcee DOOM has flipped as many rarities as widely available material, making him an ideal artist for an odds ‘n’ sods collection.
Having blurred his identity assuming more names than the average electoral roll – MF DOOM, King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X – DOOM is an elusive gent to pin down. Said slipperiness continues on Unexpected Guests, hot on the heels of fine 2009 set Born Like This.
As the title betrays, focus centres on his existing guest appearances. And no new material equals little leverage to lift the mask on the comic book-loving Atlanta-based rapper born Daniel Dumile, nowadays never seen in public without trademark metallic face-gear.
One criticism harsh observers could level at DOOM’s solo output thus far is sidestepped in this collated context: that over an entire record his slightly mono-paced flow begins to grate a modicum. Instead, here DOOM’s razor-sharp linguistics and distinctly British-leaning humour (he was, tellingly, born in London) chiefly arrives in bite-sized guest verse nuggets.
Few can equal DOOM in such short doses, although right off the bat New York rhymer Talib Kweli runs him close on opener Fly That Knot. A horns-packed up-tempo cut, it’s a cousin to Kweli’s appearance on DangerDoom project The Mouse and the Mask (DOOM’s record with collaboration-happy producer Danger Mouse).
The animated gangster tale of Angels, starring Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, is another high, albeit a slight anomaly in that (in slightly altered form) it’s among DOOM’s still-in-print catalogue on Born Like This. The cinematic magnitude remains satisfyingly wide, still.
Perhaps ironically, considering DOOM’s shape-shifting personas, it falls to two rappers wielding distinctly mortal government names to outshine his in-character mic assassinations. Sean Price scarcely wastes a syllable on Babu from Dilated Peoples' The Unexpected, while John Robinson’s politely political punches prove particularly potent within Black Gold.
Those two away wins aside, where rarities compilations ordinarily represent the purchasing preserve of completist fans, in Unexpected Guests DOOM pulls together an artefact that doubles as an easily-digested route into his superhero world.