This past Halloween, hip-hop lost one of its greats. MF DOOM, aka Metal Face, aka King Geedorah, aka Viktor Vaughn, aka the Villain, was as eccentric as he was talented and through both traits, he built an underground following and a hip-hop legacy that is literally like nothing we’ve seen before. This is a man who embodied an attitude that says, “Everyone else is doing that, now watch me do this!”
DOOM reportedly died on Oct. 31, 2020, at age 49. His family and others close to him chose to keep his death from public knowledge until Thursday when his record label, Rhymesayers, posted a statement from his wife to its Instagram page.
“The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for,” DOOM’s wife Jasmine wrote in the post. “Thank you for all the things you have shown, taught and given to me, our children and our family. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive beings and give another chance, not to be so quick to judge and write off. Thank you for showing how not to be afraid to love and be the best person I could ever be.”
Born Daniel Dumile in London on Jan. 9, 1971, DOOM was raised in Long Island, New York. According to the New York Times, he debuted in 1989 on 3rd Bass’ track “The Gas Face.” That feature helped him score a record deal under the name Zev Love X with the rap group KMD. The group—which dropped its first album, Mr. Hood, in 1991—also included DOOM’s brother, Dingilizwe, who performed under the name DJ Subroc. The group was recording its second album, Black Bastards, in 1993 when Subroc was killed in a car accident, after which DOOM disappeared from the rap game for years, according to Rolling Stone. Fortunately, we hadn’t seen the last of the Villain, and in the late ‘90s, he re-emerged at the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe in Manhattan where he performed, unannounced, wearing a stocking over his face—a precursor to what would become his signature mask modeled after the Marvel villain Doctor Doom.
“I wanted to get onstage and orate, without people thinking about the normal things people think about,” DOOM said in a 2009 interview with the New Yorker. “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?”
After returning to hip-hop, DOOM blessed us with an impressive catalog. From the Times:
Over six solo albums released between 1999 and 2009 and five collaborative LPs (with Madlib and Danger Mouse, among others) between 2004 and 2018, Mr. Dumile honed a style that was intricate and imaginative, calling on both esoteric and lowbrow references as well as cartoonish imagery in lyrics that could be poignantly emotional.
In 2004, DOOM dropped two collaborative albums with two legendary producers that cemented his legacy in the hearts of hip-hop heads all over the world: Madvillainy with producer Madlib, and Mm..Food (my personal favorite) with producer Danger Mouse. Seriously, if you can listen to these two albums and deny that DOOM was one of the greatest storytellers in hip-hop, I can only assume that there are aspects of the fine art of emceeing that escapes you.
News of DOOM’s death rattled the rap world and artists from Q-Tip to Tyler the Creator took to Twitter and Instagram to express their mourning of his death and celebration of his life.
R.I.P. to one of hip-hop’s most talented, innovative and daring acts. The cause of his death has not been revealed.