11. DOOM - Born Like This (2009)
With a title borrowed from the first line of the Charles Bukowski poem "Dinosauria, We," DOOM'S first album sans the MF suffers from the same problem that plagues a lot of Bukowski's poetry: In muscling one style hard, it begins to lack the lushness of his other work, instead offering only the account of a brazen militant at odds with the world around him. Where Bukowski saw a bleak dystopian humanity, DOOM seems to be at odds with some kind of frivolity he hears in modern music. "Batty Boyz" is a one-liner, unfortunately, about how Batman and Robin are gay. And whether or not the resurgence of R&B-flavored hip-hop was specifically irking him, DOOM takes aim at AutoTune, sprinkling snippets of his friends annoyingly noodling with it throughout the album, and making him seem just slightly out of touch with the lighthearted character of the technology -- if you really listen, it seems clear that even AutoTune's proponents don't take it very seriously.
The immense sensitivity of DOOM's earlier vocal performances (which allowed him to contemporaneously inhabit many characters and moods) is drained from Born Like This, leaving him heavy and slow lyrically. DOOM sounds far away, somehow, without a really clear investment in a concept, rapping relatively infrequently and producing shorter songs altogether. At the same time he's too close -- too close to the microphone and actually mixed louder than previous records -- and the gruffness can be grating, regressive even, if you've experienced the wry lightness of DOOM's best work. It's not all bad, though: Instrumentation stands out on Born Like This, with DOOM shining on loud tracks alongside top-notch guests from the Wu-Tang Clan.