I have been a reader of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic blog for a while now. However, I have had little chance to read his published longer features. He recently however, had a piece in the New Yorker. A profile of MF Doom, that he alerted readers of his blog too here with this post (Doom Sings Soprano)
The feature Ta-Nehisi Coates, Onward and Upward with the Arts, “The Mask of Doom,” The New Yorker, September 21, 2009, p. 52 can be purchased here from the New Yorker.
I didn’t purchase it but i did make a point of going down to my local library to read it. I was especially interested to read TNC’s piece because of his post-hop affection for Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Bjork etc. I knew he was a fan of MF Doom though and therefore was excited to get my hands on the piece for the additional reason that I seriously enjoy his ability to craft a thoughtful sentence, on any thing from WoW, to black politics.
His profile of Daniel Dumille did not disappoint.
He not only examines what makes Dumille tick, but also explores his own relationship to hip-hop and it’s Golden Era. We also get some real nuggets of information.
First a couple of those nuggets.
We get confirmation that MF Doom is viewed by Daniel Dumille as a character that any one can play. He not only acknowledges that we often sends an impostor who will lip-sync the entire show but says; “I might send a white dude next…I’ll send a Chinese nigger…ten Chinese niggers” Clearly for him what is important are the lyrics and persona of the supervillain. For those, like Ta-Nehisi raised during the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, MF Dooms appearance in 1999’s Operation Doomsday was a return, his music was “revanche” Ta-Nehisi writes his persona, “emerged from the graveyard of rappers murdered by glam-hop“.
Doom’s cult status as an artists however, is powered by more than simple retro-nostalgia. Important are factors like Dumille’s “nerd core poetry” and comedic like delivery, as he tells TNC “I liken it to comedy standup” with regards to how he constructs his flow. For Ta Nehisi and his generation, Dumille, De La Soul and other artists of that era, took and still take pride in lyrical content. The real key is that, that, not record sales is what they value and that is why TNC is filled with despair when he looks at hip-hop in the Aughts.
In the piece we also learn that Doom and Madlib are actively working on Madvillainy 2, in fact much of the interview takes place over the course of two nights of studio sessions. In the closing paragraphs, Ta Nehisi also provides an explanation for Daniel Dumille’s reclusive persona, mask and use of Doompostors. He movingly writes that after the loss of Subroc, Dumille never fully reconciled himself to performing as a solo act. He would rather “be alone in a studio writing about a pet chimp gone berserk.“