For such an elusive, mysterious and generally hard-to-reach figure, DOOM is a jovial guy once you get him on the phone. Then again, that’s the tough part: The legendary masked rapper isn’t exactly the easiest person to locate, and he’s not exactly media-friendly. In an age when even an intensely private artist like Prince has a Twitter, DOOM remains an enigma. He has a verified Twitter account but it only has one Tweet: “DOOM IS NOT ON TWITTER.” His phone conversations can be prone to strange circumstances: DOOM and I were mysteriously disconnected twice, the first time for a matter of minutes, and the second time for 10 days. Getting a hold of him is difficult, but hanging on is almost impossible.

And yet, when XXL called up the artist formerly known as MF DOOM (and occasionally known as Viktor Vaughn) to discuss some of his classic verses, he was nothing but a gentleman, speaking in the same charming, discursive and easy-going style that he raps with. It was easy to picture him anonymously shopping for groceries and crossing streets in the UK, where he now resides and prefers to the U.S. because, as he puts it, “Motherfuckers aren't getting killed in the streets as much.”

Though he’s allegedly facing some visa issues, it’s also likely that DOOM enjoys life in the UK because it allows him to focus on what he does best: write killer rhymes. DOOM is a lyrical scientist and he's been in the lab for decades, concocting immersive, cavern-like albums like 1999’s Operation: Doomsday and 2004’s Mmm.. Food on his own and experimenting with collaborative projects like Madvillainy with Madlib and the more recent Key to the Kuffs with Jneiro Jarel.

Currently finishing up a project with 17-year-old hip-hop prodigy Bishop Nehru and putting the final touches on the long-delayed Madvillainy sequel, DOOM took some time out of his day to break down some of his most intricate and mind-melting verses. Read on to learn more about the maniacal brain lurking behind that mask. —Dan Jackson

Previously: AZ Shares The Stories Behind 15 Of His Best Verses