MF Doom | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Hip-hop antiheroes have pillaged the tropes of the comic-book heavy with a vengeance--maybe because both MC and archfiend traffic in outlaw charisma, eloquent scorn, and menacing aliases. Rap's foremost evil genius remains the leering Dr. Octagon--Kool Keith's splice of doctors Benway and Octopus--but if he's got a rival, it's MF Doom, aka Daniel Dumile, whose backstory reads like something from an EC thriller. In the early 90s, as Zev Love X of KMD, he saw a promising career scuttled by the death of his brother and bandmate, DJ Subroc. Dropped by Elektra, Dumile disappeared, swearing he'd return one day to "destroy rap." Years would pass before he resurfaced, but in 1997 a couple singles trickled out, and in 1998 an MC started showing up at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in a stocking mask. By 1999 he'd upgraded to a sinister metal faceplate, and the full-length debut of his MF Doom persona, Operation: Doomsday, was greeted by thunderous critical acclaim. In subsequent collaborations he's built on Doomsday's low-tech swell of pulpy film and television samples, carving out the subpersonae of King Geedorah, Metal Fingers, and Viktor Vaughn, Doom's street-thug alter ego. ("Thug" is a relative term here, of course--Vaughn's no 50 Cent.) After the one-two punch of Take Me to Your Leader (as Geedorah) and Vaudeville Villain (as Vaughn) in 2003, not to mention this year's superb collaboration with Madlib, Madvillainy (Stones Throw), the man is overdue for a misstep--but his latest release ain't it. Venomous Villain (Insomniac), the second Vaughn record, is a small, dark, polished gem. Though it's slicker, busier, and more processed than much of Dumile's recent work, there's not a dud on it. His sly, slurred delivery has never sounded more authoritative, and on the standout track, "Doper Skiller," there's even a chill-inducing parley with Kool Keith himself--if not a passing of the torch, an unmistakable tip of the cap. Gunkhole, Pugslee Atomz, and Intel open. $17, 18+. Saturday, August 14, 11 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212.

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