Article by Ryan Shaw
It was released by his family on New Year's Eve that MF DOOM sadly passed away on the 31st of October 2020. News like this typically covers headlines as soon as they happen. The fact it stayed private for two months helps us understand the life of the enigmatic supervillain.
Born in the UK in 1971 when his mother was visiting family, Daniel Dumile held British citizenship even though he grew up in Long Island NY. This peculiarity resulted in him rarely doing overseas tours and when he did in 2010 he was not allowed back into the USA. From this, DOOM stated he was done with the United States.
Dumile first stepped onto the scene in 1988 with his first incarnation as Zev Love X in the collective KMD. Their 1991 album Mr. Hood housed singles such as “Peachfuzz” “Who Me?” and “Nitty Gritty”, all with a more Tribe Called Quest or Brand Nubian vibe rather than the later MF DOOM. I suggest checking out the Peachfuzz video if you want to see DOOM in his youth, with specs equipped and a smile on his face - he's the one with the X hat. The group had a good reception however sadly in 1993 the death of brother and fellow group member Dingilizwe Dumile (better known to fans as DJ Sub-Roc) was the start of the end of KMD. The group were let go from Elektra records in 1994 reportedly due to the cover art of their second album Black Bastards depicting a cartoonish representation of a Sambo-character being hung, and nervousness surrounding political messages becoming stronger in their music.
After a 5 year hiatus, we were introduced properly to the reincarnation of Daniel Dumile which most of us recognise as MF DOOM. This name is unique and strange in a way that only a villain would conjure up. Firstly “MF” has dual meanings: Metal Face when the villains rapping and Metal Fingers when he's down in the lab producing. Secondly, DOOM also has origins in two places. There is the clear link to his name, which when written isn't clear but on the first track of Operation Doomsday he pronounces it ~ Doom ah lay ~:
“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?”
Lastly anybody who has seen any MF DOOM video or art will notice the comic book themes and animations focused on the Fantastic 4 villain “Doctor Doom” which adorns the cover art for the inaugural LP Operation Doomsday . After his reincarnation as MF DOOM Dumile is barely ever seen out of the mask of metal inspired by Doctor Doom but the one he wears is actually fashioned from a prop from the 2000 Movie Gladiator.
Undoubtedly something that the metal faced terrorist is most recognised by is the mask. Quite sweetly, Dumile passed on Halloween, a day when many fans across the globe dress up in the mask as an ode to the artist. MF DOOM gave a simple explanation in a 2009 New Yorker interview to why he wears the mask:
(Source: Lex Records)
“I wanted to get onstage and orate, without people thinking about the normal things people think about. Like girls being like, ‘Oh, he’s sexy,’ or ‘I don’t want him, he’s ugly,’ and then other dudes sizing you up. A visual always brings a first impression. But if there’s going to be a first impression I might as well use it to control the story. So why not do something like throw a mask on?”
Before he found the mask, Dumile sharpened his skills in incognito mode showing up to open mic nights in 1998 Manhattan with tights covering his face to obscure the fledgling villains identity. A year later he adopted the mask and never went back.
Dumile saw himself as the writer and director of supervillain status and showed this by sending out other people onstage in his place stating that whoever played the part played the part, even joking that he might send out the blue man group.
Three Headed Monsters & Admirers
The MF DOOM character that Dumile created is rapping from the perspective of a seasoned villain known the world over and is only concerned with world domination. The other characters created by Dumile include Viktor Vaughn, who raps from the perspective of a young, and upcoming admirer of MF DOOM - taken from the real name of Doctor Doom in the comics. This incarnation had releases in 2003 with Vaudeville Villain and 2004 with (VV:2) Venomous Villain. With the best response coming from the first album including one of my favourite Dumile tracks “Can I Watch? (feat. Apani B Fly)”.
The last character which Dumile gives life to is King Geedorah: the three flying headed enemy of Godzilla, taking its name from the actual King Ghidorah(insert king gid). Obviously a much stranger point of view to be rapping from, the city leveling monster just shows Dumalie’s playfulness and skill that he can successfully excel as a supervillain, his admirer and a three headed flying hydra. But, this viewpoint brings us some of the most chilled out beats and flows in Dumalies repertoire, “Next Levels” from the 2003 album Take Me to Your Leader delivers laid back backing track the likes could be heard on a Curtis Mayfield record. (Source : Pitchfork)
A Collaborative Artist
Apart from the multiple alter egos of Dumile and the 3 albums under the MF DOOM mantle, and 3 under his two alter ego’s some of Dumalie’s most loved and popular projects are collaborations with other artists. It shows further his sheer mastery by branching out in 6 distinct collaborative projects all the way from 2004 to 2018. With his different aliases expanding here with each album giving a unique and powerful performance from the illest villain it's no wonder why he was adored by fans and contemporaries alike.
(Source: Stones Throw Records)
Dumalie’s most popular project by far is the collab album Madvillainy with Madlib. With banger after banger, the release is still heralded as one of Dumalies shining lights amongst a deep catalogue of fan favourites and surprise hits. Dumile takes the form of MADVILLAIN and is locked into the lyrics whilst Madlib handles production. The project has been named by industry giants such as Earl Sweatshirt explained it best by saying that Madvillainy is to his generation what Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) had been to the generation before. It is by most people's accounts Dumile’s magnum opus.
If you are a new listener to MF DOOM this is definitely the album to jump in on. It has the most accessible structure and beats thanks to Madlib whilst Dumile delivers some of the most unforgettable lines of his career. The refinement more than anything on the piece makes it as clean cut as a madvillain would demand, it was worked on for over two years and you can hear in the finished product how much thought and deliberations went into it.
MF DOOM was loved the world over for his impeccable flow, genius writing and supervillain attitude. There have been many that have come out in the past few days to talk about the impact that Dumile has had upon them and their careers in music but a list would go on too long.
Daniel Dumile is a master of the craft like we will never see again in whatever form he comes in, he will always be: “your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper” and always remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man's name.