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Three Songs No Flash

Flow Interrupted: DOOM Cracks Live
Oli Marlow , October 20th, 2010 07:16

Whether it's the perennial issue of hip hop gigs sounding weird in venues tuned for bands, Oli Marlow struggles with Doom's set at Brixton Academy. Photo Matt Cheetham

It's a fucking big deal, a DOOM show. The masked rapper known either as Daniel Dumile or as any one of his many character led aliases (MF DOOM, King Geedorah, Zev Love X, Viktor Vaughn or Madvillain, just for starters) has only ever made it over to UK shores once before; and that show, at the Roundhouse in Camden, earlier this year was plagued by terrible sound and an all too short performance. Given that that was the general consensus retold by almost everyone I've spoke to who went to that gig, it baffles that exactly the same problems would manifest themselves in a different venue – this time at Brixton Academy.

DOOM's flow is incredible. On records like his breakthrough, 'Operation Doomsday,' or his co-op record with Madlib as Madvillain, Madvillainy, his slang heavy wordplay sparkles, his lyricism hitting home its point in a charmingly longwinded and meandering way as possible. On tracks like 'Accordion' he addresses fellow emcees daring to take him on in a rap battle - a topic often revisited by emcees of every level and ability - but he does in a way that's infused with humour, his characteristic lethargic drawl and some incredibly vivid similes:

"Got more lyrics than the church got 'Ooh Lords'
And he hold the mic and your attention like two swords
Or even one with two blades on it
Hey you, don't touch the mic like it's AIDS on it.
It's like the end to the means
Fucked type of message that sends to the fiends
That's why he brings his own needles
And get more cheese than Doritos, Cheetos or Fritos..
Slip like Freudian
Your first and last step to playin' yourself like accordion."

Madvillain – Accordion [Stones Throw]

It is this listless genius of his street smart poetry, coupled with his choice of samples and or producers that has always given Dumile the creative edge. A rapper's rapper, he's a hero of many, including me, which makes it all the more painful that his words are at times barely audible over the kick drum boom of the Academy's PA. To be fair to him, his stage presence is large, his charisma cloaked in camo and navy with his gladiatorial looking mask buffed to beyond shine, glinting magnificently under the white of the house lights. His hype man's frame is even larger but the abounding duo don't even make a dent in the stage; instead it's the contorted fuckaround actions of a playful DOOM that litter a big screen suspended above them. The live visuals comprise of the rapper somewhat tediously flirting with a computer's webcam; whether its counting down his show time on an iPhone's stopwatch (reportedly a comment on the backlash to his previously short performance) or showing the crows his full range of merchandise he's eyeing up the lens repeatedly.

Dealing with his setlist in predetermined sections, DOOM lets the Madlib produced Madvillain project loose first with beats like the afore mentioned 'Accordion,' 'Curls' and 'All Caps' all testing the limits of the speakers. When the music and particularly the bass is this loud it'd be hard for any vocalist to make a dent in the frequencies and had it not been for the years spent subconsciously soaking up every line of his numerous projects I'd probably be a little baffled by exactly what Dumile is huffing about. But given our bond, after all, his syllable teachings have forced me to think at things from a different perspective, the overall feeling is still the same as it was after his debut UK show: it's DOOM! He performed in front of me on a stage. I was there. And I really enjoyed it. He even played 'Fazers' for Christ's sake… that's something, that given his passport troubles and notoriety I'd resigned myself to the fact, that it was something I'd never get to see…

King Geedorah – Fazers [Big Dada]

Admittedly it wasn't the best rap show I've ever seen – Method Man and Redman at Shepherds Bush Empire a couple years back was, if you're asking… – but Dumile's humour, playful side and anti-star stance have always formed the core of his appeal, and in reality he sounds just like on the record; hitting his phrases and elocutions perfectly. Maybe it's the choice of venue, or the poor soundcraft of the engineers a little too used to close mic-ing stacks of amps and drum heads rather than tweaking the output of an apple laptop… but yes, I do concede that the aftertaste on the wider internet is one of disappointment; and in some case anger given the £30 door tax.

There's really no recompense for the bitter taste left in a lot of people's mouths. Even though all comers got to see DOOM recount classics, like 'Doomsday', 'One Beer' and a particular boom heavy rendition of 'Hoe Cakes' from the Mm... Food album, some walked away angry - talking about being short changed or something to that affect that probably involved more cursing. Now, whilst researching such public opinion for this article – yep, I can use google too - I read somewhere that defending DOOM's live shows is like being the battered wife defending her boyfriend. And whilst that's a sentiment I'm angry at, as much for the comparison it draws as the fact that I didn't come up with myself, I agree with it. But you know what? DOOM can continue to hit me as hard and as frequently as he wants, just so long as its in places where people can't see the bruises and so long as he keeps making songs like these:

MF DOOM – Gas Drawls [Sub Verse]

I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment.