MF DOOM, the British-born rapper and producer known for his masked “super villain” persona, expert rhyming abilities, and fondness for obscure pop culture samples, has died at the age of 49.
DOOM passed away on October 31st, but news of his death was only revealed today in a statement issued by his wife, Jasmine. His cause of death was not disclosed.
“The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for,” Jasmine wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. “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. My world will never be the same without you. Words will never express what you and Malachi mean to me, I love both and adore you always. May THE ALL continue to bless you, our family and the planet.”
MF DOOM, whose real name was Daniel Dumile, was born in London, England on January 9th, 1971, the son of a Trinidadian mother and a Zimbabwean father. At the age of 17, after relocating to Long Island, New York, Daniel (performing under the name Zev Love X) teamed with his younger brother Dingilizwe Dumile (DJ Subroc) to form KMD. The hip-hop group — whose lineup was rounded out by Onyx the Birthstone Kid — experienced moderate success in the early 1990s. They made their debut in a guest capacity on 3rd Bass’ “The Gas Face”, and released their first album, Mr. Hood, in 1991. Tragically, just before releasing their sophomore record, Black Bastards, Subroc was struck by a car and killed.
Following the death of his brother, Dumile relocated to Atlanta and took a three-year respite from music. In 1997, he returned to New York City, this time with a new persona — MF DOOM. Inspired by the Marvel Comics supervillain Doctor Doom, MF DOOM obscured his face by wearing a metal mask and began recording music built around obscure movie and TV samples. His solo debut as MF DOOM, Operation: Doomsday, was released in 1999. Almost entirely self-produced, Doomsday featured verbose bars and intricate rhymes over top elite crate-digger beats, crumbly guitars, and truncated disco samples. Two decade laters, it remains one of the most lauded and influential underground rap albums of all-time.
In the early 2000s, DOOM released a trio of albums under different monikers: Take Me to Your Leader, released in June 2003, was attributed to the alias King Geedorah. Three months later, he returned with the first of two albums as Viktor Vaughn — Vaudeville Villain. Its follow-up, Venomous Villain, arrived a year later.
2004 found DOOM at the height of his powers. He released the second MF DOOM album — Mm..Food — an ambitious concept record which tied together the rapper’s obsessions with food and comic books alongside samples of Frank Zappa, Sade, and 1977’s Fat Albert Halloween Special. Additionally, DOOM teamed up with Madlib for the debut release as Madvillain, the widely-acclaimed Madvillainy. The album heavily sampled comic book and cartoon-centric sounds — including MF DOOM’s own namesake — in portraying DOOM and Madlib as master hip-hop villains, Lyrically, it was among DOOM’s finest performances, as he employed literary devices like multi-syllable and internal rhymes, alliteration, and double entendres.
In 2005, DOOM joined forces with Danger Mouse to form Danger Doom and released an album called The Mouse and the Mask. He also appeared on the Gorillaz Demon Days track, “November Has Come”, and produced several tracks for Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale and More Fish albums.
DOOM’s last proper solo studio album came in 2009 with Born Like This. In the ensuing decade, his output ranged from collaborative projects with Jneiro Jarel, Bishop Nehru, and Westside Gunn to featured guest appearances on singles from Flying Lotus and The Avalanches. Earlier this year, he reunited with Bishop Nehru on “Meathead” and partnered with BADBADNOTGOOD on “The Chocolate Conquistadors”.
Adding to DOOM’s mystique was his disinterest in performing live. He only played a handful of shows over the course of his career, and even went as far to employe stand-ins to appear in place of him — which often got him into hot water with fans.
He nonetheless remains a beloved and influential figure; upon hearing news of his passing, Q-Tip referred to DOOM as “your favorite MC’s MC”. El-P of Run the Jewels called DOOM a “writer’s writer” who “inspired us all and always will.”