A Tribute To the Illest Villain
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Daniel Dumile was a man of many monikers. He was a secretive man, who used a plethora of pseudonyms and his iconic mask, to obscure his real life. By concealing himself, he shifted focus to his music. With complete control of his image, he could be whatever he wanted to be. With his newfound powers, Dumile became MF DOOM, hip-hop’s supervillain, and one of the most influential rappers of all time.
Dumile’s career began in the late ‘80s, when he formed a rap group called KMD with his brother and a few other rappers from Long Island, where he lived. When his brother was fatally hit by a car on the Nassau Expressway in 1993, Dumile withdrew from the rap scene in shock for four years. Once he returned, he played gigs around the city, experimenting with personas inspired by his childhood obsession with comic books. On his 1999 debut, “Operation Doomsday,” MF DOOM was brought to life. Sporting a villainous metal mask, a deep, husky voice, and unparalleled rhymes and wordplay, MF DOOM was established as one of the most refreshing up-and-comers in underground hip-hop. Throughout the next five years, Dumile dropped a handful of excellent projects under various monikers. “Take Me To Your Leader” (2003) sees Dumile’s production at its airiest and ramps up the use of colorful, cartoony samples that would later populate his most iconic work. “Vaudeville Villain” (2003) is his grittiest and most straightforward project. He exchanges most of the runtime devoted to character building on his previous projects for dense flows and dark production.
Dumile had one of the most impressive years in hip-hop history in 2004. With the release of both “Mm.. Food” and “Madvillainy,” he cemented himself as one of the greatest rappers of all time. “Mm.. Food” is a series of light-hearted, catchy, quotable, food-themed tracks that has captured the hearts of many. Fan favorites such as “Hoe Cakes,” “One Beer,” and “Beef Rap” land on the project, and almost every track is of comparable quality. It’s one of the most fun rap albums of the 2000s; it’s dense, creative, and one of a kind. On the other hand, Dumile’s influential collaboration with the unparalleled producer Madlib,“Madvillainy” is a return to Dumile’s darkness and widely regarded as the greatest abstract hip-hop album of all time. His cartoony persona is in peak form, as he raps about his fictitious evil doings in the third person. “Meat Grinder” and “Fancy Clown” are some of the best character portraits in hip-hop’s history, and they’re textured with some of the most captivating production since GZA’s “Liquid Swords” (1995). Madlib’s sample flips and percussive flair are near unrivaled within hip-hop, and Madvillain is at its peak. Each beat is its own woozy, stoned out, instantly recognizable world for DOOM to explore. From the dreamy drone of “Accordion” to the slinking lounge guitars of “Curls,” to the bouncy chop on “Figaro,” each beat is full of personality. The cartoon samples are expertly manipulated to form an entertaining subnarrative, and the accompanying side effects further bolster the comic book aesthetic. It’s a near flawless project and an essential member of the hip-hop canon.
Naturally, with such a high quality discography, Dumile was bound to make an impact on future artists. Members of the Odd Future collective, such as Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt have called DOOM their favorite rapper of all time, and it shows in their music. Both of their voices and flows are reminiscent of Dumile’s, and Earl’s work prior to “Solace” (2015) has a DOOM feel to the rhyme schemes. Other notable artists with a DOOM obsession include Logic, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, and surprisingly, Drake. In fact, early in his career, Drake released a remix of “Accordion,” titled “The Grind” featuring Nickelus F. Each of these rappers has gone on to be influential in their own right. There’s a good chance your favorite rapper wouldn’t sound the way they do without the impact of Dumile.
Despite Dumile’s influence, he remains largely unknown to the general public. His name is relegated to fan discussions, but within said discourse he has amassed quite the reputation. It isn’t infrequently that he is compared to such legends as JAY-Z, Kanye West, Tupac, Nas, and The Notorious B.I.G.. In the wake of his death, it seems all the more necessary to examine the mark he made. Though Dumile died in October 2020, it was only announced just a few hours before the ball dropped in Times Square in 2021, shocking the entire hip-hop community. Rappers and producers sent their condolences and shared their dismay in mass. Rest in peace to Dumile, a legend and an inspiration to all that knew him.
“Livin’ off borrowed time, the clock tick faster.” —MF DOOM