When does the novelty of sporting a mask wear off? Maybe never for an artist like DOOM, formerly MF DOOM, who’s mask has been controversial in the past when he was rumoured to send impostors out on stage in place of himself.

You can empathise with the urge to make a distinction between onstage and offstage personas but for DOOM it seems like a deeper identity is forged by the metallic mask, his constant accessory, with its stark glinting stakes or ‘metal fingers’ down either side of his mouth.

We arrived late to find DJ Dexter laying down the holy rosary to fervent hip hop heads around us. Speculation was rife: “Will it really be Doom? He was sick after all – maybe he’ll send someone else out instead” could be heard from under flush cap-brims and out of oversized T-shirts all around the Gershwin room. Dexter delivered a good set with plenty of Wu-Tang classics, all the old faves like ‘Can it be all so Simple’ and ‘Tearz’ from Enter the Wu-Tang. But the classics were paying off, with a whole room of arms hailing right-to-left – prime kudos in the hip hop appreciation index. Dexter also mixed in Bollywood beats, metal refrains, and soul music flourishes with assurance.

There is a kind of freedom that all good DJs have – the ability to mish mash every style of music in their own order, skilfully mixing between C.R.E.A.M with a sentimental 70’s tune that might appear on Nightrider when Hasselhoff’s about to pick up.

Watching a strong DJ is like playing chess with someone, you gradually, slowly understand the parameters of another person’s mind. The beauty of hip hop is often the obscure and perfect samples that are woven in with rapid wordplay and inventive rhyme.

The crowd was funny. Drunk white dudes splaying their fingers in your face and smelly short krumpers grinding away despite the limited space.

We managed to find ourselves in an Aussie hip hop quadrant – I only caught fragments of their lyrics but some stand out moments were: “you walk into the room, your dick goes boom…” and “You feel this? You feel this? That’s fucking Ozzie hip hop!” yelled to each other in tandem bursts and choruses.

There was a die-hard fan wearing a hockey mask, randoms were trying to pick up my friend; and then finally, after what seemed like a slice of forever; Doom emerged at 1am. His imposing, glistening golden mask sitting atop his darkly stubbled chin. His scarily aware eyes beamed out from the spaces in the mask, which rendered it somehow less imposing. His sizeable sidekick espoused all the “word up” essentials and wore a beanie and wraparound sunglasses with great aplomb, making you wonder if he’d sung along to Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night at least once in his life.

DOOM did not disappoint. Amazing rhymes were laid out in the most effortless patter – rhyming ‘animal vegetable mineral/miracle/indivisible’ and lines like ‘you don’t need to be a crystal ball reader to be a ball beater’.

The crowd loved it – from the nodders and the bust down and grind your booty lovers, to the word-for-word mouthers, DOOM was hailed as the original.

There was a fair mix of material from his album Born Like This as well as older material from his fat stack of albums in various guises and tracks like Dead Bent from Operation Doomsday were well received.

DOOM impressively signed merch whilst rapping – holding up his own effigy in poster form and all the while delivering his swift rhythmic repartee. All around us, fans who knew every word, each inflection yelled right back at the masked man on stage.

He gave two encores, to a rapidly diminishing crowd. We left the Espy entirely sated by the masked man’s ability.

–       Anaya Latter