Where Dundas West Meets: A Rap Newsletter

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MF DOOM – The Myth, Behind The Mystery, Behind The Man, Behind The Mask

Hello Everyone. It’s 2021, and yet somehow 2020 is still finding its way to dig its fingers into our brains, clawing its way into our memories, showing us it won’t go down without a fight. On New Year’s Eve we all received the tragic and unexpected news that Daniel Dumile, MF DOOM, had passed away on October 31st. Halloween of all days. For a man who lived behind the mask, the irony is uncanny, however it’s amazing to me that he lived his public life behind a mask, but never shied to still be a human in his private life. He was a rapper and a family man and was able to do both without compromising either. His family was able to mourn and grieve and not have to share this information to the world just because some fans may have had a connection with him.

I myself first got into DOOM between the years of 2010-2014, the primary years of my jump into Hip-Hop and Rap. I couldn’t give an exact year but remember vaguely that I listened to both Operation: Doomsday and Madvillain during this time, and became really interested in the song and instrumental for ‘All Caps’ off the latter album. His presence in my music searches were always intriguing because of the way that he found himself in so many things. His multiple alias’ among his own releases, his multitude of collaborations, his sounds and concepts, his general notoriety was just astounding.

DOOM modelled himself and his artist imagery after the Marvel Comics villain Dr. Victor Von Doom, primarily known as the enemy and once friend of the Fantastic 4. The true comedy of this being that in life and death, DOOM has been seen as a hero to hip hop fans everywhere. The mainstream and underground alike both adore him and his writing/rapping skills. From Joey Badass, to Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, The Creator, to lyrical mastermind Lupe Fiasco to even the prolific mainstream rap/pop icon Drake, all have sung their praises in regards to DOOM. I think this speaks to DOOM’s ability to show not just why he matters, but why believing in one’s own art and potential matter. 

I find that DOOM’s mere existence in hip hop and music is a true testament to deciding for yourself what your art is and how you want to go about it. His career is valid, but not because the world says it is, it’s valid because he decided how he went about it regardless of what anyone else thought. Many may wonder why anyone would go through life with a mask on his face, but realistically, he didn’t hide his true feelings ever, he’s the only person who wore a physical mask but lived in his truth everyday unlike most of us, myself included. Maybe it was empowering for him to show his mask, to not pretend there wasn’t one there. 

We trust DOOM, and I say trust and not trusted because I don’t believe our faith in his image and personality will deteriorate overtime. His passing will ground us yes, but his musical philosophy will live on. He wore his mask so that we’d focus on the music he made, and that we did, he succeeded, he believed in himself and his actions and it paid off. Artists like DOOM show us what we can gain from not compromising our beliefs in our abilities and our art, he stood his ground and cemented himself with a legacy as a talented and respected MC and lyricist who could make quality and enjoyable music, and rap with the best of them. Looking at his catalog lately, I’ve found myself really appreciating what he left people with.

On Operation: Doomsday, his debut album, DOOM gives us hard knocking beats over sample heavy production that varies in sound and style, going from the calming and soothing instrumental of ‘Doomsday’, to harder and more rugged sounds of ‘Who Do You Think I Am?,’ loading it with Dr. Doom and Fantastic 4 cartoon samples layered throughout to remind us of who he’s crafted his image after. This continues on his album MM…Food, where his use of sampling and dirty drums give his music a hard hitting and lush sound that mixes and blends so well, that I don’t think man- (as I’m listening to this I’m hearing the instrumental that Joey Badass used for ‘World Domination’ for the first time as DOOM used it and OH MY GOD MY EXICITEMENT ADOFHSOIGHFJKLJ) -y may appreciate if they aren’t accustomed to his style of hip hop. It’s also intriguing hearing him sample newscasts related to food and food colourings like “FD&C Red Number 40.” And Madvillainy, his classic joint project with producer Madlib shows his ability to rap on pretty much anything…the man raps over a looped accordion… A LOOPED, ACCORDION, NOT MANY PEOPLE OUT HERE ARE DOING THAT…HAS ANYONE OUTSIDE OF HIM DONE THAT?!

His voice and sound are his own, when you hear DOOM on a record, you know it’s DOOM, if not for his rapping, then his distinct voice will clue you in on the emcee you’re listening too. rough and dry, it’s like the man has been rapping more than generally talking in his daily life, which after all these years of rapping at his caliber doesn’t sound unbelievable. It’s like that space after you drink lemonade, that dry-ish aftertaste, that grimy sound that made him an underground hip hop prodigy who gained respect by the biggest, best, and brightest of hip hop, for his wit, delivery, passion, and dedication to his craft and skills.

With all his aliases and monikers, you’d think a man like Daniel Dumile wouldn’t know who he is and was just having a career long identity crisis, but no…he knew who he was, better than most people dead or alive and who he wanted to be. Looking past all the alter egos and joint identities, he was and is, a rapper, emcee, performer, producer, friend, family man, and someone for whom we are all eternally grateful. Thank you Daniel, Thank you Dumile, Thank you MF DOOM.

By Anfernee Cadogan