Ranking the Best MF DOOM Albums

2020 just couldn’t leave the premises without giving us one last shot to the balls, huh?

The world of hip-hop was absolutely devastated on the afternoon of Dec. 31 when it was announced that Daniel Dumile, the enigmatic MF DOOM, had passed away.

We learned that he apparently transitioned on Oct. 31. It’s pretty fitting that the masked man would leave us on Halloween but we wouldn’t find out for another two months. He was a villain till the end.

He leaves behind an incredible legacy of music. While his name might not ring a single bell for mainstream rap fans, his influence across the underground scene was incomparable and his various personas never failed to intrigue and even sometimes infuriate fans.

Remember when he was sending out masked impersonators to perform at his shows? Again, a villain till the end.

I struggled with settling on a way to pay tribute to Metal Fingers here on Soul In Stereo – maybe reviewing one of his most well-known albums, or perhaps creating a guide of must-hear albums for newbies looking to get into DOOM’s music? I settled on a massive album ranking, which, selfishly, gave me a bit of closure by relistening to a ton of old favorites.

Now, before you run to the comments and yell “Y u DiDnT rAnK sO aNd So????,” keep in mind that DOOM has more than SIXTY projects. I don’t have the time and y’all don’t have the attention span for a list that big.

Instead, we’ll be revising DOOM’s six solo LPs, six collaboration albums, and five EPs. I’ll be skipping live albums, compilation, his instrumental Special Herbs series and his KMD group projects. I also skipped his DOOMSTARKS Victory Lap EP with Ghostface since it’s basically one song remixed a half dozen times.

DOOM was a true trendsetter who combined the Black experience, nerd culture and raw-uncut hip-hop. When rap was highlighting street life or the high life, he gave love to the weird kids.

Villains are always more interesting than heroes.

17. Occult Hymn (with Danger Mouse as DangerDoom) (2006)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 2.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Under normal circumstances, I’d call this one a shameless cash grab, but I’m not sure it was sold anywhere. After DOOM and producer Danger Mouse’s successful Adult Swim-sponsored collabo took off, the pair decided to go to the well once again. Occult Hymn is more or less a remix EP of the original The Mouse and The Mask LP – the only new song here is “Korn Dogz,” which is fine but forgettable. The album was available as a free download on Adult Swim’s website but honestly, it’s pretty pointless.

Forgotten favorites: “Space Ho’s (Madlib Remix)”

16. MF EP (with MF Grimm) (2000)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: Those MFers DOOM and Grimm teamed up for this abbreviated EP in 2000, splitting a handful of tracks between them before wrapping up the proceedings with instrumentals of previous songs. It’s certainly not a terrible release but there’s absolutely nothing here worth going out of your way to track down. This one is for DOOM completists only.

Forgotten favorites: “Impostas,” “Break ‘Em Off “

15. Westside Doom (with Westside Gunn) (2017)

Edd said: When I complain about albums being much too long today and pine for days of shorter releases, I didn’t mean for them to be THIS short! Westside Gunn teaming with the original rap super villain seems to be the perfect partnership – both thrive on random, stream of consciousness flows, both pepper their tracks with wrestling and comic references and both love to buck rap conventions. But this EP only gives us a couple of tracks – no, seriously, literally TWO – so the listener is left starving for more. And, unfortunately, that hunger will never be satiated now. It’s unfair to give this one a rating but the two tracks here are solid enough to keep it from the bottom of the barrel.

14. NehruvianDoom (with Bishop Nehru as NehruvianDoom) (2014)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: It’s not often a 16-year-old gets to make their debut standing next to an underground rap icon, so good fortune was clearly shining on Bishop Nehru. DOOM mostly plays the background on this one, staying behind the boards in order to give Bishop lots of exposure and, to his credit, he shows a lot of promise throughout. Of course, things pick up nicely when the veteran villain step in the booth. The set may not have a multitude of memorable tracks, but it was a solid outing for young Bishop.

Forgotten favorites: “Coming for You,” “Darkness,” “Caskets”

13. Key to the Kuffs (with Jneiro Jarel as JJ Doom) (2012)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yes, it’s another DOOM collab project, this time doing the DBZ fusion dance with producer Jneiro Jarel to form JJ Doom. The villain has never shied away from experimentation, even when it doesn’t always work (his awkward double-time flow on “Banished,” for example). But that’s no reflection on his bars, which are quite often underrated: “Catch a throatful from the fire vocal/ Ash and molten glass like Eyjafjallajökull” – only the DOOM could effortlessly name drop a Icelandic volcano in a bar like it’s nothing. As a collection, it’s another mixed bag. This was the era when DOOM’s delivery became a bit lethargic and it took away from some of the tracks but there are still strong moments, including “Winter Blues,” which is about as tender and emotional as DOOM ever gets.

Forgotten favorites: “Rhymin, Slang,” “Winter Blues,” “Guv’nor”

12. Venomous Villain (as Viktor Vaughn) (2004)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: The second LP under DOOM’s Viktor Vaughn pseudonym isn’t nearly as impactful as its predecessor. The main draw is DOOM going face to Metal Face with the equally enigmatic Kool Keith. The album’s second half is much more interesting than the first, giving it a little bit more steam in the final minutes.

Forgotten favorites: “Dope Skill,” “Doper Skiller,” “Ode to Road Rage”

11. Special Herbs + Spices Vol. 1 (with MF Grimm) (2004)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Though this is presented as a joint album, it’s essentially Grimm rhyming over instrumentals from DOOM’s Special Herbs instrumental series. It probably goes without saying that the production is the set’s biggest draw. When Grimm is on his game, DOOM make it feel like he’s rampaging through an 80s action series. However, great as it may be, the production doesn’t always fit with Grimm’s delivery, creating a few off-kilter outings.

Forgotten favorites: “Shifting Lanes,” “War Paint,” “Superhero”

10. Bookhead (with Jneiro Jarel as JJ Doom) (2017)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Bookhead is the stronger of the dual JJ Doom offerings, standing as another brief, but potent release. The only thing that may hold it back for some DOOM stans is that half the collection features remixes of previously released tracks. The remixes are solid but most are unable to top their predecessors. In most cases, the original tracks here are the bigger winners.

Forgotten favorites: “Bookhead,” “Banished (Beck Remix),” “The Signs”

9. Czarface Meets Metal Face (with Czarface) (2018)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: MF DOOM squaring off with Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric was considered to be the ultimate dream match in 2018, like the Rock vs Hulk Hogan at WM18. But it seemed to be more received like Rock vs Hulk Hogan at No Way Out – an odd curiosity instead of the classic we were promised. I understand a bit of the criticism – DOOM often lags behind his costars and the album starts too slow for my tastes – but an occasional lack of chemistry is masked by great production and Deck being in an absolute zone. It may not have met all the sky-high expectations but judged on its own merits, it’s DOOM’s last great project.

Forgotten favorites: “Phantoms,” “Bomb Thrown,” “Nautical Depth”

8. Unicron (with Trunks) (2008)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Once again, DOOM resides in the shadows while another rapper basks in the spotlight. With DOOM behind the boards, it’s rapper Trunks who brings the bars, and he definitely goes in. This one was never commercially released and that’s a shame – DOOM’s production BANGS and Trunks n’ friends absolutely go nuts. It’s a testament to both their talents that they could make that annoying giggle on “Last Laugh” such a vicious track. And besides, any EP named after my favorite Transformer is gonna get love from me, it’s required. Track this one down, it’s the biggest sleeper on this list.

Forgotten favorites: “Monster,” “Devastator,” “Who’s A Hero”

7. The Mouse and the Mask (with Danger Mouse as Danger Doom) (2005)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: I certainly was familiar with MF DOOM by 2005 but when this album was gifted to me by a friend, I truly became a fan. The concept is so bizarre that only DOOM could make it work – he teams with producer Danger Mouse, who sampled wacky Adult Swim soundbites while Cartoon Network repaid the favor by promoting the album endlessly. Adult Swim’s bizarre humor was a perfect fit for DOOM’s twisted imagination and the exposure opened him up to an entirely new audience. It was a win-win for all parties. Oh, and the album is pretty freaking good, too.

Forgotten favorites: “Sofa King,” “Bada Bing,” “Perfect Hair”

6. Born Like This (2009)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: I had no idea this album was such a fan favorite until DOOM’s passing, with many members of the Soul in Stereo Cypher citing it as their favorite release. Prior to this ranking I hadn’t listened to this album since its release and was blown away by how well it has aged, wellllllll, other than “Batty Boyz.” Featuring a nice array of A-list guests – including J Dilla, Madlib, Ghostface and Raekwon – DOOM’s final solo LP goes out with a bang. The darker atmosphere might not appeal to fans of DOOM’s more lighthearted work but the artistry is undeniable.

Forgotten favorites: “Gazillion Ear,” “Still Dope,” “Angelz”

5. Vaudeville Villain (as Viktor Vaughn) (2003)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Most of DOOM’s albums feel like unbridled chaos – in a good way, that is. The lack of structure is what makes his work feel so daring and creatively boundless. But of all the albums on this list, Vaudeville Villain feels the most structured and, for lack of a better word, traditional. Don’t be mistaken, he’s still the crazed villain you love to love and lyrically he may be at his peak, effortlessly weaving together non-sequiturs and intricate storytelling. It does begin to feel its length by the last fourth of the album but that doesn’t derail things. It’s another underrated set from DOOM’s vast catalog.

Forgotten favorites: “A Dead Mouse,” “Lickupon,” “Saliva”

4. Operation: Doomsday (1999)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: This is how you do a debut. In an era defined by Cash Money Records’ avarice and the Ruff Ryders’ ruggedness, MF DOOM threw on his cape for one of the most defining underground rap releases of all time. Between the esoteric rhymes and intriguing mix of production – from soul samples to street bangers – it was groundbreaking. I contend that “Red and Gold” is still one of the best beats in rap history. He’d go on to outdo himself with other releases (duh, that’s why it’s just No. 4 here) but, personally speaking, this is by far my favorite DOOM album.

Forgotten favorites: “Rhymes Like Dimes,” “Red and Gold,” “Hey!”

3. Mm.. Food (2004)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Even if you’re not familiar with most of the albums on this list, I’m willing to bet you’ve at least heard of this one. A clever anagram of MF DOOM’s name, the Mm.. Food concept album is a bizarre mix of foodstuffs and superheroes. Even the interludes are incredible, once again thanks to Chef DOOM’s stirring production. The villain’s appetite for destruction is on full display, which is why it’s still such a beloved release. If you’re looking for that one album to get you hooked on DOOM’s curious brand of cuisine, this is a great entry point.

Forgotten favorites: “Hoe Cakes,” “Rapp Snitch Knishes,” “Deep Fried Frenz”

2. Take Me to Your Leader (as King Geedorah) (2003)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yes, this is the best MF DOOM album you’ve probably never heard. Maybe it’s overlooked because it was released under his King Geedorah alter-ego; maybe it’s because, as we’ve seen many times on this list, he’s essentially a guest on his own LP – mainly handling production and only emerging on a few tracks. But there is no greater example of DOOM’s artistry than this release. The guests here are so skilled and the beats are strong, from the jazzy “Next Levels” to the frantic “Fastlane.” DOOM’s creativity is just unparalleled here. Even the skits are engrossing, thanks to DOOM strategically cutting up random audio to produce poignant narratives. The “One Smart N****er” interlude speaks volumes today. If only we got to hear a little more DOOM on it, it would easily be his greatest work. Instead, that honor goes to…

Forgotten favorites: “Fazers,” Fastlane,” “Next Levels”

1. Madvillainy (with Madlib as Madvillain) (2004)

Soul In Stereo ranking: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: The pinnacle. Madlib has a knack for bringing out the best in his artists and that helps here ­– giving DOOM the much-needed focus he sometimes lacks. Most of the tracks here are pretty brief (barely 2 minutes in many cases) but they pack so much into them. It’s not rare for instrumentals like “Sickfit” and “Bistro” to outshine the vocal performances. It’s easy to see how this album’s colorful storytelling and unconventional approach paved the way for artists like Odd Future and Joey Bada$$ of this generation. It’s not just DOOM’s greatest work, it’s quietly one of the most influential LPs of the past 20 years.

The best MC with no chain ya ever heard – there will never be another like him. And that’s what makes losing him hurt so much.

Forgotten favorites: “All Caps,” “Operation Lifesaver aka Mint Test,” “Curls”

What’s your favorite MF DOOM album? Did I forget to add some random EP he recorded in Britain to the list? I’m sure I did, so share your favorites – and your favorite DOOM memories – in the comments below.

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