Hip-hop has lost one of its finest artists to ever touch the mic and an MPC. Daniel Dumile, better known by his stage name MF DOOM, passed away on October 31, 2020, at the age of 49.
Dumile, who performed in a metal face mask, was a child of the Golden Era and a master of his craft. A hero of underground rap, he was known for his densely constructed, genius rhyme schemes and his raw, elliptical lines. In his obituary for The Guardian, Stevie Chick writes: “In a genre where ego was all, Dumile remained laid back but still dominated as he broke tempos and rules. His lines dripped black humour and stoner-friendly cultural references, but the mind assembling them was wicked sharp, stacking up multiple rhymes like Super Mario power-ups, and fond of meta-textual intrigue.”
The name MF DOOM will always be inextricably linked with “Madvillainy”, the legendary album he released in 2004 together with producer Madlib, who contributed the beats and samples creating the perfect sound for DOOM’s rhymes. Sasha Frere-Jones (the older brother of type designer Tobias Frere-Jones) attests DOOM in a review in The New Yorker that he “takes a deep pleasure in words: alliteration, internal rhymes, and pure sound. The point of ‘Madvillainy’ is largely poetic—celebrating the language of music and the music of language.”
Daniel Dumile was a writer's writer and a deeply committed artist. At a time when the world was listening to the popular hip-hop tracks of Bad Boy Records, Aftermath, and Def Jam, Dumile put on a mask so that people would focus on the lyrical content and the stories he wanted to tell. He stayed true to himself and his practice and inspired a generation of artists with his dedication and ingenuity. Creators of all disciplines could use some of that today.
Rest in power, MF DOOM. You will be missed.
If you want to learn more about the life and work of Daniel Dumile, here you go:
- The Mask of Doom, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- MF DOOM, Masked Mythmaker, by Will Gottsegen
- MF DOOM - Interview with the Masked Villain | Red Bull Music Academy Lecture
- MF DOOM - The Man Behind The Mask Documentary