Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Nature Sounds, 2003.
For those who don’t know, KMD was the first group that MF DOOM was in (then called Zev Luv X). It consisted of Zev, his brother Sub Rocc, and Onyx. The group released their debut, “Mr. Hood”, in 1991. They started recording a new album, then Onyx quit the band, Sub Rocc was killed in a car accident, and the band’s label immediately dropped them when they saw the proposed coverwork for the follow up, Black Bastards. The cover showed a Lil’ Sambo character being lynched, and in the wake of the “Cop Killer” scandal, Elektra wanted no truck with any controversy. (Incidentally, I saw a white kid wearing a KMD shirt recently that had the Black Bastard character on it, and I gotta say, just as white kids can’t say “nigga”, they can’t wear shirts with sambo’s on them, even if it is a KMD shirt).
“Mr. Hood” is still available on CD, and I think that “Black Bastards” was finally released in 2001 by another label, although there are older copies around that sell for a lot of money.
This collection basically combines most of the two albums and two unreleased tracks into a single disc. Since the band only released two albums, it seems like it would have made more sense just to release a double album collection with all of the tracks from both albums, and include the original album artwork, some liner notes, and any unreleased tracks laying around. Or do it as two separate discs, for that matter. As it is, it’s not really worth it to buy both albums, but it’s frustrating to have almost all of KMD’s songs except for a handful.
Then there are the liner notes, or lack thereof. Besides the name of the album and a catalogue number, there is no information about the band, label, tracks, or anything else on the disc. The liner notes include a lot of photos of the bands’ notebooks, which is kind of cool, but I think I would rather have had a track listing and information about the songs. I’m confused why the greatest hits collection for an obscure band would do absolutely nothing to shed light on the artist. Is it one of those “if you have to ask” things? Like you need to be cool enough to know everything about KMD in order to appreciate the disc?
Whatever. Enough about the packaging. The important thing is the songs, and those are good. The first half of the album is from the more upbeat “Mr. Hood”, a concept record about taking a clueless white guy through the hood. The clueless white guy is played by what sounds like an English phrase record from the fifties. Mr. Hood spouts of lines - “I’d like another shirt. This one is dirty”. Hello, may I get my hair cut?” – and the KMD crew give responses. Musically, it is sort of like De La Soul’s “Three Feet High and Rising”, only a little darker and less hippy. KMD sample Sesame Street, offer bouncy, funky beats, and their rhymes have the sing-songy flow and clever wordlplay typical of the era.
The second half of the album is from the darker “Black Bastards”, which is laced with Last Poet’s samples (or what I’ve been told are Last Poet’s samples, never having heard one of their records). It definitely brings a different, more hostile energy into the mix – For example, “What a Niggy Knows” starts of with the Last Poet’s screaming “He was a nigger yesterday!!! He is a nigger today!!! And he’s gonna be a nigger tomorrow!!!” Then it goes into the whistling, synth riff from Sheila E.’s “Glamorous Life”. Crazy shit, yo. I’ve had it in my head all week, which is not so good considering I’m a white guy.
So how do KMD size up to DOOM’s stuff? Well, for one thing, while fans of DOOM will recognize him as Zev Love X, his flow and style has changed since ‘91. He is much more spry and energetic on this disc, an eager young pup compared to the blunted veteran of today.
While he has progressed and improved since he dropped these rhymes, it’s still DOOM:
On the bouncing, jazzy “Popcorn”, Zev/DOOM/Dumille spits:
Zev Love a brother I never budges
I hold everything from mics to like grudges
I won't let a bygone be a bygone
Back to play the bitch niggaz like a fly horn
I'm controllin all you snakes with, hookin up the cakes
with hot butter, the same like your grandmother bake up
Butt naked, take it from the Riddler, Batman
Who be the oddball, Jake or the Fatman?
Bottom line is, despite the dubious art direction on this package, the disc is a must-have for fans of MF DOOM or early 90’s afrocentric rap.
DOOM has said that he’s working on another KMD record as we speak, by the way. Hopefully his choice of covers this time around doesn’t get him axed again.
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