MF Doom, Wordsmith Extraordinaire, Dead at 49

Masked rapper was known for his complex lyrics
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 1, 2021 7:25 AM CST

MF Doom, a masked rapper who awed hip-hop fans and fellow musicians with intricate wordplay, has died. He was 49. The British-born rapper rarely appeared in public in recent years without his signature mask, modeled after the Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom, reports the AP. His death was confirmed Thursday by Doom’s representative, Richie Abbott. Jasmine Dumile said in a statement that her husband—whose real name is Daniel Dumile—died Oct. 31. The cause of death has not been released. Jasmine Dumile posted a photo of the rapper and a heartfelt message on his Instagram page. She called him the "greatest husband" and father and thanked him for showing her how not to be "afraid to love. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive beings and give another chance, not to be so quick to judge and write off." More:

  • Dumile was born in London and raised in New York. He began his rap career in the late 1980s under the name Zev Love X as part of the group KMD, which included his younger brother DJ Subroc. The group released two albums: Mr. Hood in 1991 and Black Bastards two years later. Subroc died shortly before the release of the second album.
  • Dumile took a step back from the public eye, then returned in the late 1990s under his MF Doom persona. In 1999, he released his self-produced debut album Operation: Doomsday. Dumile released six studio albums under different stage names, including King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn. He collaborated with producer Madlib on the 2004 album Madvillainy, which was considered his most celebrated release.
  • Music industry executive Dante Ross, who signed KMD to its first record deal, said Dumile's "life force was a metaphor for black men in this world. You took all the (bad things) sent your way and created beautiful art with it. Tragedy was your fuel for reinvention."
  • Behind the theatrics of the mask was a technically proficient lyricist. With a monotone delivery that concealed deceptively complex lyrics and rhyme schemes, Doom evolved into a wordsmith that hip-hop’s top lyricists deeply admired. Each verse could require multiple listens to decipher the hidden or multiple meanings of words.
  • In an interview last year with Spin magazine, Dumile compared his songwriting to achieving "triple word scores" in Scrabble. "How many words repeat in a bar, or two bars? How many syllables can you use that still make sense in a song? ... How many references can you cross and still stay on topic? And still rhyme? The more complex the subject matter and wordplay is, that’s where you get your points. I’m a rhymer, so I go for points."
(More obituary stories.)

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