From Here to Doomsday

From Here to Doomsday

Introducing: The Arts Section with Stephen Lombardi

"Look Mom, I’m a Tastemaker!" Let’s examine some random ass piece of art or culture that I find interesting and think you should too.

The Lasting Legacy Of A Real Life Supervillain

     On the eve of the New Year, the music world was rocked by the news of the sudden passing of a legend. The family of MF DOOM aka Daniel Dumile revealed on December 31st that the mysterious masked emcee had passed two months earlier from unspecified causes. For millions of hip-hop aficionados around the world, it was a gut punch, one final twist of the screw from a year already riddled with tragedy and despair. Not since the passing of Mac Miller have I felt such a deep personal connection with an artist, and found myself genuinely moved by the tragedy of their departure. My first experience with DOOM’s music will live with me forever. I had this vague conception of DOOM as some famous producer, but beyond that he was just an anonymous figure.  I had just completed my late-night munchie run, a religious ritual that I that I no doubt shared with DOOM (RIP Gainesville underground icon BurgerQUE, who’s founder also passed away this month, but that is a story for another article {and yes, I may write 500 words about the splendorous wonder that was their blueberry pancake milkshake}). I was sitting in my room passively listening to my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist (god bless this playlist, that shit knows me better than I know myself) when my ears perked up at the sounds of a smoke session in progress coming through my speakers. A piercing guitar note burst through the din, accompanied by a gruff yet smooth voice spewing a dizzying array of internal rhymes that would give Dr. Suess a three-quarter chub.

Hold a cold one like he hold an old gun

Like he hold the microphone and stole the show for fun

                    Rhinestone Cowboy - Madvillainy

     For those who are into Sabermetrics, the above couplet contains 18 rhyming pairs of syllables in just 20 words. That is more rhymes in two bars than most rappers have in an entire verse. Instantly my attention shifted from whatever mindless game I was playing on my Xbox to the methamphetamine fueled nursery rhyme burying itself deep in my ear canal. The song was Rhinestone Cowboy from the much-worshiped Madvillainy project, a collaboration with the illustrious producer Madlib. When those three minutes and fifty-nine seconds had elapsed, I knew that I had seen the face of god; it was hidden behind a steel mask lifted from the set of Gladiator.

     Rhinestone Cowboy lassoed my soul and dragged it down the rabbit hole of DOOM’s catalog. I crushed the remainder of Madvillainy, raced to his seminal MM...Food, and free-fell all the way through his criminally underrated The Mouse & The Mask and Vaudeville Villain projects. Though much of his music was over a decade old at the time of my first listen, it effortlessly felt fresh and modern, and yet classically reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden age. It is nearly impossible to not be impressed by the mind-boggling intricacies of his rhyme schemes, dripping with assonance, as well as his flawlessly eclectic production. What truly enamored me was his use of irreverent samples and snippets from old tv shows and movies. It evoked in me memories of Mac Miller’s Faces mixtape, one of my favorite projects of all time, and one that was no doubt influenced by DOOM. The little tidbits, the tiny morsels of delicious nuance are what really immerse the listener in the world of DOOM: a self-stylized supervillain hell bent on tearing down everything the rap establishment stood for.

     I was immediately indoctrinated into the cult of mystique surrounding DOOM. Aside from his rarely seen face, DOOM’s output ranged from prolific to incredibly infrequent. The bulk of his most famous and lasting projects were released in a two-year period, from 2003-2005, after which DOOM sightings became akin to Bigfoot sightings, with only Andre 3000 and Jay Electronica even coming close to his level of elusiveness. He was notorious for sending out impostors brandishing his signature cowl to perform concerts in his stead, much to the chagrin of his obsessed fans. And yet their fandom never wavered, antics and deception were just par for the course for the supervillain.

     In contrast to the real-life supervillains of today (Fuck you Jeff Bezos; eat shit Mitch McConnell) DOOM made the concept of villainy fun, imbued with a cartoonish take on the outlaws of yore. And that remained consistent throughout his music, how much fucking fun this guy was having. His life was not an easy one, marred by the death of his brother and musical partner at an early age. He was subsequently dropped by his record label and spent three years homeless, emerging from his hiatus with a new mask and a new persona. When the mask was on, he always seemed carefree, even bordering on whimsical. But even when he was posturing with typical rap bravado, it always felt there was a wry smile underneath the mask

     Despite hiding behind a mask, the real lasting legacy of DOOM lies in the power of being yourself. In interviews he often spoke of the power of trusting yourself and staying true to your vision. It is a wonderful irony that only by concealing his face and embodying an enigmatic character was DOOM able to let his true self out. Simply put, DOOM made it cool to be weird. In an era where the rap charts were still dominated by Bling Era, gansta machismo, DOOM instead chose to rap about sugary snacks and cartoons. DOOM gave an entire generation of kids license to celebrate their weird obsessions, and we see his touch in every rapper today who is comfortable enough to drop an anime bar in their music.

Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name

                                  All Caps - Madvillain

     Am I saying anything about DOOM that hasn’t already been said? Probably not. Well documented are his boundless wit and his references so obscure that they should come with a Genius link embedded. As is his profound influence on the underground, breaking the mold and staying independent in an age where rap was still dominated by major labels. As one of the first rappers to embrace the power of the internet, he paved the way for a generation of rappers to eschew traditional distribution routes and interact directly with their fans. But if my rantings have inspired even an iota of desire to listen to his music, I urge you to follow that feeling. You will be rewarded with some of the most unique and entertaining music in the hip-hop canon. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “could my favorite rapper make a four-minute song about cookies, that’s REALLY a long ass metaphor about sex and masturbation?” The answer is no, no they could not.


Stephen Lombardi

By: Stephen Lombardi

Stephen is a longtime friend of Saint Rascal and the newest member of our Newsletter Staff. An aspiring filmmaker, Stephen brings a unique perspective and storytelling ability to the Rascal team.

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla



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