Catch Dean Van Nguyen at the top of the Luxor pyramid.
Could the much-fabled DOOMSTARKS project actually be happening? I was skeptical about it when writing about the most recent Ghostface Killah-DOOM collaboration track “Ray Gun” back in February. The super villain has been living so far off the grid that not even Iron Man himself has been able to fully coax him out of his hidden Technodrome. Who knows what goes through the mind of the evil genius—his scattered recent output ranging from a couple of team-ups with Flying Lotus to a flawed joint album with Bishop Nehru under the name NehruvianDoom. It’s been decade since the two gods announced they’d be releasing a record together, tentatively titled Swift & Changeable, and DOOM has always seemed content to do something else. Anything else.
With “Lively Hood,” the duo have unveiled what feels like the most fully-realized rehearsal of what a joint record might sound like since 2011’s “Victory Laps.” Released as part of the Adult Swim Singles project, the track has reportedly been snatched from the sessions that will form the forthcoming LP, and if indicative of the style both are tinkering with, finds them delving deep into the past. The Saturday Morning cartoon samples, whacky sound effects, non-nonsense drum loop; “Lively Hood” boasts a DOOM-produced beat that harks back to his MM..Food-era sound—perhaps the purest documentation of Daniel Dumile’s madcap production preferences. It’s a style that Ghost too has been drawn towards, tapping his kindred spirit on multiple circa-2006 cuts, and both sound great here rapping on the dramatic samples, their always-apparent chemistry completely intact.
A two-minute long, hook-free sprint, “Lively Hood” sees the pair trade barbs about New York City with equal parts fondness and dismay. “Dirty water dogs or Morton’s Steakhouse filets/Staten Island, New York, I love my Shaolin ways,” gushes Ghost, who sounds refreshed after rapping over live instrumentation across four back-to-back albums. (Or this is just really old). These happy memories are countered by more grim and gritty depictions of the city’s concrete boroughs. “The melting pot is overflowing with lead/In the winter it’s brick, the summertime is like a sweltering hotbed,” spits DOOM, his voice sounding well-preserved when compared to the extra gruff that punctuated the 2012 JJ DOOM project with Jneiro Jarel—the rapper’s most recent full-length album proper.
“Lively Hood” hardly breaks new ground, but after Ghost’s patchy recent form and DOOM’s limited output, it’s a joy to hear the two slinging carefree bars on the same cut, sounding hungry on the mic, ready to take over the world once more. The DOOMSTARKS project’s creative process may well have been lengthy, but it could yet yield fresh results.