Tag Archives: underground hip hop

Operation Doom Discography: Operation Doomsday

Operation Doom Discography: Operation Doomsday

by Dan-O

Operation Doomsday will last because it is one of those instances where an album saved the form as well as the person who made it. The promise of K.M.D. ended with the death of Zev Love X’s brother and group member DJ Subroc who was killed by a car getting across the Long Island Expressway. Zev Love X was crushed and took years off, dealing with depression addiction issues and homelessnes. He came back years later completely obscured by a persona that perfectly fit him. Dr. Doom is the scarred genius of the Marvel universe he is acknowledged by all creators as smarter than Tony Stark or Reed Richards but his pain feeds his anger and his reputation. Doom as a persona gave him the ability to slide into anger and sadness without having to clear a whole track or album for it.

In 1999 we were used to the confessional conscious rap album we were used to the hardcore NY goon rap album and the glossy Bad Boy shiny suit event music. Doom didn’t want to do any of that. He wanted to stretch his legs and be nerdy. Hey! Is a beat made out of the Scooby Doo Theme song and he does Shaggy’s zoiks in his verse. On Greenbacks he lets all references fly “What a fella! Like Salt, Pepa, Spinderella/I came to spark the deaf, dumb and blind like Helen Keller/If I’m not with George of the Jungle, if he not with Stella/Or either Priscilla, I’m doing dips on Godzilla.” On Go With The Flow he says one of the nerdiest things in the history of rap “That’s quick to whip up a script like Rod Serling.” 100% of Rod Serling references are about him hosting Twilight Zone not his PEN GAME(which was impressive if you check IMDB). Beyond nerding out he just loves rapping, the one liners are efficient concise and packed to unpack. Rhymes Like Dimes is the best example of this. These are some of my favorite one-liners from just this one short song.

  • “keep a pen like a fiend keep a pipe with him.”
  • “Classic slapstick rappers need chapstick”
  • “Only in America could you find a way to earn a healthy buck and still keep your attitude on self-destruct.”

Doom produces every song and Rhymes Like Dimes is a warm and lovely Stevie Wonder sample where he erupts all over the song and lets NY legendary hip hop DJ Bobbito talk crazy at the end and yell “MASHED POTATOES!” It is genuinely fun to listen at him push his talent to without any regard for whether we are catching all of it or tracking all the meanings. Doom lets us listen to him do whatever he wants. He doesn’t just feel as broken as Dr. Doom or as angry he also demands that level of control over his surroundings. Every track is a room in his Latverian lair.

The production is like the dark side of J Dilla. Both take soul samples and mutate them, Dilla made them even more handsome than they were originally while Doom makes them squeak screech and twist until they sound like how he feels (example:Dead Bent) .

When Doom does give you a window into the hole in his heart it is truly profound. The chorus on the title track “On Doomsday! /Ever since the womb til I’m back where my brother went/That’s what my tomb will say/Right above my government: Dumile/Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who’s to say? ” The earnest moments are in a sloppy mountain of pulsing incisive observations, wild jokes, and old tv shows and that feels more real than a lot of the “I love my Mom” rap songs from the 90’s did.

Doom’s last verse on ? absolutely haunts me especially the last line which rolls around in my head all the time.

“By candlelight my hand will write these rhymes ’til I’m burnt out

Mostly from experience, shit that I learned about

Topics and views, generally concerned about

With different ways to come up and earn clout

I take a look at my life and pace the trails

From Tablik and savage females with fake nails to face veils

You out your frame but still bagging ’em too

You know I know, these hoes be asking me if I’m you

Like my twin brother, we did everything together

From hundred raka’at salats to copping butter leathers

Remember when you went and got the dark blue Ballys

I had all the different color Cazals and Gazelles

The “SUBROC” three-finger ring with the ruby in the “O”, ock

Truly the illest dynamic duo on the whole block

I keep a flick of you with the machete sword in your hand

Everything is going according to plan man”

Its deeply genuine but doesn’t need to be. I was blown back by The Finest where he says “MF like Mike Frank Corleone” explaining to my wife how deeply nerdy it is to refer to the middle name of a fictional character. In all the world of Godfather references in hip hop verses I’d never heard Michael’s middle name. I didn’t even know at that time that the M.F. in M.F. Doom Stands for Michael Francis and that reference, the depth of the reference defines his very character.  Recently his fourteen year old son Malachi Ezekiel Dumile passed and it’s hard to hear. Someone who changed hip hop broke the format of thoughtful v. Gangsta into shards by taking his tragedy and articulating it his way is still being beaten back it. Wherever he is I hope he never loses sight of how important his perseverance is to all of us.


EP Review-Skate Life by Black Dave

EP Review-Skate Life by Black Dave

by Dan-O

New York is jam packed with “underground” artists. I throw quotations because some artists choose the stylistic definition of the word and some artists just don’t have what it takes for the spotlight (but really do yearn for it) and are still called underground. Is Rass Kass underground because he chose it or because Dr. Dre found Eminem? That’s a discussion for a different day.

What New York doesn’t have is enough rappers like Black Dave. All the radio personalities have personal favorites but a lot of the NY MC crowd feel like the hip hop equivalent of Shoegaze rockers staring down at their feet dispassionately while giving you a dab of trap, a dab of horrorcore, a dab of comedy and it all doesn’t add up to anything spectacular or different. As a composite it’s safe; and you get to tell everyone you like a rapper who does a little bit of everything (Jack of all trades, master of none).

Black Dave makes music that’s immediate. You know exactly what he’s trying to execute as the song starts and that’s partially due to a must-listen flow that stands in front of any and every beat. The other part is the song composition. Look at the difference between the slim, trim jazzy morning wake up song Turkey Bacon Smoke where he lays back and walks you through the verses and the boom-bapping bark Respect The Intellect where he asserts his individuality “You should do what you supposed too and know the game before somebody try to coach you.” It’s a real talk proclamation that artists should know their music thoroughly before they seek major label success. Know what principles you need to fight for, the ones that define you before you enter the system and it naturally tries to change you.

For a five song EP Skate Life possesses some pretty elegant mood changes. Not only can he assert the foundations of the NY hip hop sound on Respect The Intellect he can make his sultry hitting on you song (Foomie) catchy and head nodding with each line delivered as if from a smirk.

His Chorus work is as impressive as ever; just listen to the anthemic hook on Be Quiet. You can almost see the stadium goers standing and screaming. This all might seem like old news to Black Dave fans. Dude has several dope mixtapes that express these attributes. Skate Life is important because it confirms that Dave’s best music isn’t a rare occurrence. For so many NY rappers waiting for their best work is like whale watching. Dave can drop great listenable 15 track mixtapes or 5 track EP’s. Imagine what a real retail album would sound like?

Stream or download Skate Life EP below:

From The Inbox-Bona Fide by Kid Sean

From The Inbox-Bona Fide by Kid Sean

by Dan-O

The distinction between hip hop and underground hip hop is a real stylistic divergence. It’s not really about sales figures. Artists like B.O.B. and Wiz Khalifa came up independently through mixtapes but they were always pop artists. You can listen to teenage Wiz belt out Pittsburgh Sound and think “MAN this is a radio hit.” Artists naturally create at differing levels of digestability. This is why UGK was always underground even as they were platinum. The music was still hard, lyrical, emotionally complex and felt too inappropriate for pop rotation.

While I love both forms I still have a weakness for underground hip hop. No inbox entry has carried the underground mindstate better than Bona Fide. High Life should be a typical smoker anthem and while it’s subdued behind a peaceful hook the instrumentation is rich and chunky. Sleezy E pipes in horn blasts at the right time. Kid Sean did not put together a collection of songs all fighting to be the most listenable. Instead we get a unified project where the tracks flow into each other. Even the real hard work stress talk on Rain Drops is accompanied by masterful minimalist production (thank you ThoVoBeats) and a chorus full of familiar hip hop images and personal memories.

So it’s not a depressing lean induced confessional or a crunk club project. Bona Fide is an emotional and reflective mixtape that never crosses into being needy. On the title track he says “love is key open up this beautiful mask” but it’s after a blistering salvo “calculating all the times I was hated on they had no faith. I stay bona fide traumatized equalize your inner mind you could die tomorrow not knowing so live more sleep less.” I don’t just love the standard of intelligence that Kid Sean brings to his verses (although I do very much love that), I love his deep abiding discipline to the mid range tempo. All of the hooks are stick in your brain sing a long good but none of them are begging for approval or widespread understanding. None of the beats stretch themselves outside ideal underground jazzy bass filled backdrop.

Bona Fide is the grand child of Digable Planets debut album; A grandchild come down to earth with no determination to stay; still drifting on If I Could (the high point of the mixtape) into visions of music and different lives. It never betrays how charming and smart it is while at the same time making sure never to bother you with how much of each quality it possesses. I think the kindest thing I could say about it is that I don’t always listen to Bona Fide but I’m always glad I have it loaded up. It makes me happy knowing I could listen to it at any time.

Stream or download Bona Fide below: