The Panther Knows Best: A Tribute to MF DOOM, “The Illest Villain”


Michael Angee, Design Editor

A rapper that many in the hip hop and rap communities regard as one of the most influential rappers of all time, Daniel Dumile, also known as MF DOOM, has passed away. The rapper was known for his iconic mask, wordplay and unique production. Dumille would have turned 50 on Jan. 9. 

The MF in MF DOOM stands for Metal Face or Metal Fingers when producing. 

Dumile died on Oct. 31, but the news of his unfortunate passing did not break until New Year’s Eve. 

Many fans of the elusive rapper learned the news from an Instagram post made by Dumile’s wife on Dec. 31, 2020. 

Shocked, many could not believe the news and at first questioned the post. The realization really sank in when many news sources began to cover the passing, and rappers and fans alike showed their respect for DOOM over social media. 

Dumile started his rap career in the rap trio, Kausing Much Damage, which included his brother DJ Subroc. At the time of KMD, lasting from 1988 to 1993, Dumile went by the name Zev Love X. Subroc unfortunately lost his life while attempting to cross the 878 Nassau Expressway in New York on Apr. 23, 1993, just before completing the group’s final album, “Black Bastards.”

After cancelling the final project, the group’s label unexpectedly dropped them. Dumile left the New York hip-hop scene until he re-emerged as MF DOOM in 1997. 

The death of DOOM’s brother prompted a compelling source for his new villain persona. The first solo project under the MF DOOM pseudonym, “Operation: Doomsday,” released Apr. 20, 1999, received a generally great response from fans and critics alike. 

One of DOOM most personal lines occurred on the title track of the debut album. 

Dumile wrote this while in the Baltimore County Detention Center, the first instance of DOOM writing how and where he wrote a rhyme. 

The MF DOOM character did not define Dumile, as he used multiple personas. Others included King Geedorah and Victor Vaughn, all inspired by comic books. The Marvel villain Doctor Doom had a large influence on the MC’s persona as the mask and many of the clips used in his songs are from the Spider-Man and Fantastic 4 animated TV shows. 

His monstrous run of a career continued in 2003 with the King Geedorah project, “Take Me To Your Leader.” Dumile received credit as a producer as most of the tracks contain features from other rappers at the time. Tracks of instrumentals and sound clips from television shows show up on this album as well as the majority of Dumile’s discography.    

In 2004, with his infant son and wife at home, Dumile would create two of his most innovative projects. MM..FOOD and Madvilliany, the latter a collaboration with producer Madlib. 

A master at storytelling, Dumile showcased his ability to create stories from simple topics such as food on his project, “MM..FOOD.” All of the tracks contain words relating to the kitchen including Gumbo, Beef Rap and Deep Fried Frenz. One of the details from the introduction of the album, Beef Rap, included the illusion to the MC’s previous project, “Operation: Doomsday”.             

Madvillainy, a 2004 collaboration album from MF DOOM and producer Madlib, created the rap duo “Madvillain,” the first of numerous collaboration albums from Dumile. Madvilliany, considered one of the best and most complete hip-hop albums of all time, contains rhyme schemes and production complexes that are thought provoking and extremely impressive. The versatility from tracks like Accordion to Raid to the iconic All Caps, show the unmatched talent and work ethic of the producer-MC duo.    

The significance of All Caps, in Dumile’s career is represented through his most quoted lyric, “Just remember all caps when you spell the man name.” The lyric alludes to the Fantastic 4 comics that always spells out Dr. DOOM’s name in all caps.

DOOM released the “Special Herbs” series from 2003 to 2006 which showcases his innovative production containing sounds of jazz and Boom Bap rap. 

DOOM created a world of his own through his characters and lived his life as privately as he wished. He wore the mask in order to sell the music rather than the look of the artist. 

The mystic of Dumile compelled listeners as the villain persona connected with his fans. With the MF DOOM character, the MC could be the villain rather than giving into the expectations of acting like the “good guy.” 

In 2009, DOOM released the album “BORN LIKE THIS” which contains tracks such as GAZZILLION EAR featuring the legendary J Dilla and THAT’S THAT which contains commentary on the military and what many consider one of his most substantial and dense tracks. 

Albums such as “THE MOUSE & THE MASK” and “Czarface Meets Metal Face” showcase the power of collaboration and the importance of it within Dumile’s discography.  

Tragedy tainted Dumile’s career when his son died in 2017 at only 14 years old.

The MC’s extensive career and influential status garnered the nickname “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper,” which in many cases is true. Rappers such as Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt credit Dumile as one of their favorite artists. 

Despite Dumile’s private approach to fame, fans understood the legendary rapper through his storytelling and dense production. Safe travels to the illest villain.