Hero vs. Villain: “The Chocolate Conquistadors”

As our MF DOOM tribute moves along, Nate Patrin evaluates DOOM's recent collaboration with BadBadNotGood.
By    January 8, 2021
Photo by Kmeron

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Nate Patrin is in the air everywhere, taking over.

Not every MC who debuted in the ’80s gets the benefit of recency bias. Ecstasy passes, and Whodini get memorialized as pioneers and early rap superstars, but they’re inseperable from the era that put them on the charts. Biz Markie gets hospitalized, and the stories flow about his eccentricities and his brilliance, but the nods to his actual discography cut off somewhere before Clinton’s inauguration. Daniel Dumile? He shows up in ’89 with a heist verse on a 3rd Bass track that shit-talks Hammer and P.W. Botha as going concerns, and he still owns sizeable chunks of each successive decade.

The ’90s that should’ve been all KMD’s bifurcated into a B.MF./A.MF. that crested pre-millennium with DOOM’s first masterpiece LP, then the zero years established him as the gold standard for unpretentious-yet-diabolical underground lyrical mastery, followed by the teens (decade and demo-wise) that saw him simmering in exile but punching through the firmament with dispatches from his own singular hip-hop world that ours was finally starting to catch up with.

And then there’s the year that claimed his life. We hadn’t known it had yet back in the heart of December, but we hadn’t known he still had something in the chamber, either. His sporadically heard yet always welcome voice was dropped into Grand Theft Auto Online radio rotation as collab fodder for two acts that diverted significantly from his fundamental production chops, ones that brought out facets of his irreplicable voice for what turned out to be requiems. The FlyLo joint, that was a concentrated dose of Thundercatted-up burble-funk greatness — capped off with the incredulous Ellison in DJ mode marveling “this fool DOOM’s a idiot” as bizarro props, followed up weeks later by Ellison’s pained revelation that there would’ve been more in store

“Lunch Break” could’ve made a fitting final DOOM joint, the farewell before each successive unearthed DOOM joint was in the context of remembrance. But timing being what it is, I heard this other GTAO tie-in a day later, and that’s my last impression of him on the mic before we all learned of his passing. I have no idea when DOOM’s verse for “The Chocolate Conquistadors” was recorded — recent enough to namedrop The Force Awakens, at least, but otherwise detached from zeitgeisty immediacy in favor of hundred-century posterity. I do know that it made sure he’d have one last decade to leave a permanent dent in, one way or another, and it actually makes the most sense as a career endcap: he sounds energized and animated by a holistic sort of Afrocentricity that runs from early man to Hollywood Wakanda, young Zev Love X reasserting himself behind the mask to let the positivity offset the villainy: Taught by the autochthonous, all bless / All dressed in garbs of royalty / Gods, who swore to be, righteous laws accordingly / Educated by the highly elevated / Melanated and mind renovated.

That this comes over a staggering BBNG revamp of Johnny Hammond’s ’75 fusion cut “Los Conquistadores Chocolates” is — well, it’s not just a bonus. They play that shit brisk, upping the tempo and shaving off any of the mellowness in the slow-build structure in favor of simmering psych until it’s a full-on breath-snatcher. Imagine the Hammond original getting pounced on by a late ’70s MPB outfit like Banda Black Rio or Azymuth, make a whole disco carnival out of it, then add a Leland Whitty guitar solo in the instrumental back half that’s like a summoning of ’73 Denny Dias. It’s real old-head-new-ears music from a crew of previous collaborators / remixers / homage-payers, pushing DOOM to fast-rap greatness somehow beyond anything else he’s ever done at triple-digit BPM. Imagine this being your escort to the afterlife — immortality was already guaranteed, this just puts an exclamation point on it.

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