MF Doom Interview

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MF Doom, photographed by my wife, Veronika, on Long Beach, Long Island in 1999. He was renting a little room in an old guy’s house; just his bed, clothes and a little bit of music gear.  He didn’t have the mask with him when we did the interview so he wrapped his face in an Ace bandage. I remember him being really warm and humble, and every time I ran into him, he remembered me and treated me like a friend.

DJ Eleven and I did mixtapes for Spitkicker, including one hosted by De La Soul (Spitkicker Collabos Vol 1). We ran into Doom outside the studio after we recorded the De La drops, and I told him what we were doing and he gave me drops right on the street. Later we found out he was there to record Rock co. Kane Flow for The Grind Date.

When MF Grimm got out of jail, Doom introduced us and the three of us had beers in the city a few times. They were so close then, and it felt really special to listen to their stories.

Doom told me the way he recorded the solo songs on Doomsday: he sequenced the beats entirely inside the MPC. Then he would hit play and record himself rapping the song live in one take. And that was it, no stems, no mixing. If he fucked up, he rewound the DAT and started from the top.

ayres bobbito doom

Reading this interview 20 years later, I think my fandom really comes across – I was just excited to share the same air as Daniel Dumile, and I was trying to keep it cool and not embarrass myself.  I love his music so much, especially Operation: Doomsday. That and the Fondle Em singles are perfect art that hit me at exactly the right time. I’ll really miss him both as a musician and a good soul.

Ayres: When I listen to “Operation Doomsday,” I imagine M.F. Doom is this reclusive hermit, traumatized and made bitter by bad record deals. Is that an inaccurate picture?

MF Doom: It sounds accurate, yeah.

What’s the symbolism behind the mask?

A lot of music today is focused on appearance, and what you got and what you pushing, Bentleys and platinum links and all that and has nothing to do with what the music sounds like. So what we bringing it back to is music as an art form, more than the visual side of it. It’s straight up and down raw rhymes and beats with originality.

Why did you pick Doom as an alias?

Really, Doom kind of picked me. Back in the days when I was young or whatever, you got Doom from my last name, so they called me Doom back in the days since I was a shorty, since the last time I can remember, so I just kept it, knowhatimsayin. That’s what all my mans call me, Doom Doom Doom. Zev was another character, see both of them is actually characters, neither one is really me. I’m playing different parts on the albums, especially the M.F. Doom album, I’m narrating it as well as playing the part of Doom. On the KMD albums I was straight up and down playing Zev Love X through the whole thing.

You did the art on the album cover?

Yeah I did the art. All the album covers that we ever did I did the artwork…

black bastards

Can you tell the story of the Black Bastards cover?

That’s a long story. To make a long story short, [Elektra Records] kind of fronted, we took all the rights, and we free to do whatever we want to do. Whatever the case was, it’s a bunch of different stories out about it, make no never mind though. To me it wasn’t a loss, we G’d off, actually. I rather not be binded by a major label like that. We have more control over artistic expression, more creative control now than we did then. Being financially and economically in control of the situation, it’s definitely better.

How did CM come together, Constipated Monkeys?

CM, that’s the crew from uptown…

Graff crew?

Graff, we got mad facets to the shit. I used to write, I still write. It consists of artists, musicians, writers. Criminal Minded, get money type shit. I met Jorge when he used to work at Def Jam, and he introduced us to the crew, brought us in the crew.

What do you write?

I write Zev, Zev Love X, I write Doom CM. I want to big up my partners James TOP, KEO. KEO helped me out with the album cover, the coloring. TOP crew, Brooknam.

You use a lot of old 80s R&B records on the Doomsday album, is this a departure from the darker type beats?

The way I was doing it was using shit that I remembered, shit that was the shit when I was in high school. Some of them joints was love song type joints, some was ill hip hop joints from 85, 86. So I wanted to make it like a mixtape sort of, blends from the R&B shit to the hip hop shit, like a blend tape from back then but with rhymes on it. The whole era is caught on that shit, so motherfuckers can listen to it and reminisce on that old school shit.

Yeah, that’s how I feel. Who do you make your records for?

Myself first of all. I have everybody in mind, the whole world. I make it so anybody in the world can understand it and feel it, but I make it for me really.

I don’t have too many more questions…

I’m ready to ask you a question. So what made you interested in interviewing Doom?

It’s a completely different style from everybody else is doing. It seems like everybody wants to sample rare funk records…


…and your shit is smoother and warmer, less about the digging. And the rhyme style is more difficult to comprehend.  The way you put words together…

Yeah it’s still not slacking on the rhymes. That’s good looking then, I like how you caught that shit.

Can I get you to kick a rhyme?

I don’t really feel like rhyming right now… [Laughs] You know what I’m sayin, that shit is like a job, I don’t really be wanting to do it in my spare time. But, niggas will definitely hear something. I’ll give you a cassette of some shit I did like a half hour ago that’s hot off the presses! But that rhyming shit, I don’t like doing it just to do it. That’s like a motherfucker who could walk a tightrope. Every time you see him you be like, yo, you think you could balance on this rope for us! I be ready to chill.

[Laughing] Yeah, I hear that.

Veronika, do you remember Gas Face? That was him on that, ‘you look like your host was a ghost on the grill but still…’ The first record you rhymed on went gold! It had a dope video, too.

The video for that had some conceptual shots, it was like three parts. The first was a dude trying to get a record deal, and the guy behind the desk, what’s that guy’s name? Gilbert Godfried! That was filmed in Russell Simmons’ office at Def Jam, how ironic, right? The second part was like in a classroom with a devil teaching tricknology and how to be deceptive. My part was like a gas station scene, a alleyway scene. That’s when rap was fun back then.

Like the De La Soul videos, it wasn’t like they had Hype Williams on that shit, it wasn’t that slick. It was just the concepts, like when they were riding on the scooter and kids were throwing rocks at them. And the video where they was in the classroom and Mase threw a record and it stuck in that sucker’s head and shit…

That was the Me Myself & I video, I was there when they was filming that shit, that was mad fun!

Now people want to be sittin around with girls, and ice on and shit.

Yeah, it should get back to that raw shit. It’s about the sound and about the visuals, not just thrown together, you know throw the hoes in there, throw the mansion, that shit is like a given. Anybody can do that shit. If you win the lottery, how would you live type shit. But how could you freak the medium?

Did you see The Roots video like that, it was the same style, they had a bunch of girls in a bathtub and it said in the caption “Obligatory Hot Tub Shot?”

Yeah yeah, they was dissin it while they was doin it, that shit was fat! They definitely made the shit known.

Did Subroc’s death have an effect on the music, does that come through on the album?

It had an effect on everything. Musically, now I physically have to do two aspects of the shit. Back then he would do one part and I would do another part and we would have more time to do other shit. I’m taking care of the programming, real technical side of the shit that he did when he was here physically. Other than that it’s still the same, exactly how we would have did it. Cuz he still here in spirit.

It reminds me of SANE SMITH, how one brother passed then the other kept writing both their names next to each other. He took up the slack.

Yeah, exactly like that.

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Note: An MF Doom interview which goes deeper into the KMD years is Brian Coleman’s KMD’s Black Bastards and the Birth of MF Doom

January 25th, 2021Categories: Uncategorized