Daniel Dumile, better known as MF Doom in recent years began his career in rap in the late 1980s under the alias Zev Love X. He adopted this strange pseudonym from his days in the duo KMD in which he partnered up with his twin brother DJ Subroc. Despite having been born in London in 1971, Daniel had very little early connection to the UK as he was relocated to Long Island, New York at a young age.
He and his brother Dingilizwe Dumile had become interested in the New York hip-hop scene that was emerging in the mid-1980s, and by 1988, they had decided to form KMD. After a marked rise to fame playing packed out gigs across New York, KMD disbanded in 1993 with the shocking news that Dingilizwe had died. He was killed after being struck by a car while attempting to cross the Long Island Expressway. The album Black Bastards, which KMD had been working on prior to his death, was subsequently finished off and released in 2000.
After a hiatus following his brother’s untimely death, Daniel eventually returned to his rap career in 1998 under a new fearsome alter ego. He began appearing at open mic events wearing a metal mask resembling that of Marvel Comics supervillain Doctor Doom – as seen on his 1999 debut solo album Operation: Doomsday. It wasn’t long before he had gained popularity for his unique lyric writing and delivery skills as well as his attention-demanding appearance. To match this newfound alter-ego and turn a leaf in his life, he adopted the new alias of MF Doom.
Doom’s style was a unique blend of both darker and often hilarious themes that at times came simultaneously, especially in Operation: Doomsday where he delivered his stories over strange 1980s R&B and ‘Scooby Doo’ samples. His fifth studio album Mm.. Food, released in 2004, was his critically acclaimed masterpiece and connoted his adoration for gastronomy in a clever concept album that he explained was “about the things you find on a picnic, or at a picnic table”. The song titles mostly reference different food and drink items, and the lyrics are studded with metaphors and double entendres.
In early 2010, Doom relocated to London after being denied reentry to the US following a tour of Europe. As it transpired, although he had lived in the States for most of his life, he had never actually become a naturalised citizen. Shortly after arriving in London, he released the EP Gazzillion Ear, a compilation of remixes of the song ‘Gazzillion Ear’ including a remix by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and two mixes by Jneiro Jarel. In 2012, he released Key to the Kuffs, an album made in collaboration with some big names, including Damon Albarn, Beth Gibbons of Portishead, Khujo Goodie, and Boston Fielder.
Sadly, we were met with the tragic news that he had passed away on October 31st, 2020. Over his 30 year career, MF Doom inspired so many musicians on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the news of his death, tributes poured in from fans and peers alike, including thoughtful words from fellow rappers Pharoahe Monch and Jay Electronica.
Despite no longer being with us, it is clear to see how far his inspiration spread. Late rapper Mac Miller once cited MF Doom as a prime inspiration for his career. When asked to name some of his favourite albums of all time, he explained that Doom’s 2004 classic Mm.. Food was one of the most important rap albums to him.
“I just like love the texture of his voice against the beats, like, it’s very ‘Fuck you.’” Miller explained. “He kind of throws it down there, but it’s very purposeful. It sounds effortless, but everything is purposeful. I’ve never talked to him about it or talk to him in general so I wouldn’t know, but records like ‘Vomitspit’ are the fucking shit. It’s great music for like anything in life. You can play it anytime, it’s good.”
Listen to MF Doom’s ‘Vomitspit’ from his 2004 album Mm.. Food below.