Opinion: MF DOOM’s presence still looms large
New York rapper Daniel Dumile, aka MF DOOM, is one of the
greatest and most influential hip hop artists of all time. MF
DOOM tragically passed away on Oct. 31, 2020, at the age of 49.
Despite his passing, his presence and musical influence are still
felt in pop culture to this day.
Daniel Dumile originally went by the stage-name Zev Love X. He was a part of the rap group KMD with his younger brother Dingilizwe Dumile, who went by the name DJ Subroc. Dingilizwe tragically passed away in 1993 at the age of 19 after being hit by a car, and KMD was dropped by their record label, Elektra Records. After this, both Daniel Dumile and the character of Zev Love X disappeared from the hip hop scene until 1997 when Daniel Dumile returned under the name MF DOOM.
The character of MF DOOM is based on a variety of popular characters such as Destro (G.I. Joe), the Phantom of the Opera, and most notably the super villain Dr. Doom (Marvel Comics). Dumile uses the villainous nature of the MF DOOM character to level his grievances against the hip hop and music industry as well as place himself in a position to go against the norm.
Most songs and albums released under the MF DOOM character tend to focus on themes of revenge, betrayal, and tend to show DOOM going against the rest of the world; he opposes normality and societal norms. Because of this, DOOM can often feel almost cartoonishly villainous but that fits his character and actually adds to the persona.
The first album released by MF DOOM is “Operation: Doomsday” in 1999, which serves as a grand introduction to DOOM’s character, where his goals, plans, and style are established. This album essentially functions as DOOM’s evil villain monologue. “Operation Doomsday” is a fun and interesting album that provides a great introduction to the DOOM character, as well as DOOM’s unique sound.
After “Operation: Doomsday,” Dumile created a new character, King Geedorah, based on the character of King Ghidorah from the Godzilla franchise. Introduced in the album “Take Me to Your Leader” 2003, King Geedorah is a rather strange character in the universe Dumile created. Geedorah is a massive three headed dragon from outer space whose thoughts and observations on the human race are illustrated in the album.
Due to the subject matter and characters, “Take Me to Your Leader,” can feel somewhat unusual at times, but this adds to the album’s distinct sci-fi vibe that stands out among DOOM’s other works.
The final character added into Dumile’s assortment of characters was Viktor Vaughn, a young brash hotshot that’s supposed to represent a younger version of DOOM. Viktor Vaughn was first introduced as a young, overconfident up and comer in the album “Vaudeville Villain.”
The songs created under the Viktor Vaughn persona have a scrappier feeling and the lyrics come across as very self assured and full of ambition. Lyrically, this is one of DOOM’s best albums and features many clever bars and references that make this album an absolute joy to listen to. The beats on this album are very strange and unorthodox, but despite that, DOOM still sounds very comfortable when rapping over them. This change in tone and style was Dumiles’ attempt to create something that more closely resembled what younger rappers were doing at the time.
After these albums, Dumile returned to the MF DOOM character with the albums “Madvillainy,” “MM..FOOD,” and “Born Like This.” These albums expand DOOM’s story and the character of MF DOOM, as each album shows a change in Dumile’s overall style with each change feeling like the natural progression of the character.
“Madvillainy,” 2004 released in collaboration with producer mad-lib, was the first DOOM focused album since the release of “Operation: Doomsday” features DOOM in a much more villainous and self assured role; a reflection of Dumile’s real-life success. The album is very thematically consistent and provides an amazing front to back listening experience that many DOOM albums are known for.
After the release of “Madvillainy” came “MM..FOOD,” 2004, which is arguably one of Dumile’s most creative albums because it brings the MF DOOM character back to its roots. The album is very reminiscent of an old superhero cartoon and pays homage to the inspirations for the MF DOOM character. The album also features incredible sampling and production by DOOM, and each beat fits his lyrics and style like a glove.
The last major progression of the MF DOOM character comes in the release of the album “Born Like This,” 2009. This album creates a very gritty and dark sound that hasn’t featured very prominently in DOOM’s prior albums. Lyrically, the album focuses on darker themes while keeping the clever lyrics and references that DOOM is known for.
After the release of “Born Like This” Dumile receded from the spotlight. Dumile was still releasing projects; however, he had decided to focus more on collaborative projects and his role as a producer.
MF DOOM is often seen as one of the best musical artists in the past few decades, and for good reason. DOOM’s experimental style and talent with words helped to cement him as one of the all time greats who has and will continue to influence hip hop as a genre as well as pop culture in general. Even in death, his work continues to be relevant, influencing and inspiring for others.