DOOM / MF Doom

Born like This

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After MF Doom spent a few years off record (and maybe off stage, if the impostor rumors are true), fans were ready for another classic from the man who never met a bar he couldn't tack four extra syllables onto. And as if expectations couldn't be ratcheted any higher, the album included a few productions from Dilla and Madlib alongside Doom himself, plus features for a quartet of legendary compatriots (Ghostface, Raekwon, Bumpy Knuckles aka Freddie Foxxx, and Slug from Atmosphere). Still, it's hard to stifle the disappointment. Doom hasn't changed a whit, but by the same token, he sounds like he's repeating himself. Deft diction is one thing he's got in spades, but there aren't many lines here that will get burned into your neurons. The productions are dense and dark as usual, but Doom's unrelenting lyrical flow has reached some kind of endpoint where he can't torture his internal rhymes any more without just repeating "how now brown cow" for three minutes on end. Even more unfortunately, the best production by Doom is the homophobic "Batty Boyz," and Ghostface, on his lone feature, does little more than obsess over Charlie's Angels. (Their other contemporary collaboration, "Chinatown Wars," is tragically nowhere to be heard here.) Doom may still be among the best purveyors of absurdist metaphysical fantasies in hip-hop since Jeru the Damaja, but Born Like This is a back-to-reality call.

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