MF Doom, one of US hip-hop’s most distinctive and respected MCs and producers, has died aged 49.
His wife Jasmine posted on his Instagram account:
The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for. 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. My world will never be the same without you. Words will never express what you and Malachi mean to me, I love both and adore you always. May THE ALL continue to bless you, our family and the planet.
Her post indicated he died on 31 October. The cause of death was not announced.
MF Doom, AKA Daniel Dumile, was born in London in 1971, moving to New York as a child. He had a first flush of success in the early 1990s with the group KMD, signing to major label Elektra Records, but his burgeoning career collapsed with the death of his brother and bandmate DJ Subroc in 1993.
Following an itinerant few years living, in his words, “damn near homeless”, he returned to music in 1997 and adopted his now-iconic look, a mask similar to Marvel villain Dr Doom which he wore in public ever since; the cover of his debut album that year, Operation Doomsday, depicted him as the comic book character. He later adapted the mask to one worn by a character in the film Gladiator.
His most lauded era came in the early noughties, beginning with Take Me To Your Leader under the alias King Geedorah, which again plundered pop culture for samples and moods. He used another alias, Viktor Vaughn, before returning to MF Doom for second album Mm.. Food.
He explained his populous creative universe in 2011, saying: “The idea of having one different character all the time, to me, makes – to me – the story boring. I get that mainly from novels, that style of writing, or movies, where there’s multiple characters who carry the storyline.” He even populated the stage with different versions of himself – he was criticised for using a masked stand-in at some concerts, but argued: “Whoever plays the character plays the character.”
In 2004 he created what is widely regarded as his masterpiece album: Madvillainy, made with cratedigging producer Madlib, a dense, heady, soulful triumph of charismatic lyricism and brilliant sampling, and regarded by many music publications as one of the great albums of the decade.
Profile raised, MF Doom embarked on further starry collaborations, including with Danger Mouse on The Mouse and the Mask, and Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah, producing tracks for his albums Fishscale and More Fish and rapping together on tracks including Angelz. Other partnerships would come with leftfield hip-hop figures like Czarface and Jneiro Jarel, plus Flying Lotus, the Avalanches, and more. He was remixed by Thom Yorke, and later collaborated with Yorke and Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood on a track called Retarded Fren.
In 2017, Dumile’s son Malachi Ezekiel died aged 14. Dumile paid tribute on Instagram, calling him “the greatest son one could ask for. Safe journey and may all our ancestors greet you with open arms. One of our greatest inspirations. Thank you for allowing us to be your parents. Love you, Mali.”
El-P, Ty Dolla $ign and Tyler, the Creator were among the artists paying tribute to MF Doom on Twitter. Flying Lotus said “my soul is crushed”, and added that the pair had been working on an EP together. Hip-hop radio DJ Peter Rosenberg called him “one of the most influential, unique and brilliant MCs of all time”.
Acclaimed rap producer Kenny Beats wrote: “I heard that some authors rewrote entire novels by the greats just to see how it felt. Denzel [Curry] and I made Unlocked talking about Doom every single day just trying to channel an ounce of the feeling.”