MF DOOM, rapper with intricate rhymes, dead at 49

Eve Murdick, Staffer

Currently known as MF DOOM, Daniel Dumile’s death was announced by his wife, Jasmine, via Instagram on Dec. 31 although he originally passed away on Oct. 31, 2020. His cause of death has not been given, either. Jasmine writes on his official Instagram account, “The greatest husband father teacher, students, business, partner, lover, and friend I could ever ask for.”  

Dumile was born in London in 1971, then moved with his family to Long Island, NY. In Long Island as a teenager, he performed under the name Zev Love X as part of the hip hop group KMD in the late 1980s. KMD, Kausing Much Damage, was started by Dumile and his younger brother DJ Subroc and they produced two albums: 1991’s Mr. Hood and 1993’s Black B****rds. In the process of recording their second album, Subroc was struck by a car and died. This marked the end of KMD until it came back to life for a short period of time when, in 2017, MF Doom shared a track that had never been released called “True Lightyears. 

After the death of his brother, no one had heard or seen Dumile. Slowly coming back to society, Dumile preformed announced in a café in Manhattan: the Nuyorican Poets’ Café. Dumile performing behind a mask and creating a character started here when he wore a stocking mask to perform at the café. His re-emergence in the 1990s boosted his career. 

MF (Metal Face) Doom released his albumself-produced“Operation: Doomsday” in April of 1999. This album marked the beginning of Dumile’s successful life and the prolific run of production and albums. Dumile released six full-length albums by 2009 as well as many EPs and collaborations. The Rolling Stone website states, “Dumile’s 2004 collaboration with the equally enigmatic producer Madlib would solidify his position as an otherworldly soothsayer... the duo released Madvillain, a record so dense with concepts that it still stands as an example of the dexterity and endurance of rap as a medium.”  

Daniel Dumile had an influence on his followers, listeners, and the hip-hop community. His impact was not only inspiring people and artists, bspreading his views as an African American of the corruption he feels lie in American Society. Rolling Stone states, “He mined America’s myths around Blackness to investigate a larger truth.” Below are many tributes on Twitter, from Q-Tip to Tyler, the Creator, and others.  

The infamous mask. Why? The facade, based off Marvel’s character Doctor Doom, was said to be utilized based on characters he created throughout his career. The New Yorker states, “When asked about the mask, Dumile would reference Phantom of the Opera, explaining that he had to wear the mask because the industry had deformed him. Other times, the mask was merely a way for people not to fixate on what he actually looked like; it allowed him to inhabit a range of characters.”  

Whether you know Daniel Dumile as King Geedorah, Metal Face, The Villain, Viktor Vaughn, or Zev Love X, he impacted many around him. His intricate rhymes will be heard for all of time. 

Ever since the womb ‘til I’m back where my brother went 

That’s what my tomb will say 

Right above my government, Dumile 

Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who’s to say? -MF Doom 

 

Q&A with Peter Agoston 

Agoston was a former collaborator and a friend of Dumile’s. Agoston runs Female Fun Records (founded by him in 2000) and hosts his podcast he started called The House List. 

Q: “When did you start listening to Dumile’s music? Did you follow him when he was in KMD in the 80s? How did you get into music yourself as well as doing podcasts? 

A: “I discovered Dumile’s music at the start of it all – in 1990 through the group 3rd Bass and their song/video “Gas Face”. The video was already filled with cameos from a hip-hop group I loved – EPMD, Public Enemy, Kid N Play. My brother gifted me my first-ever CD the Christmas prior De La Soul’s debut album “3 Feet High and Rising”- which was produced by a guy called Prince Paul – who also happened to produce “Gas Face”. The song was also introduced by Don Newkirk, who hosted De La’s album. All these familiar, beloved pieces of the puzzle set up an unforgettable introduction to KMD and Dumile’s music ever so perfectly. Growing up in a small town (Blacksburg, VA) – music videos were a big obsession of mine. I used to record them on a VHS almost every day. They helped me determine what albums (then, tapes) I’d buy every Tuesday throughout most of the 90s. Eventually, while I’m high school I started DJing on the local college radio station (WUVT 90.7), from there I was big supporter of both KMD’s Black Bast**** and MF Doom’s first singles (“Dead Bent”, “Greenbacks”). That would start a whole lifetime of working music-oriented jobs and projects, like starting my own record label Female Run Records in 2000 and many years later starting a podcast The House List in 2016.” 

  

Q: “How did you meet Dumile? What was he like, what are some admirable qualities you noticed? 

A: “We met through mutual friends –initially – through a close musical collaborator of his known as MF Grimm. Grimm had started a new record label and had a partner who helped him while he was incarcerated by the name of DJ Fisher – who was based in Orlando. While we were developing a friendship I was in the process of starting my own record label and asked if they could help me connect to MF Doom (Dumile, as you have it), as I had an idea to pitch him about doing an instrumental album. Soon enough, DOOM and I began talking on the phone. Those brainstorming sessions which would result in the ‘Special Herbs’ project, a 10-volume set of instrumental compositions all produced by MF Doom. The first thing you noticed with DOOM was his voice and use of the English language – he had the most distinct New York accent. Very specific tenor and tone. He had a keen sense of vocabulary where he to mix the most cutting-edge slang with the King’s English. That made even the most casual phone conversation feel like speaking with a ill poet Laureate from another dimension. He was funny, sociable, relatable and filled with ideas. He had the best ability to make you feel accepted and that your ideas were valid but also you could tell his time was precious. If he liked you, he was considerate of your time too. He didn’t stay in one place long—was often on the move. Hard to find at times. But when he would talk or meet – it was always very memorable – and exceedingly fun in that would usually turn into a caper of some sort.” 

  

Q: “What do you think of his work about expressing and writing about inequalities he feels in society?” 

A: “He spoke towards that with great candor, he could take some of the darkest aspects of humanity – like death, racism, prejudice, corruption – and make any person regardless of their background fuse with his message. He was esoterically spiritual and didn’t necessarily believe in labels when it came to humankind. He wrote with the mind of a social scientist.”  

  

Q: “How do you think Dumile influenced and impacted the hip-hop/music community?” 

A: “He did so, exponentially. His approach to music production – what at one point or early on might be considered overly simple or even sloppy – turned into a blueprint for the next generation of young producers to emulate time and time again. His approach to songwriting, was unmistakably original. He could take multisyllabic words, string them together in really atypical ways, to drive home really poignant concepts. Other rappers before and after, have tried this method, and many left sounding contrived. Somehow this came very easy to DOOM, from the very beginning on. His mask concept created an invisible wall between his character and the audience – where they didn’t necessarily need to focus on him as a human – being but more so to experience the music more clearly. Almost, like how one many count sheep to fall asleep at night. You’d focus on the sheep, jumping over hurdles, and that focus unhinges your brain, so that you fall asleep under a trance that allows you to drift to sleep. That is how his music worked on his listeners” 

  

Q: “How do you interpret him wearing the Doctor Doom mask?” 

A: “To disassociate the general public from any preconceived notions and what traditionally expect of an artist. I believe, initially, it was meant, back in the 90s, to keep people from expecting Zev Love X and KMD style music. Those days would never come back after his brother Subroc died. The MF Doom character allowed him to live through the character, like an author. Less, literally, more figuratively, and clearly it worked famously.” 

  

Q: “Is there anything else you would like to add about Dumile and your time with him?” 

A: “That this was a human being who endured great trauma and struggles over his time on Earth, yet through sheer artistic determination willed his way to create. He loved hip-hop music, he driven to produce. He loved what he did but he never cared for any of the trappings of fame. He didn’t like attention, but he did like to work and create. In his words, “the wreck.” He was a family man, who put his wife, kids, siblings, and parents first and foremost. He was and is, one of hip-hop’s great authors.”