One of hip-most hop’s adored anti-heroes, the constantly innovative MF Doom (commonly just referred to as DOOM, in all caps) won plaudits for both his incisive, direct rhymes and his jagged, sample-heavy production style. The MC/producer born Daniel Dumile, once known as Zev Love X and a member of the brief but significant Golden Age rap trio K.M.D., reemerged at the end of the 1990s with a character and logo modeled after the Marvel Comics super villain Dr. Doom. In addition to occasionally using stand-ins for his performances, he enhanced his mysterious identity by donning an elaborate iron mask during all of his public appearances. His discography was extensive, filled with numerous collaborations, most notably Madvillainy, made with Madlib, plus albums with Danger Mouse and Czarface, as well as instrumental albums and works by alter egos. However, only a small number of proper full-lengths were credited to his most well-known moniker, including Operation: Doomsday (1999), Mm..Food (2004), and Born Like This (2009). Doom, a key character in underground hip-hop, was best known to the general public thanks to his work with the virtual pop group Gorillaz and his appearances on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
Dumile was raised in Long Island, New York after being born in London to a Trinidadian mother and a Zimbabwean father. He and his younger brother, DJ Sub-Roc, co-founded K.M.D. in 1988, and the group made their recorded debut on the smash song “The Gas Face” by the hip-hop group 3rd Bass. K.M.D. signed with Elektra Records, who in 1991 released Mr. Hood, the group’s debut full-length. The album was a moderate success because to the airplay of its tracks on MTV and BET. It was a part of a brief trend of Islamic Five Percent Nation hip-hop releases, along with attempts by groups like Poor Righteous Teachers and K.M.D.’s labelmates Brand Nubian. Sub-Roc was fatally injured in a car accident in 1993, and Elektra decided not to release K.M.D.’s follow-up, the even more militant and serious Bl ck B st rds, an album whose cover art alone (featuring a cartoon character resembling Little Black Sambo being hanged) signaled the end of the group’s contract.
According to his official bio, a reworking of Dr. Doom’s beginnings, Dumile spent five years in hiding while “recovering from his wounds” and swore retribution “against the industry that so brutally damaged him.” Zev Love’s mythology developed as Bl_ck B_st_rds was widely bootlegged in the meantime, but few people first realized that the rapper who started turning up at the Nuyorican Poets
Café in 1997, freestyling while hiding his face with a stocking, was actually Zev. In 1999, the creative MC finally put an end to the mystery when he reappeared under the name MF Doom and made up for lost time with the critically acclaimed album Operation: Doomsday on the independent label Fondle ‘Em Records. The following year saw the long-awaited official release of Bl_ck B_st_rds (complete with Sambo-style cover art), as well as several singles and an EP with fellow rhymer MF Grimm. In 2001, SubVerse re-released Operation: Doomsday and Bl_ck B_st_rds.
Over the years, a ton of bootlegs, compilation appearances, mixtapes, and instrumental albums (including the by DJs adored Special Herbs series) appeared, but no follow-up full-length was released until Doom debuted his alter ego, King Geedorah, in 2003 with Take Me To Your Leader. Vaudeville Villain, credited to another stage name, Viktor Vaughn, came next quickly. His collaboration with the gifted Madlib led to the creation of Madvillain, and their April 2004 release, Madvillainy, received accolades (eventually becoming one of the most acclaimed hip-hop albums of the decade). Viktor Vaughn made his comeback four months later with Venomous Villain, while the second MF Doom album, Mm..Food, was released in November of that same year. Live from Planet X, which had previously only been available as a promo, was released aboveground in March 2005, and Special Herbs, Vols. 9–10 followed in July. By year’s end, The Mouse and the Mask, a project that Doom and Danger Mouse worked on as Danger Doom, was made available on Adult Swim. The album, which included cameos from a number of Adult Swim-affiliated cartoon characters, was a critical and economic success, peaking at number 50 on the Billboard 200.
The rapper changed his stage name to DOOM before releasing his next full-length album, 2009’s Born Like This, and worked with Ghostface and Raekwon, both of whom were featured on the album. By year’s end, he had published Unexpected Guests, a compendium of his guest appearances on other albums. In 2010 came the live album Expektoration and the Gazzillion Ear EP, which featured remixes by MC/producer Jneiro Jarel and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Once his tour was through, Dumile was refused permission to enter the country again, so he relocated to the U.K., where he was born. In 2012, he and Jarel founded JJ DOOM, and their debut album, Key to the Kuffs, included Beth Gibbons of Portishead and Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz as guests. Then, as NehruvianDoom, he worked with Bishop Nehru to release a self-titled album in 2014.
Then DOOM reunited with Madlib for the 2016 single “Avalanche,” as well as appearing as a guest on songs by Kool Keith, the Avalanches, and BadBadNotGood. The Missing Notebook Rhymes, a digital collection of unheard DOOM songs, was set for release in August 2017 according to an announcement from Adult Swim. Over the course of three months, one tune was to be released each week; however, in late September, Adult Swim and DOOM cut ties, and the project was scrapped. Czarface Meets Metal Face, a full-length collaboration between DOOM and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric hip-hop supergroup Czarface, was released by Get On Down in 2018. In addition to DJ Muggs, DOOM collaborated with him on two tracks that were released under the moniker MUGGS X DOOM. Doom promoted songs by artists like Wilma Archer, Bishop Nehru, and Your Old Droog over the course of the following two years. At the age of 49, MF Doom passed away on October 31, 2020; his family opted not to make his demise known to the world until January of the following year.