Remembering MF DOOM
“Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster / that’d be the hour they knock the slick blaster,” the opening lines of “Accordion” read like poetry.
2004’s Madvillainy is an iconic landmark of underground rap – arguably the closest thing to a perfect album that exists. Held together by the eclectic beats delicately crafted by legendary producer Madlib, MF DOOM’s intricate wordplay, conversational flow, and technical precision earned this project a special place in history as DOOM’s magnum opus.
Often referred to as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,” MF DOOM, born Daniel Dumile, is one of the most celebrated and enigmatic figures in hip-hop history. His stream of consciousness style of rap and complex web of allusions in his bars force the listener to rewind several times in order to catch all the intricacies. It’s no surprise why he’s influenced generations of young MC’s as well as his contemporaries.
On the last day of 2020, his wife Jasmine Demile revealed in an Instagram post that the reclusive rapper passed on October 31st, 2020 at age 49.
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Born in London, Dumile grew up in Long Island, New York and began rapping in the late 1980’s under the moniker Zev Love X in the group KMD with his younger brother DJ Subroc. KMD released two albums, though the group disbanded after DJ Subroc was struck by a car and killed prior to the release of their second album, Black Bastards.
After being scorned by the industry, Dumile reappeared in the late 90’s as MF DOOM, donning a metal Doctor Doom mask and adopting the role of hip-hop’s supervillain. His self-produced debut Operation: Doomsday was released in April 1999, sparking a prolific ten year run that would leave him in a class of his own. He released MF EP with MF Grimm in 2000 before choosing to adopt two alter egos in 2003 with Take Me To Your Leader as King Geedorah and Vaudeville Villain as Viktor Vaughn.
But it was in 2004 that DOOM cemented his legacy with the aforementioned collaborative project Madvillainy, as well as solo offerings MM..FOOD, Venomous Villain (VV:2), and multiple instrumental albums from his Special Herbs series. DOOM followed this amazing year with 2005’s Live From Planet X and The Mouse and the Mask with Danger Mouse before releasing his final solo record with 2009’s Born Like This. DOOM’s releases became much more sporadic throughout the 2010’s, though he did release collaborative projects with Bishop Nehru, Czarface, and Westside Gunn.
DOOM’s keen ear for samples and gift for interpolating dialogue from 1980’s cartoons into his songs allowed him to create an immersive experience with his music that furthered his arc as hip-hop’s supervillain. Amid all the jokes, food raps, and complex rhyme schemes, there’s a looming air of darkness in his work. For every clever pun, there’s a deeply personal line about loss or friendship. The closing track on Operation: Doomsday, “?”, is a tribute to DJ Subroc, ending with “Everything is going according to plan, man.”
Most recently, DOOM was featured on a new track with Canadian instrumental group BADBADNOTGOOD in the latest Grand Theft Auto update. The 7-minute groove titled “Chocolate Conquistadors” finds DOOM rapping in Spanish, adapting his untouchable wordplay across languages. He switches back to his native tongue to paint a vivid portrait of imperialism by mythical conquistadors, his storytelling as engaging and thought provoking as ever.
We knew everything and nothing about MF DOOM. When he put the mask on, it opened an entire world for stories both new and old, alter egos, and unmitigated creativity. As the orchestrator, Dumile created an elaborate universe free of the stresses that come with major-labels and widespread fame, allowing him to truly harness his creative prowess. Passing on Halloween in a year defined by mask wearing is shockingly poetic, rendering MF DOOM as a sort of folklore legend who will never be truly understood – just as he intended.
Rest in Peace to one of the greatest MC’s to ever grace the mic.
“Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name”
Dom Maiorca is a writer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from UCLA where he studied Psychology and Film & TV while contributing frequently to The Paper Mixtape, an independent student-run magazine. He loves talking about music and movies and is always looking for new recommendations for both. Some of his favorite artists include Childish Gambino, Toro y Moi, Tyler, the Creator, KAYTRANADA, Gorillaz, and many more.