MF DOOM has died, his wife Jasmine Dumile revealed today (December 31). The elusive rapper died on October 31, according to Dumile. When reached by Pitchfork, a representative for Rhymesayers confirmed the legitimacy of the statement. A cause of death has not been revealed. MF DOOM was 49 years old.
MF DOOM was born in London and grew up on Long Island, New York. DOOM, who was born Daniel Dumile, began rapping in the late 1980s under the name Zev Love X in the group KMD, along with his younger brother DJ Subroc. KMD released two albums: 1991’s Mr. Hood and 1993’s Black Bastards. DJ Subroc was struck by a car and killed shortly before the release of Black Bastards, marking the end of KMD until DOOM shared a previously unreleased track, “True Lightyears,” in 2017.
By the late ’90s, Dumile adopted his MF DOOM persona, donning the mask of Marvel supervillain Doctor Doom. He released his self-produced debut Operation: Doomsday in April 1999, marking the beginning of a prolific run of albums and production. He released the split MF EP with MF Grimm in 2000, before adopting two new personae for a pair of landmark 2003 releases: King Geedorah for Take Me to Your Leader and Viktor Vaughn for Vaudeville Villain.
DOOM discussed his decision to don the mask and persona in a 2009 New Yorker interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates. “I wanted to get onstage and orate, without people thinking about the normal things people think about. Like girls being like, ‘Oh, he’s sexy,’ or ‘I don’t want him, he’s ugly,’ and then other dudes sizing you up,” he said. “A visual always brings a first impression. But if there’s going to be a first impression I might as well use it to control the story. So why not do something like throw a mask on?”
The following year, MF DOOM released his most iconic album: the Madlib collaboration Madvillainy. They began work on the album in 2002, combing through hundreds of beats and samples. The final product is a landmark of underground rap, combining DOOM’s free associative excellence with Madlib’s eclectic beats.
In 2004 alone, DOOM also released Venomous Villain (VV:2), MM..FOOD, and multiple Special Herbs instrumental albums. 2005 brought the Live From Planet X album and another collaborative full-length, The Mouse and the Mask, made with Danger Mouse.
Following the hyper-productive half-decade, DOOM’s output slowed considerably. His Special Herbs series, which began in 2001, came to a close in 2005. He released smaller projects, too, like the Danger Mouse addendum Occult Hymn EP, before releasing his final solo album, Born Like This, in 2009.
DOOM had a history of being accused of sending masked imposters to lip sync in his place at shows. “Everything that we do is villain style,” DOOM explained to Rolling Stone in 2009.
DOOM’s output remained sporadic in the 2010s. He popped up primarily for collaborative projects like 2014’s NehruvianDOOM with Bishop Nehru, Czarface Meets Metal Face, and the 2017 WESTSIDEDOOM 12″ with Westside Gunn. Just this month, DOOM was featured on a new song with BADBADNOTGOOD called “The Chocolate Conquistadors.” There was no mention upon its release of DOOM’s death.
Read Pitchfork’s feature “Searching for Tomorrow: The Story of Madlib and MF DOOM’s Madvillainy.”
This article was originally published on December 31 at 5:04 p.m. Eastern. It was last updated on December 31 at 5:17 p.m. Eastern.