Operation Villain: MF DOOM’s Best

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Rapper/producer/super-villain MF DOOM is a paradox. He is a legend, revered by a generation of indie music fans, but he’s also all-but-unknown to casual music fans. He is at once mercurial and unmistakable — he wears a mask to disguise his face, changes monikers like Hillary changes pantsuits, and has appeared, disappeared and reappeared again (without warning) over the course of his 20 + year career. Yet, there is also no mistaking DOOM on the mic — the slightly nasally flow, the jumble of alliteration and internal rhymes, the expansive surrealist imagery. It’s easy to over-intellectualize MF DOOM, but he is also genuinely funny — such as on Rhinestone Cowboy, when he declared that he “got more soul than a sock with a hole” — and playful (his take on lesser rappers: “Out of work jerks since they shut down Chippendales/ They chippin’ nails, DOOM, tippin’ scales”).

It’s a really fun but, I suspect, largely thankless task to come up with a list of his best tracks. For this one, we’ve used three criteria: we wanted to represent as wide a span of his career as possible (it’s tempting to just cull from the span between Doomsday and Madvillian); and we want the list to have a certain flow and work as a playlist that you can put on and listen to all the way through; and we want to throw in a few left-field and obscure tracks for those who are already familiar with him. — Sam Chennault