PREFACE by Noah Callahan-Bever:
Please, for a second, imagine a world where every album, bootleg and demo is not available to you at the speed of thought. A world where you have to know someone who knows something and someone(s) who are “connected” in order get your hands on the elusive tunes not sold over the counter at Sam Goody. I know, scary right? That world, friends… well, it has a name: The ’90s!
As a teen who grew up in this pre-Internet prison-world, there was one specific Holy Grail of unreleased hip-hop that me and all my friends sought: K.M.D.’s shelved second LP, Black Bastards . See, K.M.D., who stylistically were very close to the Native Tongues (far and away our favorite rap artists), had a solid, if soft first album, Mr. Hood , that we all liked. But the first single from Bastards … it was different. From its controversial name, to its jarring 12” art, to its decidedly harder and darker sound (not unlike the sophomore turn taken by K.M.D.’s God Squad brethren Brand Nubian), “What A Niggy Know” made it clear this time around the Gods weren’t fucking around. But the LP was never released! Word had it a dispute with the label over the album’s cover art (lead rapper Zev Love X had illustrated a Sambo being lynched) got the guys dropped. And compounding the label foulness, Zev’s brother, group member Subroc, was killed in a car accident shortly before its completion (not after as we’d originally thought – this fact corrected below). But, again, this was pre-Internet, so all the information was second hand. All we knew was what had been printed in the The Source .
Anyway, you can imagine my music nerd delight when, two week into my 1997 internship at ego trip, Chairman Mao offered a dub of the promo Black Bastards press cassette. He’d been sitting on it since, you know, ’94!!?!?! I devoured the lost classic – which absolutely lived up to the hype – and distributed copies to all my impressed friends. Also, I talked to Mao about it. A lot. Brent, too. I was totally fascinated by the estranged angst of the album, the meticulous collaging of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song clips and Gylan Kain’s Blue Guerrilla (both of which Jeff schooled me on), and the morbid story of Zev, Sub and their once happy rap crew.
So, five months later when Zev re-emerged under the moniker M.F. Doom with on off-kilter but awesome 12″, “Dead Bent,” on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em Records, my 18-year-old ass was kind of a shoe-in to pen the feature for the magazine. And whether it was ’cause they actually believed in my ability, or simply wanted to avoid the awkwardness of pooping on my enthusiasm, the guys actually let me write it. I was suuuuuper excited, to say the least. This was to be Doom’s first interview since Black Bastards , since his brother’s passing, since he disappeared. This was going to be news!
I got Doom’s number from Bobbito. But not his cell. Like most people in ’97, he didn’t have one. It was his home number. The home he shared with his parents. And, perhaps understandably since he was 25 or so, he was never there. And didn’t like returning calls either, apparently. But finally after two weeks we spoke and arranged for me to meet him out where he lived in Long Beach, Long Island. I took the train out after school and Doom was nice enough to only leave me waiting at the station for two hours before him and his boys pulled up on their BMX bikes. His parents house was walking distance, and when we got there we drank 40s and he played me most of what would become Operation: Doomsday . I remember finding it sad-funny that the K.M.D. Yo! MTV Raps trading cards from ’91 were still magneted to the refrigerator. Then me and him and Onyx, who he’d kicked out of K.M.D. for the second LP but apparently was back friends with, rode bikes over to the boardwalk and sat and did the interview on the beach. It was really tough. I’d done, like, three interviews in my life, and this one was heavy. Dude had lost his deal, lost his brother, and spent three years doing nothing in a crappy little town in Long Island. He was depressed, likely an alcoholic, and very dissociative. I was not prepared. He gave a lot of canned answers at first, and deflected queries about Subroc. Eventually he opened up when we broached the dramas with Elektra, and I got a halfway decent interview out of him. Halfway. Having sort-of bonded, Doom invited me back to the house to make a copy of the unfinished songs, and to get me high for the train ride home. He tried to teach me how to play spades. Buzzed and stoned, I didn’t get it. But I did figure my way back to the station and back to the city. Suffice to say, it was THE BEST DAY EVER!!!
Kidding, but kind of, actually.
What you’re about to read is my first stab at feature writing. And to call it a stab is to be kind. It’s more like a wild Michael-Myers-jumping-out-the-bedroom-closet-with-a-ginsu slash at feature writing (thanks to the tutelage of the guys whose site you’re reading this on, I got better). But it is a document of an incredible creative in a transitional time and a place. Doom, not me. So read on and enjoy the O.G. origin story of the Metal Faced Super Villain, M.F. Doom. Hey!
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