Discography Music Music Features Discography: MF Doom: Viktor Vaughn: Venomous Villain (VV:2) By Jacob Nierenberg Posted on 2 weeks ago Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Venomous Villain is the rare album that’s best to listen to on YouTube. Not that you have a lot of other ways to hear it: MF DOOM’s second (and final) album under the Viktor Vaughn alias isn’t on streaming services, and it isn’t available for purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp—not even on DOOM’s Gasdrawls website. Insomniac Inc., the label that VV:2 was released on, only exists in the Wayback Machine. If you’re dead-set on owning it on CD, the cheapest copy for sale on Discogs, as I write this, will set you back almost $90. But DOOM himself wouldn’t have wanted you to pay even a fraction of that amount to listen to VV:2—the first words you hear from him on the album are “Dub it off your man, don’t spend that 10 bucks/ I did it for the advance, the back end sucks.” Of the many names that Daniel Dumile made music under, Viktor Vaughn was his least developed. His Special Herbs series as Metal Fingers was a showcase for his soulful and eclectic work as a beatmaker; he was more producer than rapper on his spaced-out one-off as King Geedorah, Take Me to Your Leader, an album that to this day remains its own beast. Viktor Vaughn felt undercooked by comparison, more of a pseudonym than an actual alter ego, right down to the name (“Viktor Vaughn,” as in “Victor Von Doom,” and it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that). As frequently excellent as it was, there’s little reason why Vaudeville Villain couldn’t have been attributed to DOOM rather than Vaughn. But no matter which of Dumile’s monikers appeared on the cover, VV:2 was almost certainly — ahem — doomed to be regarded as one of the man’s most inessential albums. It’s not that it’s a bad listen so much as it doesn’t always clear the high bar that Dumile set on his past projects. But truth be told, Dumile himself isn’t to blame for most of its shortcomings. Like Vaudeville Villain before it, VV:2’s production is predominantly handled by relative unknowns; a pre-M.I.A. Diplo shares a producer’s credit on the glitchy “Back End,” while onetime Aesop Rock collaborator Dub-L contributes beats to “Ode to Road Rage” and “Bloody Chain” that fall somewhere between sci-fi and lo-fi. All in all, eight different producers are credited on VV:2, so it’s kind of remarkable that the album feels as cohesive as it does — especially given that Dumile basically picked the beats out of a raffle. The problem is that the weaker beats sound like knockoffs of something Dumile himself might have made, while some of the stronger ones are applied to interludes, like the introductory “Viktormizer” or “DOOM on Vik.” The beats alone make these tracks worth coming back to — as a student of old-school hip-hop, DOOM’s skits were always great — but it would’ve been a blast to hear Vaughn rapping over them. It’s quite possible that Dumile was the greatest working rapper in 2004. Jay-Z was celebrating his “retirement” the year prior by collaborating with R. Kelly and Linkin Park; Eminem was deep into substance abuse and writing some of his most sophomoric material to date; Lil Wayne was still a couple of years away from the incredible hot streak of mixtapes and albums that would culminate in Tha Carter III. Even though VV:2 pales in comparison to the twin masterpieces on either side of it, Madvillainy and MM..FOOD, Vaughn’s rapping here remains breathtaking in its technicality and eccentricity. Moments after admitting he’s paychecking on “Back End,” he spits this vivid, paranoid verse: “There’s Feds at the door — oh, it’s just FedEx/ I thought I heard walkie-talkies, must’ve been them redneck/ Neighbors of mine, they fuckin’ with they CB/ And we in the spot watchin’ ‘COPS’ on TV.” The “Titty Fat” segment of the next track is practically bursting with internal rhymes: “titty fat,” “kitty cat,” “pretty hat,” “kiddies, brats,” “shitty gats,” “gritty stacks” and “cliques be at.” He even out-raps Kool Keith — one of only a handful of artists who truly feels like an influence on DOOM — on the lurid “Doper Skiller,” in which they threaten any up-and-coming emcees who try to fuck with them with death…or, in Keith’s case, something more disgusting. Which makes it all the more vexing that, on four of VV:2’s eight non-interlude tracks, Vaughn is forced to share space with Insomniac Inc.’s own up-and-comers. He sets a nihilistic scene of violence and desperation in “Bloody Chain,” only for Poison Pen to fumble the bag by rhyming “in the gut” with “from my gut” and claiming he “Tried to put up a fight but I was too nice.” Elsewhere, Insomniac founder Israel “Iz-Real” Vasquetelle hijacks two songs, and the verse in which he boasts “Gotta watch my step, can’t get no crap on my feet” is somehow the least embarrassing; if Jaden Smith or Big Sean were to rap “Only mentors get pass to the last set of sectors/ Adventures open doors, locked by laws/ To simple plan leaves the common man lost” you would think nothing of it. No one on the Insomniac roster would go on to do anything of consequence after VV:2, and when you listen to their contributions, you get the sense that you’re not listening to a proper MF DOOM album so much as you’re listening to a label sampler that’s been sold to you as an MF DOOM — sorry, a Viktor Vaughn — album. If this had been the last we’d heard of Viktor Vaughn, it would’ve been no great loss — VV:2 remains nobody’s favorite DOOM album, just as Vaughn remains nobody’s favorite DOOM persona. Just a few short months after the record’s release, DOOM would reassume his mantle as hip-hop’s reigning supervillain with MM..FOOD, the long-awaited sequel to Operation: Doomsday and his second instant classic of 2004. But in 2013, long after most of us had forgotten his name, Vaughn returned, contributing a bloodthirsty verse to Flying Lotus’ Ideas+drafts+loops mixtape. And on one of Dumile’s final projects, 2017’s unfinished The Missing Notebook Rhymes, he brought out Vaughn for one final bow: “I sell them bums a scrap verse that’s so-so nice/ Ya get what ya pays for, raps for the low-low price,” he crows at the start of “Notebook 05 – No Refunds.” Still venomous after all these years, Vaughn was taking the piss out of those who’d done him wrong more than a decade ago — a villain until the very end.