The new year broke with overdue news: The villain had died on Halloween. The enigmatic Daniel Dumile, better known as the iconic rapper/producer MF Doom — AKA Metal Face, AKA Viktor Vaughn, AKA King Geedorah, and, once upon a time, Zev Love X — was dead at 49.
Doom’s story is one of legend in the hip-hop world: He was a mythical figure, elusive to the public, and a dominant king of underground hip-hop. He started his voyage in rap lore with his brother Subroc and their group KMD. But Subroc got hit by a car attempting to cross the Long Island Expressway after the group's first album, Mr. Hood, dropped, and he died before the release of KMD's sophomore effort, Black Bastards.
In interviews, Doom said he spent years after his brother's death roaming the streets of Manhattan and sleeping on park benches before heading south to Atlanta, where he wasn’t heard from for several years. His time in Atlanta was evidently spent healing from grief while KMD was unceremoniously dropped from Elektra Records prior to the release of Black Bastards.
The myth of Doom holds that he vowed revenge on the industry that he claimed “badly deformed him” and would return to wreak havoc on the rap game. And so it was that in 1999, MF Doom emerged with his face covered in a Doctor Doom-style mask to release his first album, Operation: Doomsday. An underground hit, the record led to a nine-volume series of instrumental albums, Special Herbs under the alias Metal Fingers starting in 2001, highlighting strength as a producer.
In 2003, Doom released two solo albums under different aliases, further enhancing the alluring aura of mystery: the first, Take Me To Your Leader, as King Geedorah (a homage to Godzilla); the second, Vaudeville Villain, under the moniker Viktor Vaughn (a homage to Victor Von Doom, AKA Doctor Doom).
In 2004, Doom delivered some of his best work. First came Madvillain and Madvillainy, a collaboration with the almost-as-strange-as-Doom producer Madlib. It was an instant classic. (According to Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf, the album's sequel, Madvillainy 2, was “85 percent done” when Doom died.) Also released that year: Mm..Food, on Rhymesayers Entertainment. It was a second megahit for the villain of hip-hop.
Most critics and hip-hop heads agree Madvillainy was Doom’s greatest accomplishment. But it may have been his work with producer Danger Mouse that earned him a wider audience. (Not that Doom ever seemed to care much for fame.) Under the name DangerDoom, they released The Mouse and the Mask, filled with features from the likes of Talib Kweli and Ghostface Killah, not to mention appearances from characters straight out of Adult Swim.
Doom's creative output didn't cease. The projects, not surprisingly, were often released under aliases. He dropped the MF for Born Like This, whose features included Charles Bukowski reciting his poem “Dinosauria.” Doom was also featured on Gorillaz's Demon Days album, worked on an album with Ghostface Killah that never materialized, dropped a collab project titled Keys to the Kuffs under the name JJ Doom with Jneiro Jarel, produced an EP titled NehruvianDoom with rapper Bishop Nehru, and released Czarface Meets Metal Face, a collab with the underground hip-hop group Czarface.
New Times reached out to local artists in South Florida to ask them about MF Doom's influence and inspiration on them.
Peter Allen (Palomino Blonde and Through Sand)
Doom’s influence: “He just had such a way in his production that would be able to hold in the right frequency so that everything hits. Sometimes if something is too harsh it's that way on purpose. He makes you really listen to what he's giving attention to in the music. In that way, I've definitely picked up a lot of techniques and ideas from listening to his stuff.”
Favorite Doom story: “You’d hear about how he would send these Doomposters to shows to perform his set and other types of stuff. I thought it was just a rumor then it sort of happened at III Points, but he did an online performance. I wasn’t there to see it, but I remember thinking how mad I would've been if that had happened. Then reflecting on the fact that it goes perfectly in line with his persona of a rap villain.”
Doom’s influence: “I studied him a lot; how he would take a sample and will just throw more drums on there or just have this loop playing. Every beat of his felt like you were in a cartoon. He influenced me in so many ways, even down to the spelling of my name in all caps. I love putting clips in my beats, and he does too. I love taking a sample and barely touching it. I love breaking all the rules he loved to break — and also anonymity. When I first started, I didn’t tell anyone I made music until my first album came out. I wanted to keep me and my music separate and he is the master of that.”
Favorite Doom story: “Nobody knows who Mister Fantastic was. He was on Born Like This. He was on Mm..Food. No one knows who he is. There’s an article trying to piece together who it is, but after Born Like This, you just never heard from him again. Some think it could’ve been the rapper Count Bass D.”
Doom’s influence: “His beats have always been one of my aesthetic identities that I’ve always related to. His production is very nostalgic and lo-fi at times. His music is very self-aware, and I’ve always tried to emulate that sort of thing. Mm..Food was my gateway drug into hip-hop.”
Favorite Doom story: “One of these Adult Swim guys that pretty much managed every project they did with Doom. He told a story about how the whole imposter thing started. He and Doom had met around the time of the DangerDoom stuff. The Adult Swim label would yell at him a bunch 'cause Doom would take the advance money and spend it on anything but making the record.”
Doom’s influence: “The multi-syllable raps, making everything rhyme in the first line, then have everything rhyme in the next line had a huge influence on me. The whole rhyme scheme and how he put together his words was a huge influence on my writing. Doom draws from all over the place as a writer, and that’s always had an impact on my writing style.”
Favorite Doom story: “I’d say my favorite story or lore behind Doom is when fellow collaborator Count Bass D or Dwight Spitz said that one night he and Doom went out to a show or something and Doom decided not to wear a mask to show that no one would even recognize him and all night not a single soul did. I also heard he was piss poor and even homeless at one point in his career while still in New York. Going from that to an influential underground legend gives me faith and drives the point that you can make something out of nothing. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Doom’s influence: “The fact that he was making all his own beats and his disconnect from materialism and embracing the void that is left after that with your imagination is what attracted me to make music. This guy made everybody think. I can’t compare him to anyone else. In the hip-hop world, there was no one as visionary as that. The visual aspect of everything brought me into it. When we started Metro Zu, it was visual as well as audio. It was like the same vibe.”
Favorite Doom story: “This guy was just like, 'Fuck all this industry shit, I’m going underground' — like a real villain. Other rappers that were around that probably knew him probably thought he went crazy. I like that his real life was like a real living legend. If you have all those connects and know all those people and then say fuck all that shit. That was amazing to me. I could relate to that more than I could relate to any other rapper.”
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