MF DOOM, the London born rap artist who grew up in the United States, has died at 49. The musician’s wife, Jasmine Dumile, announced his death on Instagram, at the close of last year. Although the rapper’s death was announced on New Year’s Eve, the Instagram post revealed that DOOM had passed away on October 31st. No cause of death was given.
MF DOOM, born Daniel Dumile, grew up in Long Island, New York and first came to fame when he formed the early 1990s rap group KMD (Kausing Much Damage) with his brother, Dingilizwe Dumile. He appeared alongside 3rd Bass in the song “Gas Face,” the group’s 1988 hit and his recording debut, a skinny kid with over-sized glasses, a nasally voice, and a limber flow.
KMD recorded two albums, Mr. Hood, released in 1991, and Black Bastards, in 1993. Just prior to the scheduled release of Bastards, Dumile’s brother was struck and killed by a car while crossing Nassau Expressway in Long Island. That same week, Elektra Records dropped the group and shelved the second album, whose controversial cover featured a Sambo character with a noose around his neck, hanging from a wooden gallows. The album wasn’t officially released until 2000 but was widely bootlegged and is considered an underground classic.
Dumile retreated from the music industry and eventually relocated to Atlanta. In 1999, he dropped his first, solo, full-length album, Operation: Doomsday, on Fondle ‘Em Records, the imprint of Bobbito Garcia. Dumile also began to release a series of acclaimed instrumental records, Special Herbs, and also recorded LPs using other monikers, including King Geedorah for Take Me to Your Leader, (2003) and Viktor Vaughn, for Vaudeville Villain, (2003) and Venomous Villain (2004). In 2004 he joined with another music legend, Madlib, for the album Madvilliany, a critical and commercial breathrough for both men. In 2005, Dumile collaborated with Danger Mouse for the project The Mouse and the Mask. In 2009, Lex Records released the DOOM project Born Like This, the artist’s first solo album to crack the U.S. charts.
MF DOOM, (METAL FACE DOOM), worked with a variety of artists throughout his career, including Thom Yorke, Gorillaz, Ghostface Killah, The Avalanches, Bishop Nehru and Czarface, both as a rapper and producer. As DOOM, Dumile donned a metal mask, and sometimes sent imposters to perform shows in his stead, to both the delight and frustration of fans.
A lover of comic books and a student of Afrofuturism, Dumile incorporated a wide variety of references into his writing and rapping. His production work was characterized by a pastiche of obscure samples, movie dialogue and his own studio wizardry. A witty rapper, Dumile often employed self-effacing humor in his verses, and a stream of consciousness style that only hinted at the meticulous care he put into his art.
In a 2009 interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates of the New Yorker, Dumile said this about the mask: “I wanted to get onstage and orate, without people thinking about the normal things people think about. Like girls being like, ‘Oh, he’s sexy,’ or ‘I don’t want him, he’s ugly,’ and then other dudes sizing you up. A visual always brings a first impression. But if there’s going to be a first impression I might as well use it to control the story. So why not do something like throw a mask on?”
In December of 2017 Dumile posted on Instagram that his 14-year-old son, King Malachi Ezekiel Dumile had passed away.
On “Doomsday,” the second track on Dumile’s debut solo album, Operation: Doomsday, he had this to say about his own epitaph:
“On Doomsday!/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.”
DOOM. Just remember. ALL CAPs when you spell the man name.