[12 November 2009]
Daniel Dumile has gone by a slew of aliases over the years. From his humble beginnings as a peach fuzz-sporting Zev Love X to his current days as the pot-bellied DOOM, this elusive emcee/producer wears his musical schizophrenia on his sleeve like none other. Mind you, during those nearly 20 years, Dumile (pronounced Doom-uh-lay) has also taken the name of a Godzilla monster (the seven-headed King Geedorah) and two masked supervillains (MF DOOM and Viktor Vaughan). There is also his producer pseudonym, Metal Fingers. So you can’t really blame Gold Dust Media for throwing this collection together. When you think about it, some of DOOM’s fans are probably unaware of the masked supervillain’s other names, though with the internet that’s unlikely. But still, it’s not a bad move to try and expand his fanbase’s knowledge. It’s also a smart business move considering his solid, albeit flawed, album Born Like This dropped earlier this year.
And for someone who dubs himself a supervillain, DOOM deserves a lot of credit for this compilation. He will always be an asshole for the whole DOOMposter fiasco when he sent someone else onstage in his mask to perform. He’s even more of an asshole for saying in an interview that he supports the whole DOOMposter concept. But damn it, he did a hell of a job with Unexpected Guests.
While it’s true most of his brood have heard these tracks, which is addressed later in this review, he still deserves credit for putting this project together. It’s surprisingly well-mixed and cohesive for an album that spans almost his entire career. And he made sure to lessen the impact of any abrupt cuts between tracks. For example, there is the one heard as “Sniper Elite”, which was meant to be part of the DillaDOOM project, bleeds into “Yikes” by Scienz of Life. Instead of being a cluttered mess, the supervillain handled the transition perfectly and it’s relatively smooth. On top of all that, the DOOM even threw some more old school Fantastic Four samples into the mix for good measure. As a result of all the aforementioned editing, this plays much more like an album than a compilation.
The supervillain gets some more props for including the original version of Born Like This.‘s “Angels”. On that album, “Angels” was hampered by a disgustingly-loud snare drum. But DOOM went with the earlier version, which gets rid of that troublesome snare and leaves the focus on his and Ghostface Killah’s rhymes. Also, many of the cuts on here are both rare and enjoyable. Some of the better lesser-knowns include “Da Superfriendz” and “Project Jazz”. The former appeared on Vast Aire’s Look Mom… No Hands and pairs up DOOM’s drunken flow with Vast’s hilarious bad-guy punchlines. As for “Project Jazz”, it has DOOM (this time as Viktor Vaughn) trading tongue-twisting bars over smoked-out production with Talib Kweli and Hell Razah. It can also be found on the fairly hard-to-find Nature Sounds’ Natural Selection 2.0. Bonus track “Black Gold” by John Robinson is another highlight, featuring DOOM’s loop-heavy production and crunchy drums. It also features a hidden, frantic live version of Operation Doomsday‘s “I Hear Voices”.
The caveat of Unexpected Guests is one that plagues many compilations: Most DOOM fans already own these songs in one form or another. Sure, they are rarities and b-sides in the normal sense of the word, but DOOM-fanatics are just that—fanatics. He carries a very strong “love him or hate him” vibe and tends to receive equal amounts of insane adoration or hatred depending on who’s talking. As such, no matter how rare a particular track might seem, it’s likely that it has been heard before, especially now that music is so easy to find online. Although, to be fair to DOOM, it is extremely helpful to have all of these tracks available in a singular package. No longer will they be scattered across an iTunes library and/or LP collection.
But is this a necessity? That’s not the easiest question to answer, as alluded to in the above paragraph. If you are at all interested in DOOM and looking to take a chance on the masked supervillain, this may or may not do the job. It’s certainly not a collection of his best work, nor is it meant to be. But it’s those unacquainted listeners who are likely to be most satisfied by Unexpected Guests simply because they have not heard most of these tracks until now. As for those of you with every Dumile album in your library from KMD through DOOM, you wouldn’t be missing much if you pass this one up. Should you absolutely need one or two cuts on here, though, just hit up Amazon or iTunes to satiate that craving.