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MF DOOM: A Tribute to the Metal-Faced Man

Evan Piepho

Posted on January 2, 2021 07:14

2 users

Daniel Dumile, best known as MF DOOM, died October 31, 2020. Hip hop will forever miss his inimitable style.

Daniel Dumile knew many names: Zev Love X, King Geedorah (Ghidra), Viktor Vaughn, Metal Fingers, and Metal Face. But his devoted fanbase knew him most often as MF DOOM, or, simply, DOOM. Dumile’s myriad monikers represented different characters in a multiverse of sorts; the masked supervillain, MF DOOM, served as Dumile’s primary pseudonym, but figures like King Geedorah (a kaiju-like space monster) and Viktor Vaughn (a rapper/scientist made refugee from a dimension where hip hop was banned) allowed Dumile to develop a fictional arc wherein his characters could intermingle and thrive. Few emcees possess the creativity and ingenuity to conjure fantastical characters and an alternate universe to accompany them. In this respect, Dumile was rare.

But in the realm of lyricism, Dumile was singular. As an avid listener of hip hop, I feel comfortable saying that few, if anyone, in the genre has ever rhymed like Dumile could, as 2009’s “That’s That” illustrates:

            Already woke, spared a joke, barely spoke, rarely smoke

            Stared at folks when properly provoked, mirror broke

            Here, share strawberry morning, gone an more important spawning

            Torn in, poor men sworn in

            Cornish hens switching positions, auditioning morticians

            Saw it in a vision, ignoring prison

            Ignoramuses enlist and sound dumb

            Found 'em drowned in cow's dung, crowns flung

“That’s That” is the quintessential MF DOOM rhyming tour de force; it is an extraordinary display but somehow not uncommon in Dumile's discography. Yet rhymes are not the only measure of an emcee’s talent: vocabulary, witty punchlines, double entendres, and a compelling underlying message also comprise the elements of a world-class rapper. And Dumile possessed those qualities in spades. I could provide endless links to the objective metrics that describe Dumile’s greatness and song lyrics to demonstrate his exceptional writing chops, but I invite you to discover the quirks of his genius on your own. Madvillainy, a project dropped with collaborator Madlib, is considered by most to be his magnum opus. It is a wonderful place to start.

Finally, I must mention Dumile’s contributions as a producer. Most of his albums were self-produced (with the notable exception of Madvillainy), and they are triumphs in sample-based hip hop production. Dumile often incorporated samples from old superhero television shows to further the narrative of the DOOM universe. If, in exploring Dumile’s music, you find yourself loving the instrumentals you hear, he released a deluxe set of 82 of his best known beats in 2006: Metal Fingers Presents: Special Herbs, The Box Set Vol. 0-9.

Daniel Dumile died on October 31, at age 49. His passing is an incomparable loss to the art of hip hop. DOOM, Vaughn, Geedorah, and all the various cast and crew of Dumile’s world have meant terribly much to me over the years. If you are just discovering the man behind the mask, I hope he provides a spark of joy to you, too. Just remember all caps when you spell the man's name: DOOM.   

 

Evan Piepho

Posted on January 2, 2021 07:14

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