January 20, 2013

MF Doom May Never Be Mainstream

At the age of 42, Daniel Dumile knows as much about art as any one person that can define the word aesthetic. Even more generic than his vocabulary is the decade long career that Dumile has had in the hip-hop world.

He’s not what you would consider ‘mainstream’, by the typical privileges of radio play, but anyone who’s heard his beats can never claim that they don’t respect him. How can you not respect a man who redefines his music in a setting that is locked within the confines of typical depictions of African Americans? Just as RZA, GZA, J Dilla, and Kweli brought new light and feeling into Hip-Hop, Dumile will make you understand new ways that rhythm and harmony can be interpreted.

Does that make him a revolutionary? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is ready to hear him. Dumile got his start in hip-hop just like everyone else did as a dumb kid trying to get his sound heard, but in his youth, it was much more difficult to forge your name in history. He didn’t typically rhyme about the needs of the crowd-women, money, greed, or even sticking it to ‘The Man’.

So Dumile puts on a metal mask, similar to The Avengers comic villain Doctor Doom, and he speaks what’s on his mind. Of course, what’s on his mind is entirely dependent on the spur of the moment, and usually he can’t be trusted to keep the exact same subject material. His very first official album, Operation Doomsday, was released in 1999, and made beautiful renditions of classical music mixed with rap.

It takes you completely by surprise: How could a medium of music, most notably heard in radio with aggressive and Bass addictive beats, seem so elegant and blissful? This isn’t walking on the beach music by far, but it’s definitely worthy of your ears. Dumile reminds me of the experimentation of J Dilla, most notably because of their sampling material.

“But Derrick, every rap artist samples older songs into their music. Why, look at 50 Cent’s work. Lil Wayne samples in his Banana Boat Song. Even Kanye West samples for a good portion of the Graduation album!”.

Okay, sure, sampling isn’t something new in this medium of music. That’s not my point-what I’m trying to say is that sampling can be a beautiful thing if artists didn’t slander the original meanings of the songs so badly that they sample.

Sure, 50 Cent samples Audio Two in his song I Get Money, and Lil Wayne samples Harry Belafonte in 6 foot, 7 Foot. Sure, their sampling was well done when paying attention to rhythm and rhyme. But if these two muppets had been listening to the actual words of the original songs that they sampled, they would understand that the originals have absolutely nothing to do with their newer rendition.

If I made a song, sampled from Barry White’s “You’ll Never Find”, and make the entire song about hauling oranges on the back of a boat, I would expect half of my generation to be angry at me. Not because the song doesn’t make sense, but because instead of bothering with lyrical harmony, I concentrated on what sounds good.

Sound is a guilty pleasure in music, about as comparable to the film industry as action movies.

I love action movies.

When they attempt to include a reasonable story with actors that don’t make me want to throw things at the movie screen, I’ll begin to love action movies.

What’s so bad about this comparable action in music is that entire masses of people actually support it, not by buying the albums, which they do, but by listening to it on the radio. Radio music will never truly die, owing to the fact that stations need music to play, and always pick music that is highly rated.

Does that mean that MF Doom’s music isn’t good? Absolutely not, but it does mean that he doesn’t slip into the typical path as mainstream artists usually do.

You’ve seen that Cinderella Story before: They spend twenty years in poverty, while exerting a talent of rhyming and musical composition. They get 15 minutes of fame, and for those fifteen minutes they show how desperate for money they are. They then spend the next eight years of their lives battling on the line of success and failure, and ultimately, money is the only real motivation you see them go for until their career just fades.

MF Doom moves away from this. Apparently he never experienced poverty, or at least felt the need to talk about it in every song. The result is a 42-year-old rapper, as identifiable in pop culture as Adult Swim is identifiable to the FCC.

What this all means is that his image isn’t the same as others on Radio and that ultimately defines his’ being broadcast. He’s not the clearest or most coherent lyricist, but at least I can understand what he means. Alongside actually respecting him, I’d say the chances of Doom being considered mainstream is a long shot.

Is it so much to ask that an artist put the music first?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credit: MF Doom via Facebook

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