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Old School Archives

Why MF DOOM preferred to remain anonymous

One of the most distinctive features about legendary MC MF DOOM had nothing to do with his flow, rhymes, or stamina as a rapper. It was the fact that no matter how much you got into him, you could never fully know who was behind the mask. It didn’t matter if you knew his real name was Daniel Dumile, or that he had a previous hip hop career or any details about his private life. Ironically, the more people loved him, the further he removed himself.

Some might have seen it as a gimmick, but DOOM turned anonymity into an art form. Whether it was sending out lookalikes to perform as him at shows or his complete devotion to the persona that had him speaking about himself in third person, no one could ever pin down DOOM. Most would chalk it up to artistry, but if you asked him, the real reason is much simpler.

“The real reason is, I’m so ugly, I don’t wanna distract the crowd when I go out onstage,” DOOM told Spin in 2004 “I don’t know if I’d even get a song done—motherfuckers would be throwin’ tomatoes.”

Graffiti artist Lord Scotch, who designed the first version of DOOM’s iconic mask, has a different take on it. “He had some measure of celebrity as a child. He’s tasted all that—what it feels like to go to school and have motherfuckers treat you differently. Like, ‘Oh, you think you’re all that?’”

Scotch is likely referring to DOOM’s run in the group KMD, which he joined when he was just a teenager. By the time DOOM turned 20, he and his fellow MCs in KMD already had a record contract with Elektra and released their first LP, Mr. Hood.

The tragic dissolution of KMD is an essential pillar in the MF DOOM origin story, and there’s little doubt that had the group survived, Dumile would have never transformed into the mad villain he became.