MF Doom

Rappers go through pseudonyms like Paris Hilton goes through boyfriends. It's a game of sorts, or maybe a fear of commitment -- a semantic defense to never get too attached to one thing because all things eventually go sour. Take Daniel Dumile, born in England but raised in Long Island, who tired of his name and became Zev Love X of the East Coast-based hip-hop combo KMD. Burned by his first relationship with the music industry, he disappeared and years later re-emerged as MF Doom to the surprise and critical praise of everyone. His rhymes are mean and cynical, but they flow through thick instrumentation that mellows out in an urban-lounge framework. Keeping his audience at arm's length, Doom slides in and out of his personas, sometimes as Metal Fingers and other times as Viktor Vaughn. His uneasiness for settling on one name comes out in his performances -- which, if his recently unveiled live album, Live From Planet X, is any indicator, is a celestial body of street-credible raps lost in orbit. Love it and let it go.

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