Operation Doom Discography-2006-2017: The Good, The Meh, and The Almost Classic
JJ Doom- I knew this album wasn’t for me early in the listening experience. The production style doesn’t fit. It is very post-Gorillaz (Damon Albarn guests along with Beth Gibbons from Portishead) in its cold robotic bass burbles. Jneiro Jarel is very good at his sound. You can play the wordless Viberian Sun pt. II and understand the value of talent on display. Doom more than matches it. The disjointed nature of the beats just puts him a little off. He knows the pocket of any soul sample better than he does this. All that being said he still rises to the occasion: he starts the last song (Wash Your Hands) with ” Ooh, she got a cool body, damn she got a cool body/What I’m a tell you what to do with your hands for?/Much less your dirty @$$ shoes on the dancefloor?” This is full on grouchy doom warning you about the dangers of drinking tap water and giving you odd takes on gender(“There they go feminizing men again/Then pretend they don’t know when we know it, xenoestrogen.” From GMO). If you enjoy Doom you should listen to it and you might like it more than I do if you are into a more slick alternative version of hip hop production.
NehruvianDoom-I was very excited to hear this collaboration. I am a fan of Nehru and would say he’s an underrated talent. Doom handles the production on all but one track so we are back in that soulful comfort zone. Bishop is a top notch rapper but his lack of theme gives the lyrics presented here a freestyle feel. To put it bluntly: he ain’t Doom. Any project that says DOOM and doesn’t feature enough verses from Doom isn’t great. This one isn’t great. The whole album is surprisingly sleepy and ultimately unimportant. While Jneiro Jarel has (what I would view as) talent oppositional to Doom’s Nehru and Doom make each other boring somehow.
The Almost Classic.
Every truly great rap artist with a reasonably sized career has an almost classic. Jay has Vol. 1, 2pac has his first album 2pacalypse Now, Pete Rock & CL Smooth have The Main Ingredient (the single best example of an almost classic). Definition: everything is right except something which is very wrong. You need to own Born Like This so you can hear J Dilla & Doom collaborate for two of the most gripping moments in the history of music. Gazzilliion Ear & Lightworks are deadly serious as the master mad scientists push one another: the beat twists and Doom adjusts. It’s not just Dilla, Absolutely is the crackling warm minimal vinyl Madlib groove at its finest. Jake One gives the biggest and best of his boom bap on the one minute and thirty second Ballskin where Doom burns the whole world down with his bars. The guests give the best of themselves and honestly I think Impress Stahhr Tha Femcee(Still Dope) outdoes Ghostface, Raekwon, Slug and anyone else not named DOOM.
The problem is the horribly wrong minded skit Batty Boyz which is unflinchingly homophobic and I just realized that I have a strange British version of the album which follows Batty Boyz with a doubling down on homophobia and transphobia. A song called Costume Foolery which is cut out of the US retail version but tucks in right behind Batty Boyz on my version. It really reaffirms that the skit wasn’t a fluke and Doom has problems with this subject, making a terrible gay voice and clowning man purses. I am of two minds on this: I don’t want to support anyone who makes it harder for oppressed communities or discriminates against any community but I also adore free speech. I don’t really believe in shutting down inappropriate conversation (I am not listening to Nazi rock bands do not take me to extremes). Doom starts the song CELLZ with a reading of Charles Bukowski’s Born Like This poem which gives this album it’s title. I think it is valuable to hear Bukowski read this in the context of Doom. The poem is about the mutating “sourful deadliness” that comes from a lack of good in the world or as Bukowski puts it an “unresponsive god.” The sharp edges of Doom stab us from that very place. Doom is not a villain for fun he is a response to deep scarring we should explore with him in all its ugliness. I’m sure he wouldn’t blame me for letting that ugliness dock points from the overall experience.