5. MF DOOM, Operation: Doomsday (1998)
Label: Fondle 'Em Records
Lots of rappers have reinvented themselves with new personalities, but none ever re-emerged in a fashion quite like Daniel "MF DOOM" Dumile. The artist formerly known as Zevlove X had been MIA for five years after the death of his brother Subroc (and the resulting demise of their group, KMD) when he returned with his omnipresent metal mask (few photos exist of the rapper without it) and a new, comic book–inspired persona.
Dumile reportedly wound up drug addled and homeless during his hiatus. Operation: Doomsday, the Long Beach, L.I. native’s only full-length as DOOM before relocating to Atlanta in the early 2000s, addressed his descent and recovery in the most creative ways imaginable. DOOM would gain much wider acclaim five years later for his collaboration with L.A.’s MadLlb, Madvillainy, but Operation: Doomsday remains his definitive work.