(Credit: Kmeron)

Old School Archives

MF Doom's myth of the mask

The late MF Doom was one of the most intriguing enigma’s that hip-hop has ever produced. Notoriously, when you bought tickets to watch Doom in concert, he often didn’t even show up and instead employed a doppelganger to don his mask to perform to the adoring masses on his behalf.

Rumours of this cunning trick began to circulate following an infamous show in 2010. Doom rarely played live, so understandably, there was palpable excitement that the underground legend was visiting Toronto, Chicago, and New York on a co-headline tour with Mos Def. However, all wasn’t what it initially seemed.

When the tour kicked off in Chicago, Mos Def took to the stage first and even littered a few Doom bars in his set. He wowed the crowd, but the atmosphere dramatically soured for the second performance of the night after the audience realised the person on-stage didn’t deliver his lines like MF Doom, nor did the man behind the mask particularly resemble the rapper’s appearance, either.

Later, the venue confirmed that Doom wasn’t present in the building and said it was an imposter. On a rare occasion when Daniel Dumile agreed to speak to the press, he addressed these rumours and all but confirmed they were true.

“I liken it to this, I’m a director as well as a writer,” he explained in one interview. “I choose different characters, I choose their direction and where I want to put them. So who I choose to put as the character is up to me. The character that I hired, he got paid for it.

“There’s no impostor… When I go to a show, I’m going to hear the music. I’m not going to see no particular person.”

Mos Def dropped off the tour following the Chicago debacle, but Doom continued. Fans were anxious about if he’d even show up, and so was the promoter John Ramos who still hadn’t heard details regarding Dubile’s flight in the afternoon leading up to the concert.

Finally, he arrived from Atlanta at around 10pm and reached the venue an hour later. The crowd patiently waited, and at last, Doom finally started the concert wearing a bright orange jacket. However, it wasn’t actually Dubile, and the audience almost started a riot until the real MF Doom appeared on-stage moments later.

Talk of the Chicago imposter had made headlines across the globe, and Dubile decided to play around with the notion. He never took himself too seriously, and there was always a degree of separation between Daniel Dubile and his creation.

Talib Kweli once said, “MF Doom is the Andy Kaufman of hip-hop. He’s a supervillain. I asked him. I said ‘why sometimes you don’t come to the show?’ His answer to that question was ‘I don’t leave no money on the table. But sometimes it ain’t enough money so I send the impostor.’

“I said listen, ‘isn’t that wrong?’ But his answer made perfect sense. He said ‘I’m the fucking supervillain. I’m not your friend. You don’t have to like me. You’re paying for the experience of dealing with a supervillain.'”

It all just played into the gimmick that he masterfully created, as it was a trick that only a supervillain would stoop to. If anybody else in hip-hop tried this devious manoeuvre, they’d rightly be crucified, but, somehow, it just made MF Doom even more alluring.