Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DOOM, Pt. 1

Underground hip-hop has an evil genius, and his name is DOOM, a/k/a King Geedorah, a/k/a MF DOOM, a/k/a Metal Face DOOM, a/k/a Metal Fingers DOOM, a/k/a Viktor Vaughn, a/k/a Zevlove X, real name Daniel Dumile (pronounced /duːməleɪ/). Part comic book villain, part doomsayer.

Dumile debuted as a guest emcee on the 3rd Bass track "The Gas Face," on their 1989 LP The Cactus Album. At that time, performing under his Zevlove X alias, he was forming a small crew of his own, known as K.M.D. (which included his brother Dingilizwe). K.M.D. released the Mr. Hood album in 1991, but the DOOM story nearly ended before it began. In 1993, Dingilizwe Dumile was killed in a traffic accident, and Elektra refused to release K.M.D.'s sophomore album, due to concerns over its cover art (depicting a "sambo" character) and militant political stance. Faced with these personal and professional crises, Dumile essentially threw in the towel, finding a legit day-job and devoting himself to raising his son.

If the story had ended there, Daniel Dumile would be little more than a footnote, a bit of trivia for hip-hop aficionados. But, in 1999, Dumile released the album Operation: Doomsday, under the newly assumed nom de guerre MF DOOM. Dumile borrowed his DOOM persona from the Marvel Comics character Dr. Doom, a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby super-villain, best remembered for his masked visage and ongoing feud with the Fantastic Four. Dumile used this startlingly off-center back-story as a point of digression; upending the late-90s fly-guy rap image by utilizing arcane pop-culture references, bizarre slang, and wicked humor. Oh, and he started wearing a mask.

Dumile's myriad DOOM-related releases, and his ever-growing list of guest appearances, can be overwhelming. For neophytes, the ideal starting point would be Madvillainy (2004), Dumile's acclaimed collaboration with hip-hop producer Madlib. The Madvillain project was DOOM at his most accessible; an oddly endearing collaboration that was widely considered one of the best albums of 2004. (Adult Swim fans may recognize the track "Money Folder" as a bumper between commercials on the Cartoon Network's late-night lineup.) And, in true Dumile fashion, even the album's cover art is a playful pop-culture homage:

That same year, the ever-more-prolific Dumile released another solo album, MM..Food? (2004). This interrogatively-titled record expanded on the DOOM mythology, while simultaneously providing enough food-obsessed couplets to satiate Alton Brown. My personal favorite food-related non-sequitur: "Ignore Cordon Bleu, stand up, get up!"

Dumile's most high-profile collaboration was The Mouse and the Mask, his 2005 record with Danger Mouse (the super-producer best known as half of the duo Gnarls Barkley). Tellingly, this record heavily samples various Adult Swim cartoons: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvery Birdman, Sealab 2021, and Space Ghost. It's difficult to imagine a musical artist more perfectly suited to the Adult Swim crowd than Daniele Dumile.

Stay tuned for more DOOM arcana!