Hero vs. Villain: “November Has Come”

As our MF DOOM tribute rolls on, Jack Riedy goes in on the villain's collaboration with Gorillaz.
By    January 26, 2021

Photo by Kmeron

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Jack Riedy blew up the whole spot like some old ass with skunk meat.

It was inevitable that the supervillain rapper would team up with Gorillaz. The concept must have been catnip to DOOM: a fictional cartoon band co-created by Damon Albarn as a way to explore genres that might not be readily accepted coming from the frontman of Britpop darlings Blur. Producer Danger Mouse, working on EMI’s dime after smashing Jay-Z into The Beatles on The Grey Album, brought the DOOM into Gorillaz’ 2005 sophomore album like a Saturday morning crossover episode. 

Demon Days used its eclectic sound to convey the creeping existential horror of the Bush and Blair years in all its forms: environmental decay (“Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head”), the futility of war (“Dirty Harry”), kids with guns (uh, “Kids With Guns”). But on “November Has Come,” the terror is all subtext, felt in the muttering electric bass and Albarn’s keening chorus. DOOM’s two 16s run through a greatest hits of shit-talking rap tropes, delivered as only DOOM can.

DOOM’s raps are worth more than the Hope Diamond, and you can dig it like a spigot just like you can kick it with a reference to vintage Tribe. He’s killing the beat so bad, family members are asking him for closure. DOOM disses other clown bum rappers whose gold hits sound dumb, comparing it to free coffee in bank lobbies that you stop drinking after one sip. He’s a rapper bug zapper, complete with a “Zzzt” like a comic book sound effect.

Unlikely as it may have seemed after years of recording for small indie labels, DOOM’s feature on a double platinum major label album introduced him to a much larger audience. YouTube and Reddit are full of commenters thanking Gorillaz for tuning them into DOOM, or hip-hop as a whole. I was one of many ten-year-olds who spent iTunes Christmas gift cards on an unknown album based on lead single “Feel Good Inc.” (featuring fellow indie rap royalty De La Soul), which soundtracked a ubiquitous Apple commercial. 

DOOM parlayed his collaboration with Danger Mouse directly into Epitaph/Adult Swim project The Mouse and the Mask, released later in 2005. The rapper reunited with Albarn in 2012 on JJ DOOM track “Bite the Thong” and brought the same lyrical attitude: “Next time you see ‘em / Straight jacket, Hip Hop Hall of Fame Museum.”

When Gorillaz toured Demon Days, the ensemble performed “November Has Come” accompanying a pre-taped video of DOOM, the same video the group posted in tribute to the rapper earlier this month. 

But on the next Gorillaz tour, the rapper appeared twice, onstage at arenas in Paris and Belgium in 2010, to perform his verses himself. Imposter or not, the iconography is perfect. Glasses under the mask, beer belly, and most importantly the voice, coursing with punch-drunk joy to be rapping from a well-worn notebook over the sounds of imagined apocalypse. “You guys ready for a story?” DOOM bellowed over applause as he emerged from backstage. Nice of him to show up, in the flesh, for his fellow cartoons.

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