MF DOOM's True Legacy Can Be Found In Rap's New Generation
Following the recent tragic news of the passing of Daniel Dumile, AKA MF DOOM, we take a look back on the artist’s life and work, and speak to two musicians, Joejas and Teeze, that were heavily inspired by him to examine his legacy.
MF DOOM was one of the most influential yet enigmatic rappers to ever grace the hip-hop scene. Mixing jazz beats and masterful wordplay with samples of cartoons and lyrics about fictional characters, you could argue that he was the first goofball rapper.
DOOM was famous for his use of characters and public persona. Seldom showing his face, instead opting to live behind a Dr. Doom inspired mask, MF DOOM lived the life publicly of the characters he detailed throughout his records.
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Quite simply, DOOM changed the hip-hop landscape. When Daniel Dumile (MF DOOM) first came onto the scene in the late ’80s with his group KDM rap had begun a tendency towards braggadocio. Dumile loosely fitted this mould for quite some time, but after the tragic passing of brother and KMD partner DJ Subroc, Dumile reinvented himself and went by the MF DOOM persona.
He was an artist who didn’t care for fitting into any specific scene. Dumile was more interested in sampling cartoons and old cereal adverts than he was fitting into the gangsta rap sound that was rapidly becoming popular at the time. “I feel like he made a whole generation rethink their rhymes,” producer Teeze tells Clash. “In the 90s it was all about being tough and talking about where you’re from and shit, but he came in and created this persona and everyone loved it.”
This attitude to music proved to be influential. As DOOM started caring less about his public perception, much younger rappers from a fresh generation started taking notice. DOOM spoke to a crowd of social rejects, kids from the hood that loved rap music but cared more about collecting comic books than rap sheets.
“It was all about what he was rapping about,” adds Joejas. “This man was rapping about comic books and the next minute he would be talking about his personal life. The weirdness of DOOM, from everything from his mask to his lyrics, led the way for people to rap about some fun shit.”
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Look to your favourite rappers from the 2010s era of hip-hop and you will find the Madvillain's influence throughout the whole scene. One-liners and references to obscure pop culture became a 2010s rap staple, the influence apparent from DOOM. And now with the internet to make getting your music out there easier, a whole generation of oddball, DOOM-inspired rappers were able to work their way into your ears without a record contract.
Nowhere will you find DOOM influence stronger than in the rap group Odd Future. Members Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt idolised DOOM and often cited him as their biggest influence. This is what Tyler and Earl had to say about DOOM’s passing:
safe travels villain— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) December 31, 2020
humbled to b thought of in the same sentences as dumile!— thebe kgositsile (@earlxsweat) January 1, 2021
ive been crying and listening to his music since i found out. made a little shrine and drank some beer!
And just as quickly as they started to fall in love with him, they started sampling and even in some cases working with him. Joey Bada$$’s ‘1999’ album sees him rapping over a Metal Fingers (DOOM’s producer alias) beat on his track ‘World Domination’. And in 2004, Californian producer and DOOM lover Madlib calibrated with the Metal Masked Mastermind to create the critically acclaimed ‘MadVillainy’ project.
Teeze told us about how ‘MadVillainy’ inspired his debut album ‘MediTape’. “When I heard ‘MadVillainy’, I started listening to him as a producer, and I listened to the way he would chop the samples. The samples he would choose were so different from what a normal producer would use, he would chop up the weirdest little parts and make it work in the groove and that inspired me so much.”
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Despite receiving huge critical acclaim, DOOM stayed relatively underground and mysterious, keeping his masked persona up for the majority of his career. And whilst not receiving much commercial successes his impact was instrumental on the face of hip-hop.‘He may not be in everyone’s Top Ten favourite rapper lists,” Joejas remarks, “but he is in everyone’s Top Ten’s Top Ten.”
DOOM showed kids that it was okay to be weird and still find critical success. His persona was inspiring and honest, and stuck with a generation of rappers that are okay with being seen as uncool. So now when the kids of today look up to their favourite rappers as role models, you can thank MF DOOM for being theirs.
Despite DOOM’s passing his legacy will live on throughout his music and his fans music. As Joejas tells Clash: “People will always see themselves in DOOM because people will always be outcasts and he inspired everyone. His legacy will live through the people he inspired the most - like Tyler, the Creator... and kids like me.”
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Words: Mason Meyers
Photography: Hayley Louisa Brown
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