Spinema Issue 52: Metal Face. Media Fanatic. MF, as in DOOM.

MF DOOM wasn’t just a hip-hop genius — he exemplified fandom at its most creative.

On December 31 we learned of the passing of legendary New York hip-hop artist Daniel Dumile — MF DOOM — who had passed away exactly two months prior. It was an unusually delayed announcement in the frenzied world of social media where famous personages are more likely to have their deaths announced prematurely than with a delay. But then MF DOOM, who famously performed in the character of a masked villain, was no stranger to mystery or secrecy.

Dumile hit the scene as a member of the early hip-hop outfit KMD (alongside his brother DJ Subroc who died in 1993, bringing a close to that chapter), but his full persona emerged with his solo career in the late 90s, most notably with the release of his incredible debut LP, Operation: Doomsday.

The heavily sampled music of MF DOOM was immediately unique. Sampling is commonplace in hip-hop, but his utilization of the tool went far beyond pulling an occasional drum rhythm or bassline. His compositions were masterworks of refitment, blurring the lines between original and derivative works. Samples were lifted, mixed and combined, pitchshifted, and adjusted into entirely new compositions, sometimes unrecognizably so. Old sounds fashioned into new sounds.

The utilization of primarily 70s soul, funk, and R&B as the melodic backbone for Dumile’s music gave it distinctly classic footing, while he spit clever raps over the colorful compositions for a sound that was simultaneously nostalgic and contemporary — and distinctly MF DOOM. The incredibly wide and notably deep spectrum of musical acts which he sampled spoke to an obsessively encyclopedic knowledge of music, and not limited to those genres.

But what made MF DOOM so accessible for geeks and cinephiles was his implementation of, and identification with, the popular culture we love — not only music, but also of movies, television, animation, comics, and even video games.


Most notably (and obviously), Dumile patterned his persona after one of Marvel’s greatest villains, Victor Von Doom — aka Doctor Doom. Both names found their way into Dumile’s expanding list of alter egos, as he performed and recorded albums under both “MF DOOM” and “Viktor Vaughn”. Similarly, as a member of the NYC-based Monster Island Czars hip-hop collective, whose projects took inspiration from Godzilla films, he recorded as “King Geedorah”. Later, his collab with Danger Mouse, DANGERDOOM, would revolve around Adult Swim cartoons.

These personas weren’t merely outward projections, but manifestations of a rich appreciation for creative culture. DOOM’s music heavily sampled from cartoons (most notably The Fantastic Four for obvious reasons), but also movies, film scores, TV shows, anime, you name it — from popular fare to deep cuts, across all manner of genres.

Part of the joy of listening to a new MF DOOM album was the burst of pleasure that comes from identifying a sample you recognized — you never knew when you’d suddenly come across the web-swinging music from Spider-Man or the Fat Albert theme, or a stray bit of dialogue pulled from The Twilight Zone, or Hell Up in Harlem, or Fist of the North Star. The reverse worked too, watching something on TV and suddenly realizing “Oh, that’s where that clip came from”.

MF DOOM is rightfully immortalized as amazing producer, genius lyricist, and tremendous rapper with incredible flow.

But I’ll also remember him as one of us — a fan like me.

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