Unexpected Guests

(Gold Dust; 2009)

By Clayton Purdom | 11 November 2009

There’s a high price of admission to DOOM’s second record of this year, and that price is enduring a single Talib Kweli verse. It is a harrowing thing over a cartoon sample, clearly for Adult Swim fans; it hurts the ears and insults the brain. The hook involves the phrase “blow up the spot,” and is sung by I think a sassy woman. One could skip right past this and into the album proper, but at least on initial listens it reminds, by staggering contrast, just how much better MF Doom is than, like, “underground rap.”

And “underground rap” can be pretty awful. I can’t say I miss it, what with its absolute dissolution these past few years, thanks to Kanye’s blog and brightly colored shoes, into the mainstream; I like this new thing more, I think. So I’m gonna give a pass to this slapdash record, so clearly odds and sods. DOOM (Doom) deserves a victory lap. Born Like This is a strange throwback of a record that thrives in alien ‘09 like Hercules in New York. Along with Raekwon, Doom’s making 2009 The Year of the Old Dude. So let’s not mistake that Unexpected Guests is clearly one more jaunt around the track, one more disc (playlist) to spin (hit play on). I err on the side of hotness. Let’s enjoy the stomping synthy sex rap of “My Favorite Ladies,” the big Dilla burners, and the KMD throwback “Sorcerers,” a group joint so faded the emcees sound like fully seated, in recliners, after a big meal or something. Embrace, listener, that from tracks two through seventeen this album contains the smoke-ringed vibes and stuff of all good MF Doom records, sorta half-assembled like all good MF Doom records into this strange and remarkably affable thing.

Because what Born Like This proved is that we kinda need MF Doom, even if less crucially so in this post-Drake world than we did in Doom’s halcyon mid-aughts. Like I said, it’s hard to ignore how obviously patched together this record is: we have here, among other things, an unaltered collab with Ghostface from Born Like This, which was itself a leftover from early sessions; a remix from a years-old Masta Killa record; and guest spots by such hot up-and-coming emcees as Vast Aire and Sean fucking Price. But even if it’s hard to ignore these faults, it’s just as easy to forgive them, because, yep, they sound great together, track to track, each recycled rhyme or beat hitting like a half-remembered dream fading into a half-formed new one. Born Like This was the daring artistic statement; Unexpected Guests is a bump on your messageboard. At full price it’d be a con, but Doom knows you’re not gonna cop. And anyway, like I said, I err on the side of good rap, something Unexpected Guest is full of. Even Talib Kweli shows back up and—I’m for real—dude sounds alright!