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Remembering MF DOOM: Your favourite rapper's favourite rapper

By Samuel Parkes

Around nine o'clock on New Years eve, as many of us were preparing to say good riddance to 2020, a statement was made on MF DOOM’s Instagram announcing his passing at the age of forty-nine.

The multi-monikered masked rapper and producer Daniel Dumile, also known as MF DOOM, born in London in 1971, spent the majority of his youth on the streets of New York. In 1988, Dumile emerged onto the music scene under the pseudonym Zev Love X as a member of the hip hop trio KMD, where he enjoyed widespread recognition as one of New York’s underground prodigies. Following a controversial shelved sophomore album and the untimely passing of his brother DJ Subrock, Dumile retreated from the public eye before remerging in 1999 as MF DOOM.

MF DOOM, a character conjured up from Dumile’s fascination with comic books, received critical acclaim for his solo debut album “Operation Doomsday”. He became easily identifiable in the underground scene sporting a now infamous Gladiator inspired mask, a symbol of his dissonance with popularised rap and its label-driven image-based monotony.

(Dumile portraying MF DOOM)

His ensuing albums in 2003; “Take Me To Your Leader” and “Vaudeville Villain”, were the debutant projects for some more of Dumile’s elusive personas: King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn. With notable changes in sound from Operation Doomsday, these two albums were awash with comic book villain tropes, tight VHS samples and comedic yet meaningful double entendres.

Take Me To Your leader and Vaudeville Villain were the foundations of Dumile’s 2004 collaboration with acclaimed producer Madlib; “Madvillainy”. Largely considered Dumile’s magnum opus, the album was a bricolage of heady, eclectically sourced samples ranging from bouncing Brazilian jazz joints to punchy progressive rock melodies. DOOM’s trademark grizzly vocals and intricate rhyme schemes effortlessly flutter across Madlib’s layered instrumentals, interspersed by cutscene-esque skits detailing a quasi-narrative about a reclusive (mad) villain. The album’s second track, and one of Dumile’s more popular songs; “Accordion” is a prophetic ballad comparing the plights that the Madvillan character faces, with those of contemporary up-and-coming rappers. Its opens with the cryptic first rapped lines of the album:

“Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster

That’d be the hour they knock the slick blaster”

(The Madvillainy album cover)

The follow-up solo album “MM…FOOD” continued Dumile’s independent spree of album releases with extended culinary metaphor centred tracks, sustaining the DOOM persona. In time he would work with a variety of different artists such as Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Danger Mouse and Bishop Nehru, introducing new characters into his poetic supervillain themed universe from album to album.

His legacy, like his music, is far reaching; influencing generations of artists in rap and beyond. Thom Yorke of Radiohead recently paid tribute to Dumile stating that “he was a massive inspiration to so many of us”. Mos Def and Earl Sweatshirt are amongst the many hip hop artists who have exclaimed their idolisation of DOOM’s music. Amongst his internet following, Dumile is often referred to as ‘your favourite rapper’s, favourite rapper’ a testament to the impact he has had on rap music.

From his first appearance on 3rd Bass’s hip hop classic “Gas Face”, to his last on BADBADNOTGOOD’s “The Chocolate Conquistadors”, the masked mastermind; DOOM, has left an expansive discography laced with clever artistic moments of brilliance to be discovered and digested by listeners for decades.

Rest In Peace.

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