A straightforward rap album that highlights how effortlessly funny DOOM could be.
I remember seeing the most stoic people I know tear up over the news, as if they'd lost a loved one. Then came all the questions about inevitable posthumous releases. Would they be stitched-together cash grabs? Did DOOM and Madlib ever finish Madvillainy 2? DOOM's reclusive nature meant that most people hadn't the slightest idea—we only even found out that he died three months after the fact. Then, without warning, hip-hop supergroup Czarface released Super What?, an album-length collaboration with DOOM and sequel to 2018's Czarface Meets Metal Face.
Super What? was written in the months preceding the pandemic and then postponed, intended to be released as things approached normality. Before I hit play, I reminded myself that the album didn't need to be a magnum opus—it just had to give us what we loved most about DOOM, to capture him in his element. Consider that box ticked. Czarface member Inspectah Deck and DOOM navigate familiar terrain, showcasing expertise rather than innovation. DOOM is still whimsical and villainous, while Inspectah is cutthroat and versatile (he might even outshine DOOM on a few tracks). The production supplements the nostalgia with boom-bap revivalism, though the contemporary references—Tyson Fury, Game Of Thrones, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood—remind us that we're in the present.
Of course, there are the requisite comic book references too. "This Is Canon Now" features rapper Esoteric gliding over a grimy beat with an East Coast bravado, like a song from an alternate universe where Jay-Z is a comic book nerd. The skit "A Name To The Face" is the audio equivalent of the old trope where dozens of newspaper front pages spiral across the page, pondering the identity of a new hero. And the group sound delightfully goofy on the opener, with lines like "Protect ya neckbeard" and "We searched this whole industry / couldn't find any dope." It's these quirky elements that make Super What? such an irresistibly fun listen, even at its simplest.
DOOM's role is honestly more like a supporting cast member here, but when he shows up, his husky ramblings still have the same gravity they always did. The production plays to his strengths, with goofy world-building skits and menacing soundscapes, as DOOM sounds at home darting from obscure topic to obscure topic with no regard for coherence. Granted, the album is still what your average Playboi Carti fan might call dusty, partly thanks to the production, which sticks to tried and true hip-hop sounds, for better (like the timelessly smooth "A Break In The Action") or worse. The only time the group really sound out of touch is on the closer "Young World," a letter of advice to the younger generation that comes off as shallow and condescending.
Super What is reportedly the last project DOOM worked on, but don't expect a grand farewell like David Bowie's Blackstar. Unless you take lines like "Wonderin': Is this the end? Good question," out of context, the lyrical themes don't paint the picture of a man who was near retirement or anticipating his demise. In a modern age where the Mount Rushmore of '90s hip-hop juggernauts are still struggling to find their footing, Super What? is a comforting reassurance that no matter how dire the circumstances, nothing can derail DOOM's dastardly musings. It's a relief to hear that even until near the end he possessed the same spark that ignited a flame in the minds of so many. Daniel Dumile might be gone from this earth, but MF DOOM is forever.
Wed / 19 May 2021
01. The King And Eye feat. DMC of Run DMC
02. Czarwyn's Theory Of People Getting Loose feat. Kendra Morris
03. Mando Calrissian
04. DOOM Unto Others
05. Jason & The Czargonauts feat. Del The Funky Homosapien
06. Break In The Action
07. A Name To The Face
08. This Is Canon Now
09. So Strange feat. Godforbid
10. Young World