The term ”pioneer” is defined as ‘to develop or be the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity)’. Only a select few rappers fully encapsulate this term, but in the 00’s, perhaps none represent being a pioneer better than MF Doom. Real name Daniel Dumile, he is known to the World as a New York native but surprisingly he was actually born in London, England. Not that you’d know it when you listen to his raps, Doom spits with a distinctive Long Island accent that compliments his raw and gritty vocals.
Dumile began his career as ”Zev Love X” with the formation of his group K.M.D. in 1988, they made their first appearance as guests on 3rd Bass’s hit single “The Gas Face”. This would mark the only time MTV would support his music, a sad indictment of MTV’s ultimately backwards relationship with hip-hop. The video featured household names such as Flavor Flav and Salt-n-Pepa, which no doubt helped gain them exposure.
Having made these connections, K.M.D. held every hope that they too could reach a level of notoriety and fame. Their debut album came in 1991, titled “Mr. Hood”, it was no doubt inspired by the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. The concept behind much of the music sought to address serious themes relating to death, oppression and racism in a humorous and often ironic fashion. It was their irreverence to political correctness which was key to their local success but also shut many doors for the group on a larger scale. Two years after their debut, K.M.D. were waiting to release “Black Bastards”, an album that was darker and more controversial than anything they’d done before.
Tragically, Doom’s brother and fellow group member DJ Subroc died in a traffic accident just prior to the group being dropped from their label. Elektra Records were worried about the controversial cover and content of the groups lyrics. This quick fire double blow brought an end to K.M.D. Yet, it was also this sad period of time which marked the first phase of Dumiles transition from Zev Love X to MF Doom. Interestingly MF Grimm appears on a track called “What A Nigga Know? (Remix)” an outtake that only came to light in 2001, when the album was re-released as a collectors piece.
Dumile was very much influenced by MF Grimm and after disappearing completely from the industry he re-emerged in the late 90’s with a new masked persona. His face would never be seen again and an iconic artist was born. The mask wasn’t so much a gimmick but a reflection of his experiences and new out look on life. He was bitter at the industry because of it’s ruthlessness and was keen to vent his frustrations through his music. But this wasn’t typical rapping. Inspired by comic book characters and cinematic skits which complimented his concepts, “Operation: Dooms Day” was released in 1999, with the critics hailing it as an underground classic.
The thing which was most striking about his new direction was it’s uniqueness. Not since the Wu-Tang Clan had someone created such an engaging hip-hop fantasy World, Doom created vivid imagery by the use of descriptive story telling and strange off key vocals. He was a supreme lyricist who had clearly taken his time to strategise a new plan for his career post K.M.D. His lyrics were now full of dark humour and clever word play, with his production made unmistakably for him alone.
These albums still stand up today, with the key to their success being their unrelenting adherence to lyricism. Dooms acceptance by the majority of hip-hop fans served as an encouraging development for artists who were willing to take risks or try something different. The Monsta Island Czars were still a street group but had broken the boundaries of expectations placed on New York hip-hop. 03 and 04 saw Doom at the height of his powers dropping classic albums such as Vaudeville Villain and MM.. Food, under various alter egos such as “Viktor Vaughn”.
MM.. Food in particular catapulted Doom into legendary status. By this time many of hip-hop’s greatest producers wanted to work with him such as Madlib and Danger Mouse. Widespread internet piracy stopped Doom from making a considerable fortune in this era. Considering the level of interest in his music without major label backing, it is safe to assume much of his sales were lost to file sharing sites and blogs. If you asked anyone to name an underground hip-hop artist at this time, Doom would almost certainly have been top of most peoples lists. His name had become synonymous with the scene as a whole. The likes of Cee Lo Green and Talib Kweli appeared on “The Mouse And The Mask”, Doom’s crossover appeal led him to work with Damon Albarn’s Gorrilaz.
He was mostly absent from hip-hop after his work with Danger Mouse, and he received a lot of negative press for his “Doomposter” shenanigans. In keeping with his lyrics in which he declared himself a villian, Doom was sending other people to rap at his concerts, posing in the mask. Of course the fans weren’t fooled by these shoddy rappers and many of them were angry feeling they had been cheated by Doom. Perhaps it was Dumiles way of getting his own back on internet piracy. Either way from 2006 to 2009 fans were left wondering in which direction his career was going next. But the release of “Born Like This” proved a tonic for hip-hop fans anticipating his next move. To his testament, throughout his whole career he’s stayed true to his own sound with no examples to be found of him watering down his style. Last year, we here at the Word Is Bond gave him the number one album of 2012, for his collaboration LP with Jneiro Jarel, entitled “Keys To The Kuff”. With this album Doom proved he’s just as creative and experimental as ever. Whether you love or hate his methods, he remains one of the most captivating figures in the industry, with his legacy ever growing with each release.