Live From Planet X

Artist: MF DoomTitle: Live From Planet XRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kevin Polowy

Let’s face it, there’s not but a handful of emcees truly worthy of a live LP. Forget the fact that listening to a live set can sometimes equate to the relative excitement of watching the Super Bowl three months later. Most Hip-hop shows just don’t translate expediently to disc.

The MF Doom faithful will be the first to count him among the exceptions, and with good reason. The steel-masked supervillain’s Live From Planet X(Nature Sounds)–otherwise known as the Bay Area–is a slick display of stagecraft that fulfills what’s surely its major-most ambition: it makes you want to get your ass online, google tour dates and cop a ticket to Doom’s next show. Thing is, Doom seems to spend most of his time making music – not performing it, so those are few and far between.

Doom, the former KMD mic-ripper and subterranean innovator who’s put out albums under aliases Viktor Vaughn and King Geedorah, selects ingredient tracks from a vast catalog to cook sh*t on Planet X, and the selection ranges from rarities “Name Dropping” (from Best of MF Doom and MF Grimm) to underground classics (“I Hear Voices”). He opens the 50-minute show with the Viktor Vaughn banger “Change the Beat,” a track that boasts just the right Doom-isms (who else can make rhyming “Faye Dunaway” and “gay runaway” fit so pristinely into narrative?) to set it off. Doom is a master of the theme rap, as he proves “Name Dropping” heads like Dave Chapelle, Mini Me, Cool Hand Luke and Dracula over De La’s “Pease Porridge” beat.

The rapper has to restart “Go With the Drawls” when the beats get ahead of him, but rarely falters – or takes an extra breathe – roaring through the show. Operation Doomsday‘s title track gets a lotta love from the packed out crowd – Doom estimates “there’s like a hundred thousand mother fuckers in here” – but the energy is elevated towards the latter half over the brisker backdrops of “I Hear Voices” and “One Beer” (disappointingly the only cut from Mm.. Food). Doom’s inner-Too Short rears its head for “My Favorite Ladies,” but the show’s closer “Fine Print” may be the best of the bunch.

Recorded directly from a soundboard, the sound is mostly crisp, with Doom’s vocals accentuated considerably over the beats, making the emcee’s multilayered prose and complex rhyme schemes far and above the main focus. A little more symmetry woulda been preferable, but as Doom would say, let’s keep that on the D.L. Hughley.

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