Published Dec 31, 2020MF DOOM — the iconic masked rapper and producer born Daniel Dumile — has died. DOOM's family confirmed the artist passed away October 31, 2020, in a statement shared today through his social channels, though a cause of death was not revealed. He was 49.
"The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for," Dumile's wife Jasmine wrote. "Thank you for all the things you have shown, taught and given to me, our children and our family. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive beings and give another chance, not to be so quick to judge and write off. Thank you for showing how not to be afraid to love and be the best person I could ever be."
Born in London, UK, to a Trinidadian mother and a Zimbabwean father in 1971, Dumile would begin his career as a member of New York trio KMD, performing and producing as Zev Love X. Alongside younger brother DJ Subroc and Onyx the Birthstone Kid, the trio would make their recorded debut with a feature spot on 3rd Bass single "The Gas Face," ahead of signing with Elektra Records for 1991's debut full-length Mr. Hood.
KMD recorded sophomore follow-up Black Bastards in 1993, though before its release, Subroc was killed in a car accident. Following Subroc's death, Elektra would shelve Black Bastards due to its controversial cover art, leading Dumile to disappear from hip-hop for a period of years.
The artist would reappear in 1997, performing at open-mic events at Manhattan's Nuyorican Poets Café with a stocking covering his face. Disguise and anonymity — which Dumile would later achieve through wearing the metal mask seen above — would prove crucial to the development of MF DOOM, a character modelled after metal-faced Marvel Comics supervillain Doctor Doom with a back story that would be explored through his albums.
Of his decision to wear the mask, Dumile would explain in a 2009 New Yorker interview, "I wanted to get onstage and orate, without people thinking about the normal things people think about. Like girls being like, 'Oh, he's sexy,' or 'I don't want him, he's ugly,' and then other dudes sizing you up. A visual always brings a first impression. But if there's going to be a first impression I might as well use it to control the story. So why not do something like throw a mask on?"
Dumile had also been known to hire stand-ins to lip sync entire shows on his behalf. "I'm the writer, I'm the director," Dumile would tell the New Yorker in 2009. "If I was to go out there without the mask on, they'd be like, 'Who the fuck is this?'...I might send a white dude next...I might send the Blue Man Group."
Dumile would make his debut as MF DOOM with 1999's Operation: Doomsday, on which he produced all but one track as Metal Fingers. More monikers would appear in the years to come: 2003 saw him release Take Me To Your Leader as King Geedorah, and Vaudeville Villain as Viktor Vaughn. Between 2001 and 2005, Dumile would collect his Metal Fingers instrumentals for the Special Herbs release series.
In 2004, Dumile would release the collaborative Madvillainy with Madlib, an LP that plays to their respective strengths in beats and bars that remains the former's most iconic release. That same year, he would release Venomous Villain as Viktor Vaughn, which was followed by fifth studio album Mm..Food. Another collaborative album with Danger Mouse, The Mouse and the Mask, would arrive in 2005, while Dumile's final solo album as MF DOOM, Born Like This, saw release in 2009.
Collaboration would dominate Dumile's output over the next decade, beginning with 2012's Key to the Kuffs, made with producer Jneiro Jarel as JJ Doom. In 2014, he would release NehruvianDoom with young mentee Bishop Nehru, and would join forces with Czarface for Czarface Meets Metal Face in 2018.
Across his career, Dumile also worked with Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Gorillaz, Talib Kweli, Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, Moka Only, Jake One, J Dilla, Oh No, Cannibal Ox, the Avalanches, Atmosphere, Kool Keith, Your Old Droog and many more.
Earlier this month, DOOM collaborated with Flying Lotus and Canadians BADBADNOTGOOD on two new songs for Grand Theft Auto V's in-game radio. Fans and contemporaries including Q-Tip, El-P, Cadence Weapon and more paid tribute to the late artist upon the news of his passing.