On December 31st the world learned that maverick m.c. MF DOOM had passed away at the age of 49.
According to an Instagram post from his wife, Jasmine, the clever and enigmatic wordsmith died on October 31st. That’s right he died on Halloween and it wasn’t revealed until New Year’s Eve.
If you are familiar with MF Doom, then you can probably understand how this shocking and heartbreaking announcement of his demise was quintessential Doom. He was known for doing things on his own terms in life and apparently now in death.
DOOM was born Daniel Dumile in London in 1971 but he grew up on Long Island, NY. As a teen Daniel, calling himself Zev Love X, started his own group KMD with his younger brother Dingilizwe who was known as DJ Subroc. KMD stood for Kausing Much Damage, or A positive Kause in a Much Damaged society.
The group was rounded out by Onyx the Birthstone Kid and by 1990 Zev Love X could be seen on Yo! MTV Raps nimbly rhyming alongside the members of 3rd Bass in their video for “The Gas Face.”
KMD released their debut album Mr. Hood in 1991 and it’s a quirky, intelligent, masterpiece. They used humor and well-placed vocal samples *(from Sesame Street, instructional language records and other disparate sources) to talk about coming of age, stereotypes, black consciousness and more. The group’s mascot, a black “Sambo” figure can be seen dancing in the video for “Who Me” which dismantles the way that black people have been historically typecast in society.
Tragedy struck as their second album, Black Bastards, was being completed in 1993. Onyx had left the group and Zev’s brother and artistic co-pilot Subroc died after being hit by a car. Adding insult to industry, the Black Bastards album was shelved due to its controversial artwork. The Sambo mascot is shown on the cover being lynched.
After essentially being exiled from the music industry, a depressed Zev Love X, fell on hard times becoming reclusive and, in his own words ,“damn near homeless.” The hardships that he experienced in his origin story would lead to his ultimate reinvention.
Legend has it that Daniel Dumile popped up at open mics in the late nineties wearing a stocking cap over his face, obscuring his features. He had been reborn. He still had his sense of humor, but our hero had become a villain, no, a super villain.
The next time we would hear a project from him would be 1999’s brilliant Operation Doomsday which would be the world’s introduction to Metal Face/Metal Fingers (or MF) DOOM. From this point on he would constantly wear a metal mask *(a nod to Dr. Doom, the Marvel Comics villain that inspired his persona).
He incorporated his love and knowledge of Marvel Comics to emerge as a new character. His rhymes were more complex than ever. It’s not that he didn’t miss a step; He’d gotten better as an emcee and producer.
Operation contained some of the same sensibilities heard on the KMD projects (samples from unusual sources including cartoons, sci fi and pop culture references) but the DOOM character took on more risks, he was bolder than Zev Love had been and he was determined to get his revenge on those who have betrayed him. I’d say that the brother was victorious. **His old Black Bastards album eventually saw the light of day in 2001.
He acquired a loyal cult following and his releases were largely met with high praise. He was carving out his own niche which was the opposite of the flashy materialistic fare that dominated the charts at the time. The mask forced us all to focus on the music.
Between 1999 and 2009 he would release solo projects under the MF DOOM moniker as well as other aliases: like Viktor Vaughn (which is also a play on Marvel’s Dr. Doom) and King Geedorah (based on King Ghidorah from the Godzilla movie).
He put out instrumental projects (Special Herbs volumes 0-9) featuring his unique production style and his collaborative projects are no less than phenomenal. His 2004 collaboration with producer Madlib entitled Madvillainy is a high point in a career filled with stellar moments.
The two oddball artists teamed up to record as Madvillain. Madvillain made a great album that found both artists at their best. Madvillainy might’ve gotten more attention from the public than anything before or after. DOOM did great music with the likes of Danger Mouse (DANGERDOOM), Bishop Nehru (NehruvianDoom), the Gorillaz, Ghostface Killah, Westside Gunn and many more creators, adding his own style of sorcery to everything he touched.
Daniel Dumile’s reign was not without trials and tribulations. After an international tour in 2010 he was unable to return to the United States after it was discovered that although he had lived most of his life in America, he was not a naturalized citizen. He then took up residence in England. He suffered the loss of his 14-year old son in 2017. Ever the underdog, he always persevered and maintained his status as a creative, mystifying figure.
Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media ignored the supervillain’s genius during his storied career, but our villain will have the last laugh as his legacy will continue to grow and influence more people than he ever imagined. His art touched your favorite hip hop artists and musicians from various genres. Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Tyler the Creator, Denzel Curry, Playboi Carti and RadioHead’s Thom Yorke have all sung the praises of Metal Face DOOM. Check out his catalogue and you’ll understand why.
**I’ve heard a few folks online say that we should change October 31st from Halloween to DOOMSDAY. Sounds like a good idea to me.
“On Doomsday, ever since the womb
‘Til I’m back where my brother went, that’s what my tomb will say
Right above my government; Dumile
Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who’s to say?”MF DOOM – DOOMSDAY
-MF DOOM – “DOOMSDAY”
R.I.P. MF DOOM