Remembering MF DOOM - The Supervillain Who Won
Upon hearing the announcement of his death from his family on New Year’s Eve, 11 days ago on Instagram, it was truly a shocking moment to understand that MF DOOM, the British-American rapper and producer had unfortunately passed back in October 2020. With the late announcement being described by fans around the world as “the most DOOM thing ever”, as MF DOOM was extremely unpredictable and enigmatic, it was still an incredibly heart-breaking moment for fans, hip-hop heads and other musicians alike as we remembered moments from his career, highlighted his intricate and clever wordplay and posted our favourite songs on our Instagram stories in memoriam.
A plethora of musicians publicly shared their grief on Instagram and twitter and in such a graceful moment set in deep emotions, every single one of us shared how MF DOOM was so influential to us in so many different ways. With rappers coming forward to say how DOOM inspired them to start creating music, to others saying how having the privilege to meet him had them star-struck, it might be honourable to look deeper into how and why Daniel Dumile was so celebrated among the underground hip-hop community during the 2000s. With his iconic way of portraying himself as a supervillain, wearing a metal mask with similarities to comic book figure Doctor Doom, MF DOOM is truly a pioneer within hip-hop music who will forever be referenced for the monumental impact he has given towards the genre. With aliases ranging from Zev Love X, King Geedorah/Ghidra, Metal Fingers when he's producing, Viktor Vaughn, Madvillain, DANGERDOOM or JJ DOOM, MF DOOM was a man of many names and faces depending on the situation he was in, which made him all the more cryptic.
Daniel Dumile was born in London and moved to Long Island, New York when he was young. He then started his career within music in 1988 as a member of KMD and performed under the alias Zev Love X, however the group broke up after the death of one member DJ Subroc in 1993 who was also Dumile’s brother.
After a hiatus, Dumile came back into the scene in the late 1990s where he performed at open mic events and would obscure his identity to then wearing a metal mask that would resemble the supervillain Doctor Doom from Marvel Comics. He then depicted the character on his 1999 debut solo album Operation: Doomsday. From this, Dumile then acquired the MF DOOM persona and religiously kept his mask on when he made public appearances. It was around this time when MF DOOM became the most notorious figure in hip-hop history. This piece is to celebrate MF DOOM’s most iconic projects to date and why we think he’s probably the greatest to ever do it.
Operation: Doomsday, an album that was entirely produced by DOOM himself and the first moment where the rapper broke into the scene on his own. With features from musicians such as Pebbles the Invisible Girl, DOOM’s alias King Geedorah and the Monsta Island Czars members: Kong, Kwite Def, Megalon, X-Ray, Rodan, MF Grimm and Kurious. It marked the start of DOOM’s solo career and the beginning of seeing the many other names that he would give himself.
With King Geedorah a reference to the film Godzilla, a three headed golden dragon space monster and the Monsta Island Czars all taking personas from the Godzilla film as well. He even went on to release a selection of instrumentals for Special Herbs under the pseudonym Metal Fingers. With Operation: Doomday marking a pivotal moment in DOOM’s career, it utilised cartoon samples alongside jazzy and soul beats that ooze throughout, thus marking the real start for his interest into the superhero vs. supervillain aesthetic. The album was immediately a standout for his career that foreshadowed his successfulness ahead and only portrays what was to come. With his rhyming patterns and lyrical choices coming through at such as early stage in his career, it has been noted by rappers, producers and hip-hop heads alike as essential writing and a must listen.
From the 2000s onwards, DOOM released a number of solo albums as well as collaborative ones with the most notable being with producer Madlib for the album Madvillainy, an album often cited as DOOM’s magnum opus which included so many memorable lines and sounds as he teamed up with probably the most like-minded producer in the field.
With Madvillainy showing us a new reflection of both of these artists, it also showed us how talented MF DOOM really was with his incapability to produce a bad bar. 17 years later, it is an album that is to this day still quoted and became an instant classic upon its release. “Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name” became a pivotal bar in DOOM’s career that just cannot be forgotten.
And just when you thought DOOM couldn’t get any more quotable, Madvillainy is an album that shines through with characteristic internal rhyme schemes, incredible consistency from start to finish and full to the brim with colourful instruments and sounds. Not to mention the niche idea of keeping to the aesthetic of his ‘supervillain’ theme throughout. With so many notable moments that could be picked out in that album, one that sticks with us might be ‘Curls’ into ‘Do Not Fire!’ where ‘Curls’ has such as memorable narrative which leads into a head-boppingly superb instrumental. It was with this album that put MF DOOM in charge, for real.
MM..FOOD, an album totally immersed in being about food but also a conceptual album filled with small anecdotes and quotable moments that have you chuckling to yourself. Surrounded by tales that are elevated with stunning samples, MM..FOOD brings out a side of DOOM as being a 30-something guy who most definitely, is just the best rapper alive.
Songs like ‘Deep Fried Frenz’ showing how people can turn their back on you and be untrustworthy or ‘Rapp Snitch Knishes’ featuring Mr. Fantastik talking about how people out themselves when deciding to brag about their illegal endeavours in their music, which also features one of the most recognisable guitar riff samples throughout his discography and the very quotable verse “Rap snitches, telling all their business / Sit in the court and be their own star witness / Do you see the perpetrator? Yeah, I'm right here / Fuck around, get the whole label sent up for years”. It not only meshes together sounds of jazz, and lush R&B but comes up gritty and raw much like DOOM’s aesthetic, again all tied together with cartoon samples and the gift of the gab when dropping smart jokes and supple rhymes to keep things playful.
MF DOOM went on throughout the years to work with many other artists up until his unfortunate and sudden passing. One memorable collaborative album was Czarface Meets Metal Face with American hip-hop super-group CZARFACE made up of Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck, MC Esoteric and producer 7L, with DOOM having previously collaborated with them on the track ‘Ka-Bang!’ on the groups album Every Hero Needs a Villain. CMMF was an album that again like with Madvillainy, was a successful marriage of incredible ideas and recognisable sounds that just made this album such as essential listen. This also marks his last proper album release before his death. Czarface Meets Metal Face was an album that alongside their nerdy fixations with comic books, moulds together this superhero squad with lyrical dexterities and free will to produce artistic verses and refined skits that makes you feel like you’re part of their secret club.
DOOM also worked with many other artists such as Danger Mouse for their collaborative 2005 album The Mouse and the Mask, Bishop Nehru, Ghostface Killah for Victory Laps EP, Westside Gunn, Rejjie Snow, BadBadNotGood, Danny Brown, Gorillaz, Thom Yorke, Flying Lotus and so many more. There is no doubt that MF DOOM paved the way for so many rappers and musicians and gave them the inspiration and influences to start creating. MF DOOM, the master of wordplay, an impeccable producer and known for producing most intricate rhyme schemes you ever heard. He will be greatly missed.