MF DOOM is dead. The rapper, whose real name was Daniel Dumile, died on 31 October, but his death was only announced by his wife, Jasmine, on Instagram on New Year’s Day. He was 49 years old. There is no word, yet, on how he died.
DOOM is a legend. An absolute legend of hip hop. He first came to notice in the early 90s as part of KMD, along with his brother, DJ Subroc and Onyx the Birthstone Kid. In those days, he was known as Zev Love X. Their sophomore album, Bl_ck B_st_rds, was originally shelved by Elektra Records in 1993, not long after Subroc died in a traffic accident. Legend has it the label was put off by the cover art, which shows a Sambo-like character being lynched, to say nothing of the Black nationalist lyrics.
Destroyed, Dumile retreated from the scene, smoked an epic shit tonne of weed, and then re-emerged in the late 90s doing open mic nights with a mask on, based on the Marvel Comics character Doctor Doom. And his alter ego was created. MF DOOM (Metal Face Doom) was one of the most brilliant lyricists, innovative producers and best rappers the genre has ever seen. He may not have ever hit the mainstream, but he was a legend in the hop hop world.
Armed with a deep, gravelly voice (as a result of all the weed), his wordplay, his flow was on a whole next level. He also operated under various pseudonyms, including Viktor Vaughn, Metal Fingers, DOOM. He worked with everyone from Ghostface Killah to Bishop Nehru. His last proper solo album was 2009’s Born Like This, but he was busier than ever in the last decade of his life, releasing, amongst others, Key to the Kuffs, with Jneiro Jarel. He is perhaps best known for the brilliant collab he did with Madlib, Madvillainy. Another highlight was Danger Doom, cut with Danger Mouse, which saw his lyrics approach the completely abstract, heavily influenced by, and endorsed by, the Comedy Network’s Adult Swim.
The legend of MF DOOM was a carefully crafted image, complete with the use of stage doubles, playing on the fact that DOOM was a character, as opposed to Daniel Dumile, the man. In 2010 in Toronto, one of his doubles was booed off the stage before the man himself appeared. But he defended his use of doubles, arguing that he was the writer, director, and producer of the show, and DOOM was just a character, threatening to send out a white guy next. But it was at the end of that tour that he was denied re-entry to the US, as he had never become a citizen after emigrating here as a child. He retreated to his native London, where he may or may not have spent the rest of his life, claiming in 2012 that he was ‘done with the US.’
He and Jasmine had three children, one of whom, Malachi, died at the age of 14 in 2017. And now he’s gone. This was one of the hardest articles I’ve ever written. MF DOOM, as Zev Love X, was one of the MCs that emerged in that early 90s period that confirmed my love of hip hop. As DOOM, he emerged as, if not my favourite MC, one of the Holy Trinity (with Roots Manuva and Killer Mike). I have spent much of the past 20 years spinning his music in all locales: in my headphones, my car, in my big, analog soundsystem downstairs, my computer upstairs, in all the places they’ve been located as I’ve moved from Montréal to Boston to Alabama to Tennessee and around Western Massachusetts. MF DOOM has been central to the soundtrack of my life.
My heart goes out to Jasmine and their other two children.