MF DOOM: The passing of rap’s supervillain

On Thursday 31st December, the death of rapper MF DOOM (real name Daniel Dumile) was announced by his family. A week on, it still feels surreal that I am writing these words.

In an Instagram post, Dumile’s wife, Jasmine, wrote that he was “the greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for…”.

Known for his mind-bending rhyme schemes and impressive lyricism, DOOM’s career spanned over three decades. Under the pseudonym Zev Love X he was a founding member of the group KMD with producer and younger brother DJ Subroc and later joined by rapper Onyx the Birthstone Kid. After the death of Subroc, the group disbanded, and Dumile took some time away from rapping. He returned with the album Operation: Doomsday which not only showcased DOOM’s skill on the mic, but also his incredible production under the name Metal Fingers.

Operation: Doomsday brought more than just MF DOOM the rapper/producer. It brought to life the hip hop villain in the shape of Doctor Doom. The rapper would dominate the underground scene with albums such as Madvillainy, Vaudeville Villain and MM…FOOD. The new moniker for Dumile created one of the most treasured items in music, MF DOOM’s mask. It is as symbolic as Michael Jackson’s glove and the Minimoog Voyager synthesiser used by J Dilla. 

DOOM expanded on his success in the 2000s with projects such as BORN LIKE THIS and The Mouse and The Mask with producer Danger Mouse, which received critical acclaim. The 2010s were a decade overshadowed by grief and displacement for Dumile. Being born in London, Dumile never gained American citizenship, although living there for most of his life. When flying back from his European tour, Dumile was not allowed to enter the USA and so spent the rest of his life living in the UK. Later in 2017, Dumile’s son, King Malachi Ezekiel Dumile, passed away at fourteen. Throughout this decade, DOOM was still able to work on some notable projects including collaborations with Jnerio Jarel, Bishop Nehru and Czarface.

DOOM’s legacy after his death is already taking shape. Countless hip hop artists have spread their condolences on social media with rappers Open Mike Eagle, Lupe Fiasco and Busta Rhymes dropping freestyles in memory of Dumile.

The announcement of DOOM’s death was not only felt within the hip hop scene but with the wider music community. Radiohead’s lead singer, Thom Yorke, paid tribute to DOOM on Twitter saying, “he was a massive inspiration to so many of us,” and that “the way he put words [together] was often shocking in its genius, using stream of consciousness in a way I’d never heard before.” Yorke had previously collaborated with DOOM on the remix of ‘GAZZILLION EAR’ which appeared as a bonus track on the 2009 release BORN LIKE THIS.

With Flying Lotus mentioning on Twitter that he was working on an EP with DOOM, it’s evident that we haven’t seen the last of hip hop’s supervillain. Whether you know him as MF DOOM, Viktor Vaughn, Zev Love X, Metal Fingers, King Geedorah or your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, Daniel Dumile’s music will not be forgotten.

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About Author

Tom Manning

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December 2021
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