In a way that only a year like 2020 could do, the tragedy-laden year ended with one last piece of bad news. On December 31st, 2020, the wife of rapper MF DOOM announced that her husband had passed away two months prior. MF DOOM, born Daniel Dumile, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic personalities in hip-hop.
He achieved widespread popularity in the underground hip-hop scene with his complex wordplay and signature mask that would come to be the defining symbol of the MF DOOM brand and legacy.
Announced in a heartfelt Instagram post penned by Dumile’s wife, the rapper’s death was met with waves of sympathy, mourning, and praise from fellow musicians for Dumile’s incomparable style. Renowned artists like Questlove, Tyler, the Creator, and Thom Yorke all paid tribute to MF DOOM’s innovation and influence.
The Zev Love X and KMD Era
Born in London and moving to Long Island, New York, as a child, Dumile’s career in music got off to an early start as a member of the hip-hop group KMD, in which Dumile went by the stage name Zev Love X. Dumile performed in KMD alongside his brother, DJ Subroc, whose untimely death in 1993 led to the disbanding of the group.
Having attained some level of underground fame in KMD with the critical acclaim of the group’s debut album Mr. Hood, Dumile vanished from the public eye for several years until he returned to the stage in the late 1990s at open mic nights in New York City.
Dumile’s return to music was marked by anonymity, as he performed unannounced and concealed his face under the metal mask that would quickly become his calling card.
The mask, inspired by the Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom, turned a desire to avoid the public eye into a new persona, and MF DOOM rose from the ashes of Zev Love X. Operation: Doomsday, Dumile’s debut album as MF DOOM, was released in 1999 and marked the start of Dumile’s career as an eccentric genius solo artist.
The Rise of MF DOOM
Over the course of the 2000s, MF DOOM released a steady stream of solo studio albums and collaborative projects that solidified his status as a hip-hop mastermind. Among MF DOOM’s impressive discography is 2004’s MM…FOOD, that put Dumile’s mind-bending storytelling prowess on display for the world, and Madvillainy, his critically acclaimed collaboration with producer Madlib that has since been cited as a career-best work for Dumile and a landmark album for hip-hop as a genre.
Dumile’s solo work as MF DOOM came to a close with his 2009 album Born Like This, but the music kept coming with various collaborative albums that were released well into the 2010s, including projects with the likes of Jneiro Jarel, Bishop Nehru, and Czarface.
Like so many musical artists, Dumile’s popularity among younger generations was bolstered by TikTok. His music as MF DOOM (most notably the song “Rapp Snitch Knishes feat. Mr. Fantastik”) came to be highly popular TikTok audios that large portions of the Generation Z population could likely recognize and appreciate right away.
In the wake of his death Dumile leaves behind a legacy of innovation and inspiration. The calculated stream-of-consciousness style of his lyricism, the musical genre blending that occurs so uniquely in each individual song, and his ability to maintain a charismatic and awe-inspiring persona from behind a mask all put him in a league of his own, a revered status only elevated by his tragic passing. Dumile’s influence on young rappers of his own time and many more future rappers to come will no doubt carry the legacy of MF DOOM to music immortality.