Adult Swim is hard to come by in England, but DOOM has his ways. Speaking to us from the London offices of Lex Records, the supervillain excitedly discusses his new album, his legacy and his current home.
DOOM has always been an outcast, but he never expected to be cast out of the country he’s always called home. “Banished,” a track that alludes to this involuntary exile, has connotations of resentment, but when asked about his sojourn in South London, where he currently resides, DOOM excitedly replies, “I feel like Napoleon!” He says this in jest, but there’s a sly undercurrent to the comparison: Napoleon came back from exile. With an army.
DOOM isn’t back in person quite yet, but he’s back on wax. On Key to the Kuffs, he brings new rhymes, references to British television, laughable attempts at Cockney rhyming slang and fellow rapper and producer Jneiro Jarel. The pair recorded the album from different continents, but their chemistry is undeniable. JJ and DOOM are both emceees and producers, and DOOM sees their collaboration as something unique, fresh.
Though both artists contribute production as well as lyrics, the former comes completely from JJ and the latter primarily comes mostly from DOOM. “I let him shine on the production. I wanted to get his feel,” the supervillain reveals. JJ’s feel certainly permeates the album. Darkly dull sirens, haunting bass riffs and eerie effects coalesce with DOOM’s raspy rhymes to create a soundscape that is both bleak and riveting.
Is that bleakness a product of living in London? “I don’t know,” says DOOM, hesitant to endorse the idea that London is inherently gloomy. He finds the city’s (in)famous rain to be refreshing, “replenishing.” But upon further thought he reconsiders, “I was born here, so maybe it’s just in me like that.” Pushed further he admits, “Most of my shit be gloomy: let’s say that! But shit, I try to keep it happy. You know how you make lemonade out of lemons and shit?”
Lemonade is his metaphor of choice, but strawberry and banana smoothies are his current drink of choice, with an occasional beer. Although his penchant for food, particularly snacks, is well-documented (See: MM.. FOOD), DOOM has been eating healthy lately. He doesn’t go into details about the DOOM diet, but on tracks he sounds as healthy as ever, so the diet is presumably effective.
With that in mind, listening to “GMO” gives the impression that maybe the DOOM diet is less a conscious decision and more of an inadvertent consequence. Backed by a haunting and unintelligible litany from Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, here DOOM lays out a disgusting smorgasbord of disturbing foods: “flounder cheese in your tomatoes, cod in your potatoes.” Explaining the paranoia of the song, DOOM says, “DOOM is extra paranoid. He’s an exasperated kind of cat.” This paranoia is apocalyptic on “GMO,” but on “Wash Your Hands,” the most lighthearted track of the album, it takes a comical turn. “I wash my balls in Dettol,” DOOM raps with hilarious seriousness.
This seriousness is significantly less comical on “Winter Blues,” a melancholy track that features the supervillain longing for love and endorsing the questionable teachings of Dr. Jewel Pookrum, who DOOM upholds as one of his “teachers.” Despite this strange juxtaposition of love and conspiracy, the track succeeds, wonderfully capturing the loneliness of winter and the inevitable pitfalls of seasonal depression.
Considering his plight, one would expect DOOM’s depression to be more than seasonal, but the supervillain is unfazed. Giving a synopsis of the album, he explains, “It’s the story of the guy who could make it through the storm. It’s the plight of the artist. A lot of people can relate to that. There are more people going through hard times than [there are] billionaires that are fucking sitting up somewhere. Most people can relate to a struggle or a challenge, so my lyrics come from that no matter where I am geographically or whatever planet or wherever I’m at. They tend to accentuate the challenge and the conquering of the challenge or the completion of it.”
When asked if his personal challenge– getting back to the U.S.– ever made him worry about the legitimacy of his legacy, DOOM is adamant: “That shit is like concrete. When I laid it down, I laid it down like a foundation: that shit ain’t going nowhere. When you do it like that, it ain’t like built on sand and it will never fucking go away. That shit is permanent. So I don’t worry, even out here. My shit will still be the raw shit.”