MF Doom, the masked polysyllabic master rapper, has a tendancy of sending imposters to his shows. These “doom bots” front around on stage and lip sync poorly to his songs. The dejected audiences pretty much instantly recognize them as frauds. I know because I attended one such show back in 2010 at the Congress theater in Chicago.
The Congress, shuttered in 2013 for flagrant safety violations, was a terribly managed theater and this show was a sour one. I was drawn to it because it featured two of my favorite MCs: Yasiin Bey (then Mos Def) and MF Doom, among other lower tier artists. It was clear that something was wrong early on. The time between artists kept dragging out, and one artist stayed on stage performing past the point where he had any songs left to play. I remember him trying to create mix up new songs on the spot. By the time Yasiin Bey came out much later, the audience wasn’t really there for him. He tried, but he just couldn’t recover the mood of the rowdy audience. His set ended, and “MF Doom” immediately burst onto the stage. Who was this guy in the MF Doom mask? What’s happening? Even Yasiin Bey looked confused
I left shortly after, and met some people at the el stop who had done the same. They were at least thankful they saw Yasiin Bey, and I connected with someone who said Black on Both Sides changed their life in the best way possible. Leaving that show, I felt an equivalent change, albeit a negative one. I couldn’t listen to MF Doom with the same respect and admiration I had previously. I felt betrayed as a fan.
It took me until this year to let those feelings go, when I heard Talib Kweli describe MF Doom’s booking philosophy on Hannibal Buress’ podcast. Apparently MF Doom never leaves money on the table and will always book the show if he’s requested. If the money’s not enough, though, he just won’t attend. It changed my perspective. He wasn’t doing this to be a jerk to his fans. He was doing this because the Congress, which I also detested, didn’t pay him enough.
I wish I knew that before I waited the entire night to see him.