The rap visionary – one of the greatest MCs in the game – MF Doom has died. He was just 49. He passed away on October 31, his family grieving him in private before announcing the news just as 2021 started. Sad news for many of us waking up to a new year. In fact a very classy way for a family to mourn in private, to cope as best as can be with the bereavement while keeping the noise at bay. Sad news delivered belatedly.
MF Doom was one of my favourite rap vocalists; one of my favourites in hip-hop and in a lot of his work I believe he transcended the genre. Example: Madvillainy, the debut album by “Madvillain” a super-duo comprised of Doom and the producer Madlib is a cut’n’paste masterpiece that can be enjoyed as musical poetry, a new soul or jazz album as much as it is anything connected to rap. It’s simply great music for fans of great music – and one of my all time favourite records by anyone.
Doom, born Daniel Dumile, started his career in the late 80s and his first real success was in the early 90s as part of the group KMD. I would go back to learn about them after Doom’s real success – a run of stunning albums throughout the early/mid 00s. There were collaborations with Madlib and Dangermouse and there were solo albums. For a time it was a blur of brilliance – and to me the albums Madvillainy, MM..Food and The Mouse And The Mask (credited as Danger Doom – MF and Dangermouse) is an astonishing runof records; a trio of albums showcasing different sides and feels – but through a consistent voice and all in just a couple of years. I’m not sure anyone was better at the time. And to this day these albums are the ones I reach for as a way back in to hip-hop in general. If ever I’m feeling disconnected from the genre these are the albums that will take me right back.
There were other moments and albums – 2009’s Born Like This is superb and as late as 2018 another brilliant collaboration, Czarface Meets Metal Face still stands up to me as a towering achievement; another favourite.
Doom’s face hidden, morphing into the Marvel-inspired mask that he always wore, was part of the mystique, sure. It made a character for the words and beats to live inside – but the gimmick was forever transcended when you heard the work. And Doom turned up to do the work. Cameos, collaborations, DJing and production work as well as his awe-inspiring turns at the mic. To me he was so often a wizard.
And his lyrics – great spins, so funny, but complicated and surprising rhymes, deft wordplays…it is everything that makes hip-hop great as far as I’m concerned. And showcases the poetry of rap, the poetry in rap.
The saddest news here is for the family, his friends, those that knew him. But fans are now grieving. To me he was one of the absolute greatest. One of my favourites from the genre, and in fact from any genre – the very best of his music both embodying hip-hop and breaking down any barriers that the closed-minded and scared try to hide behind.
R.I.P. MF Doom