The late Daniel Dumile, best known as rapper MF DOOM, left his mark on each soul that listened to a record of his. The masked rapper is known by few but loved by many. He is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Month’s after his sudden passing, I’ve been consumed thinking about the legacy that he didn’t intend to have.
It was announced on New Year’s Eve through DOOM’s Instagram that he had passed away on October 31, 2020 at the age of 49. The late announcement of his passing was no shock for fans; it was right on par with the shy nature of DOOM. He was never seen in public without his signature mask, rarely did interviews, and even hired other people on numerous occasions to perform in place of him at concerts because he simply didn’t want to.
The lyricist was born in London in 1971 and moved to Long Island, New York shortly after his birth (source: CNN). Here he was raised by hip-hop culture. By 1988 Daniel Dumile and his younger brother, Dingilizwe, formed the hip-hop group KMD (Kausing Much Damage/ Kause in a Much Damaged Society) with Alonzo Hodge. Daniel went by Zev Love X (and did not wear a mask), his brother was known as DJ Subroc, and Hodge claimed Onyx The Birthstone Kid (source: Discogs).
In 1991 the group signed a deal with the label Elektra and shortly after dropped their debut album “Mr. Hood.” Zev Love X shined and the album was well received with it’s feel good beats and impeccable lyricism, although it touched on a few stigmatizing subjects for the time surrounding race and oppression.
Then everything went to shit.
On April 23, 1993 Dingilizwe Dumile died after being hit by a car in Long Island. The record label dropped the group leaving Daniel Dumile in a storm of misery and confusion (source: NPR).
This marks the birth of the infamous villain turned wordsmith, MF DOOM. He vowed to go against the industry that had screwed him over while putting out projects that left other artists in the dust.
Then, after living on the streets of New York City for a few years, MF DOOM began his mission dropping his debut solo album “Operation Doomsday” in 1999.
The rest is history.
For the next 20 years Daniel Dumile dominated the underground rap scene with solo albums, collaborative efforts with legendary producers, and full-length albums under his other persona’s Viktor Vaughn and King Geedorah.
For myself and so many others, DOOM’s unparalleled talent drew me into his art. You feast on his albums until you can’t get enough of the man behind the mask and start to dig deeper. You find the story of Dumile, the numerous other rap personas he uses, what his art means to him, and his creative mindset that has not been seen in any artists before or after him.
The rarity of DOOM’s interviews and public appearances magnifies all of this. Seeing him in public would be the equivalent of bigfoot. Even at his infrequent concerts there wasn’t a definite chance that you would see the masked villain.
The more you learn about the man the greater the love affair becomes. His “fuck you” approach to any and everyone that wasn’t involved in music for the love of it is admirable. These music corporations want individuals they can promote. Guys that wear huge flashy chains, designer clothes, do interviews every other day, do the press runs. They want someone that can be their puppet. So, DOOM did the exact opposite.
He didn’t show his face, rarely spoke, was almost never seen in public, and brags in his raps about being “The best MC with no chain ya ever heard” (source: Genius). He represents everything that the music industry isn’t, but he embodies the art of hip-hop on his records. This is where the disconnect between DOOM and his fans occurs. He doesn’t want the recognition, or to be “mainstream.” He wanted to prove that without anyone in his corner, and being relatively unknown, that he could absolutely BODY any rapper when it came to lyrical ability, bars, punchlines, and wordplay.
His desire for purity in his passion is something I think about often and try to apply to my own life. For me, MF DOOM is a hero, although he refers to himself as a “super villain.” A villain to the hip-hop industry, indeed, but a god to his fans.
At the end of the day, MF DOOM is an all-time hip-hop great. I could dissect his lyrics and albums all day, but I think what makes him the most intriguing is his cause. He said “fuck off” to everyone and still gained a cult following like no other. So, yes DOOM, you showed all those label executives and businessmen that they aren’t SHIT. You dominated the industry without being a part of it. Mission complete.
RIP Daniel Dumile