The fifth track off of 2004’s Madvillainy eluded me for years, just as Doom himself outwitted fans for decades.
In an effort to plunge a final dagger deep into the spirit of 2020, the family of MC, producer, and man of mystery MF Doom announced on New Years Eve that he passed away on October 31, 2020.
It’s a bittersweet end to the life of Daniel Dumile. One of the greatest artists to grab the mic or grace the boards, I take solace in the fact that the news of Doom’s death came months after it happened.
Always tucked behind his jagged Gladiator mask, MF Doom was the pinnacle of privacy, letting fans know only what he wanted them to know in a lifelong game of hide and seek.
I won’t pretend to be an MF Doom scholar. Mm.. Food is one of my favorite albums of all time, and Masta Ace’s MA Doom: Son of Yvonne proved that Doom’s handiwork was as instrumental to rap as the storytelling on top of it.
I am, however, a fan whose introduction to Doom went something like this.
It’s 2006. I was old enough not to have an explicit bedtime — my mom wasn’t big on bedtimes and I always knew well enough to go to sleep without her constant prodding — but young enough that I had no business doing what I was about to do. It’s Saturday night and The Boondocks are on. The episode is “Let’s Nab Oprah.”
There are exactly three things I remember perfectly from this episode. One is the ending theme song, performed by Asheru. It’s a whistling jazz melody that summarized the end of a Saturday. I wouldn’t realize until years later that jazz provides the perfect backdrop for after hours. But at the time, The Boondocks’ outro was enough to leave me awash with positivity.
The second thing is Charlie Murphy’s Ed Wuncler III bashing in the nose of a Borders bookstore employee with the butt of his gun, screaming “Kiyah, bitch!” That line was enough to rile hysterical laughter and a slight sinking feeling that my TV might wake up my mom.
Most importantly, however, I remember the song that played as Ed and his friend Gin Rummy (played by Samuel L. Jackson) attempted to kidnap Oprah to suit whatever nefarious deed they had planned.
I’ll preface this by saying that at the time, I had no idea what song this was. It was 2006! I didn’t have a cell phone, let alone one capable of Googling or Shazaming. My best bet to I.D. the track was to pray that the lyrics stuck in my head long enough for me to boot up the kitchen computer and search for them.
The song that was playing was “Raid.” I wouldn’t learn this until I purchased the Madvillain album Madvillainy at a library book sale when I was in high school, but when I did, I felt complete. Half a decade of me trying to recall MF Doom’s mumbled lyrics — “How Doom hold heat and preach non-violence?/ Shhh, he ‘bout to the start speech, c’mon, silence” — culminated in a dollar purchase that would introduce me to one of hip-hop’s foremost artists. As evidenced by his Special Herbs series, Doom, and his colleague Madlib for that matter, were near-unmatched in his crate-digging skills.
“Raid” flips the Miles Davis composed “Nardis,” albeit performed on piano by Bill Evans. The track is simultaneously a master class in jazz performance and a time machine to hip-hop sampling. Evans’ winds around the track, clearly in charge of his eponymous trio, which included Eddie Gomez on bass Marty Morell on drums.
Though the track was written, Evans’ piano fades in and out organically throughout the cut and shines a spotlight on his intro. This becomes the intro to the Doom and Madlib’s “Raid,” which eventually breaks into a sample of Oscar Milito and Quarteto Forma’s “América Latina.”
Madvillainy has plenty of standout gems — “All Caps” and its villainous grand piano melody springs to mind. But “Raid,” which is neatly tucked away on track five, remains the standout song, one worthy of sending me on an inadvertent MF Doom scavenger hunt befitting one of hip-hop’s most enigmatic personalities.