Swathes of tributes poured in for Daniele Dumile aka MF DOOM on New Year’s Eve, December 2020 after the underground hip hop and music world learned that one of its greatest moguls had passed away. Dumile’s death at age 49, was said to have happened on the 31st October by his wife on his Instagram and later confirmed by his representative. As if we thought that 2020 couldn’t already get worse, this seemed to be the nail in the coffin.
Many of hip hop’s current artists and hip hop appreciation accounts took to Instagram and Twitter to post pictures and publicise messages of support, as well as citing DOOM lyrics in solidarity with Dumile’s family.
A plethora of artists from across the entertainment industry paid tribute. Among those was Playboi Carti, whose album released last week referenced DOOM and whose musical style could not be further from DOOM’s archetypal form of rapping – demonstrating the pioneer Dumile’s far-reaching influence across rap’s ever broadening spectrum.
Just weeks after the new Grand Theft Auto soundtrack to The Cayo Perico Heist was released on the 15th December featuring a deft collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD entitled The Chocolate Conquistadors, DOOM’s demise shocked many.
DOOM had worked with countless artists across the many years he was active. Starting out in the 1980s under the pseudonym Zev Love X, Dumile formed KMD (Kausing Much Damage) together with his brother DJ Subroc and Rodan (who was later to be replaced by Onyx the Birthstone Kid). Under the alias Zev Love X, he worked on a verse at the age of 18 which featured on 3rd Bass’ second 1989 single, The Gas Face. KMD later gained fame for what was to be known as their cult hit, Peach Fuzz, dropped in 1991 during what Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed the “halcyon days” of Hip Hop or, to use the more widely used phrase, the ‘Golden Age of Hip Hop’. The group dissolved following the tragic death of Dumile’s brother DJ Subroc, who died in a car accident in 1993.
However, DOOM was not afraid of collaborating with new artists, despite a life filled with tragedy – his son King Malachi Ezekiel Dumile died in 2017. He created and co-authored many projects: Czarface Meets Metal Face allied with Czarface, Danger Doom — Danger Mouse, Doomstarks — Ghostface Killah, JJ Doom — Jneiro Jarel and NehruvianDoom — Bishop Nehru.
The masked rapper was king of many monikers, King Geedorah, MADVILLAIN, Metal Face, Metal Fingers and Viktor Vaughn adding to his already prolific portfolio. His hidden identity correlated to his pursuance of a particular narrative, one where an artist’s music would sell their work instead of their celebrity profile. DOOM had adopted a lowkey profile, and in an interview for Red Bull Music Academy in 2011, Dumile stated his mask was a way of controlling the story surrounding his public persona.
Often Dumile would often have others controversially stand in for him during gigs, dubbed by paying fans ‘Doomposters’, and in conversations with friends about DOOM, Dumile would never reveal his hidden identity, much like Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne. The superhero façade linked to DOOM’s mask, which was modelled on the villain Dr. Doom from the Fantastic Four comics. While other hip hop personas adopted alluded to drug kingpins or outlaws, DOOM chose comic book villain. His niche nerdcore approach even extended to rhyming over samples of the Scooby Doo theme tune. Comic rhyming couplets intermeshed with serious rhythms contributed towards DOOM’s overall aesthetic.
Primarily, DOOM should be remembered for his genre-defining underground hip hop, exemplified through his deft lyricism over skilfully crafted beats. His raspy baritone lyricism proved enigmatic to some but was lauded by others. Arguably MADVILLAINY, the metal-fingered villain’s 2004 project with LA based producer Madlib (Otis Jackson, Jr.), epitomises his style and will be what fans remember him most by. The duo combined for what has rightly been considered as one of hip hop’s best albums released during the twenty-first century. After the untimely demise of Dumile, Madlib’s latest single, Road of The Lonely Ones, strikes a heightened emotional chord.
“On Doomsday—ever since the womb, till I’m back where my brother went / That’s what my tomb will say”Daniel Dumile (January 9th, 1971 – October 31st, 2020)
Hero or villain, his legacy will live on. Just remember ALL CAPS when you spell the man name.
(Featured Image Credit: Lex Records)