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More rhymes than is lines in ya database

Lines of code on a computer screen

Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

  • Track: It Ain’t Nuttin’
  • Artist: Herbaliser feat. MF DOOM
  • Album: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Year: 2002

London-born DOOM is a hero of hip-hop. A man who collects aliases like football stickers, he’s rarely seen without his trademark metal Doctor Doom mask.

A natural of wordplay (and simile), DOOM revels in subverting hip-hop culture. He’s cryptic, weird, playful and basically ace. He loves to twist the tropes of the genre and has a lot of fun while he’s at it. DOOM’s lyrics are absolutely crammed full of pop culture references, too. Mostly American ones that I’m enjoying finding out more about.

My first brush with DOOM came with this appearance (as MF DOOM) on the Herbaliser’s 2002 album Something Wicked This Way Comes. I loved it so much I tracked down as much DOOM as I could and haven’t looked back since.

I thought about keeping this one up my sleeve until I was running out of tunes. But I couldn’t help it, the similes are too tempting.

This is a notable track in that it not only opens with a simile, but a negative simile. Oooh. Simile connoisseurs might be familiar with Shakespeare’s sarcastic Sonnet 130, which opens:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare

So DOOM is basically the Shakespeare of hip-hop. I think that’s fair.

The track also contains a pretty contentious comparative, so strap yourself in tightly, simile fans. We’re in for a hell of a ride.

The lyrics

Read full annotated lyrics on genius.com

[Intro sample]

He’s a shady character, what’s his name?
Ah wait a minute , I’ve got his card
Oo yes! here it is, DOOM…

…I see.

[MF DOOM]

It ain’t nuttin’…like hip-hop music…

DOOM doesn’t ever specify what ‘it’ is. I’ve always assumed he’s talking about some inferior rapper’s tunes. As our first negative simile, this isn’t a particularly interesting one. But hold on there a minute, because DOOM ain’t finished yet.

It ain’t nuttin’ like a fist full of cash or a blissful of the hash
That twist like a moustache
,
From end to end,
Spread it like a rash
From talking through your Walkman or at your disco bash

Whatever it is nothing like, it’s not like lots of money or a spliff (both good things to DOOM).

He then deftly ties the first two similes to a third – his joint is rolled out and twiddled like a bad guy’s moustache. How can you not enjoy imagery like that?

Give me the Timbs, Rumpelstiltskin brown
A metal face mask with a built-in frown
A mic to tilt down
A hundred thousand pounds
And see how kilt sound like spilt milk clown

DOOM’s describing his get up here – his metal mask and boots; Timbs are of course Timberland boots, a rap staple.

As for the kilt line, your guess is as good as mine, frankly. I’m not convinced he’s actually saying ‘kilt’, but I’ve no idea what else it could be (‘guilt’?). And what’s the sound of spilt milk? Why crying, of course.

Cocoa butter on very ashy day fam
With Ray-Bans out on the islands of Cayman
Or I’ll break it down for the layman
Bain De Soleil for that Saint Trope…taaan
A can a Ol’ Gold too cold to hold, slow ya roll
Keep on moving like Soul II Soul, hold the dough
Like a fool who stole pity
y’all
From tryna’ go up against city hall titty bar

That Saint Trope line is a highlight of this track. Do have a look at this Bain De Soleil advert for the most 80s thing you’ll see this week.

Our first simile in this verse is pretty straightforward. The second not so much – what’s a pity-stealing fool and how do they hold money? Mystery of mysteries.

The black mic is like a red violin
OK, everybody back to the lab, try again
Bloody rap game like Leviathan
Leave a bad taste, killin’ my high like Niacin
Stop kiddin’ middlemen need Ritalin
Hit me with the full tin of gin and I’m a kid again

Glorious. DOOM crams in three great similes in this verse.

Credit to Genius for helping unpack the first one. It’s a reference to the ‘Red Mendelssohn’: a 1720 Stradivarius. This is one of the world’s most famous violins. DOOM’s instrument, his mic, is up there with the greatest. Some highbrow stuff this.

With his second simile, I think DOOM is saying he has distaste for the bloody side of the rap game. He’s never been much of a guns and thug type of artist.

Depending on your point of view, Leviathan can refer to the Devil, a sea monster or a dragon. I’m going with the biblical interpretation (the Devil) as I’d say that’s the bloodiest. I mean look at him:

A detail from Rossignolo’s Last Judgment, showing
Detail from Last Judgment by Giacomo Rossignolo. Wikimedia commons.

DOOM’s final simile in this nice little passage references Niacin, a B Vitamin that people apparently take to flush their system before a drugs test. Don’t ever say this isn’t an educational site.

Keep the bong lightin’ straight through the song writin’
The Super Villain AKA the thong bitin’, that’s inviting all
To the reciting that’s dope and raw
Hoping all y’all come in peace and it’s open bar
Tear the roof off this bumba ras clot
By the end of the night spazz like shazbot

DOOM certainly likes to make you work for some of his more obscure pop culture references…‘shazbot’ is an Orkan swearword from Mork and Mindy.

Spilt a shot made the pen lines runny
A ill plot that’s ten times Ben Stein’s money, funny
How he rips the scripts with a straight face
With more rhymes than is lines in ya database

I agonised over this one (by which I mean I thought about it for a good ten minutes). It’s going in, as one of my comparative similes. It’s too good a line to leave out. Indeed I love it so much I made it the post title.

At first I wasn’t sure if the line was comparing one thing directly to another. But I think it is – Super Villain’s (one of DOOM’s many aliases) collection of lines is bigger than your database code. If DOOM’s talking about my database, it’s not much of a boast. Yet. Give me a bit of time.

In case you are wondering, Ben Stein (‘Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?’) hosted a game show where you could win $5,000 of his money. Jeremy Beadle hosted the UK version. Someone I knew from university went on it and lost out because he didn’t know the name of the Dewey Decimal System. Careless.

Placing rappers in endangerment, who’s reckless
With this food for thought sorta’ like breakfast
You could mark it off as wreck on the checklist
Wear gold fronts, can’t afford no necklace

And here’s our final simile of this short but sweet track. DOOM’s lyrics are so clever, you could say they’re the most important rap of the day.

Shit, that there could go to help buildin’ daycares
Somebody say yeahh…(yeahhh!)
Pay ya fares, give the Herbalisers their shares
And y’all could pay DOOM in beers
Cheers!

Wouldn’t life be better if we all got paid in beers?

The stats

Similes:14
Words:339
Words per simile:24.21
Length:2m 47s
Similes per minute:5.03
Moustaches twirled:1

5 Comments

  1. DJ

    I’m very much looking forward to watching the burgeoning similes per minute leader board as it fills up over the next few months!

    • Rayner

      Me too, DJ, me too. I’m a bit worried I’ve peaked with the first two tunes to be honest. Stay tuned!

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