Rap musician, music producer
Behind a metallic mask that hides his face from the public, underground hip-hop producer and rapper MF Doom has managed to eschew pop culture's fixation with physical attractiveness, and has been able to make adventurous and experimental records that have fans focusing specifically on the music. Coming up from the same scene that birthed acts like 3rd Bass and Brand Nubian, MF Doom has issued countless albums and participated in numerous collaborations under different pseudonyms, and has established a sound and mystique that is heavily influenced by comic books and other sci-fi phenomenon.
The evolution of MF Doom began long before Daniel Dumile (Doom's real name) started producing his own beats and rhymes. As a kid, the London-born, Long Island-raised Dumile was transfixed by the fantasy worlds of comic books and video games. When the Wire.com asked Doom if he was a comic book collector as a kid, Doom said, "Yeah, no doubt. That was the main time. I don't really collect no more but back then? That's the age of Atari. Before video games, comics was the shit. We had comics, then we went right into the video games. Nowadays, kids don't really read no more like they used to. I was into everybody." Soon, through the work of early Long Island act JVC Force, and more well-known acts like Public Enemy, EPMD and De La Soul, Doom started to experiment with recording and demoing raps, and along with his younger brother DJ Subroc and rapper Onyx, he formed the group KMD in the mid-1980s. Calling himself Zev Love X, Doom first surfaced on the 3rd Bass hit "The Gas Face." According to Doom, the idea of the gas face was all him. He told the Wire.com that "We used to joke around a lot. So I came up with the term 'gas face'—it's just that face you make when you shocked or surprised. Like when somebody catches you off guard. (3rd Bass' MC Serch) thought that was funny so we just used it as the title of the song, and wrote three different stories where that would play into."
A few years after that mainstream collaboration, KMD finally issued their debut album for Elektra records, 1991's Mr. Hood. Doom described the album as, "Just really workin' in the crib. The whole album is exactly how it was. Me in my mom's crib; doing beats; cuttin' hair for extra cash; trading records and what not. Fun times, you know? Adolescence—that teenage time." According to the All Music Guide, Mr. Hood "combined lighthearted humor with divisive political rhetoric, but the overall sentiment was one of youthful positivity." The record, however, didn't catch on. In 1993, DJ Subroc was hit by a car and killed, right near the completion of KMD's second album, Black Bastards. The album was never officially released until 2001, because of controversy over the cover art. In a review on the All Music Guide, the racially charged subject matter was deemed "violent."
Following Elektra's decision to shelve Black Bastards, Doom put KMD to rest, and disappeared from the rap game for a good four years. When asked by the Wire what he did from 1994 to 1998, Doom said he spent time raising his son, buying equipment, and putting together a new record on a very small budget. It was also during this break that Doom began to create his numerous alter egos, hatching a plan to keep his face hidden from the public eye. Following a return to the stage, where he rapped behind a stocking mask at New York's Nuyorican Poets Café, the once dubbed Zev Love X began to reinvent himself as the villainous MF (which stands for Metal Face) Doom, based loosely on the origin of Marvel Comics super villain Dr. Doom.
Explaining the character to the Wire, Doom said, "The MF Doom character is really a combination of all villains throughout time. The classic villain with the mask—Phantom of the Opera-style. Of course there's a little twist of Dr. Doom in there, even a little Destro from GI Joe. It's an icon of American culture. I kinda made it a mish-mash of all the villains together, and my last name is Dumile, so everyone used to call me Doom anyway. It's a parody of all the villains."
As an extension of his MF Doom character, Dumile created an iron mask that hid his face. Though occasionally seen as a gimmick, he told the Wire that it is anything but. "It don't matter what we look like, it's just the sound of the music. The mask is the stiffest face—it don't change none, it just got that mean kind of look to it. So you want to look at something? Look at that. It don't matter what I look like, what chain I got on, how I'm dressed, nothing—it's just the microphone and the spitfire."
MF Doom made his recorded debut in 1999 with the album Operation Doomsday. Urbansmarts.com said, "MF Doom comes correct with fresh and witty rhymes, and displays a charismatic presence on the mic that is both entertaining and packs flavor." Following the creation of that album, Doom returned in 2002 with Special Herbs, Vol. 1-2, collecting previously released and hard to find tracks. In 2003, Doom collaborated with RJD2, as well as other numerous producers, and issued Vaudeville Villain under his Viktor Vaughn pseudonym. Given a 9.1 by Pitchforkmedia.com, Vaudeville Villain's storyline "follows the everyday life of super-villain/beat scientist/drug dealer/stick-up kid Vik Vaughn. Not surprisingly, it plays out much like any other Metal Face project: Doom's sick flow is tied to a fractured cadence, a slurry, guttural delivery, obscure pop culture references ("Unfrozen caveman, look over the contracts") and beautifully simple idioms and metaphors. Although best known for his more whimsical material, this album has Doom frequently coming off like Wu without the pretension, branching out into more evolved song structures (choruses!) and unusually focused topical and narrative tracks." 2003 also saw another one of Doom's alter egos appear, in the form of King Geedorah and the Take Me to Your Leader album, released by Big Dada/Ninja Tune. Doom quickly turned around three separate Special Herbs volumes in 2003 and 2004, before issuing another Viktor Vaughn joint, titled VV2: Venomous Villain. David Jeffries of the All Music Guide said, "Doom often creates his own beats and he's come off as a mad scientist before, but never has the producer/rapper one-two punch worked so well, creating an album that's fully thought out."
2004 would prove to be a huge year for Doom. After his second Viktor Vaughn disc, Doom teamed up with producer Madlib, and issued the hugely successful Madvillainy (on the label Stones Throw) under the name Madvillain. Spelendidezine.com said the collaboration is "easily one of the best pieces of work of both participants' careers and a mark of the incredible talent both possess. With an album as fantastic as Madvillainy, MF Doom and Madlib have set the bar high for hip-hop in 2004." Popmatters.com said, "Madvillainy is a jewel-encrusted treasure of an album. It's only 45 minutes long but there's more than enough here to please the most jaded audiophile. You can spend hours poring over the lyric sheet and attempting to grok Doom's infinitely dense verbiage, or you can ignore the words and just groove to the endlessly pleasing thrill of the skewered analog that pops and hisses throughout the album like a living, breathing organism." If that wasn't enough, the MF Doom persona finally made a triumphant return on MM..Food?, issued by Rhymesayers in November of 2004. Dustedmagazine.com's Josh Drimmer said, "When MF Doom takes the time to plot and scheme it, no idea is too outlandish, no beat too unorthodox, and much of MM…Food? is the work of a master chef cooking up some marvelous shit." In 2005 Nature sounds released a live Doom offering, Live From Planet X. In late 2005, Doom collaborated with producer Danger Mouse on the Epitaph album Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask.
Operation Doomsday, Fondle 'em, 1999.
Special Herbs, Vol.1&2, High Times, 2002.
Vaudeville Villain, Sound-Ink, 2003.
Special Herbs, Vol.3&4, Nature Sounds, 2003.
Special Herbs, Vol.5&6, Nature Sounds, 2004.
Venomous Villain, Insomniac, 2004.
MM..Food?, Rhymesayers, 2004.
(With Madlib; as Madvillain) Madvilliany, Stones Throw, 2004.
Live from Planet X, Nature Sounds, 2005.
(With Danger Mouse) Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask, Epitaph, 2005.
For the Record …
Born Daniel Dumile in early 1970s, in London, England; children: two.
Formed rap group KMD, 1980s; with KMD, released Mr. Hood, 1991; KMD disbanded after death of DJ Subroc, 1993; stopped rapping, 1994-98; released solo album Operation Doomsday, 1999; as Viktor Vaughn, released Vaudeville Villain, 2003; collaborated with Madlib on Madvilliany, 2004; released MM..Food? on Rhymesayers, 2004.
Entertainment Weekly, July 18, 2003; December 3, 2004. Remix, March 1, 2005.
"Dusted Review: MM..Food?," Dusted Magazine,http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/1884 (June 20, 2005).
"Madvillainy," Delusions of Adequacy, http://www.adequacy.net/reviews/m/madvillain.shtml (June 20, 2005).
"Madvillainy Review," PopMatters.com, http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/m/madvillain-madvillainy.shtml (June 20, 2005).
"MF Doom," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 20, 2005).
"MF Doom," Stones Throw Records, http://www.stonesthrow.com/madvillain/mfdoom-discography.html (June 20, 2005).
"MF Doom: Let the Battle Commence," The Wire,http://www.thewire.co.uk/web/unpublished/mf_doom.html (June 20, 2005).
"Operation: Doomsday," UrbanSmarts.com, http://www.urbansmarts.com/reviews/albums/mfdoom.html (June 20, 2005).
"Viktor Vaughn: Vaudeville Villain," Pitchforkmedia.com, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/v/vaughn_viktor/vaudeville-villain.shtml (June 20, 2005).
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