Daniel Dumile, best known as the rapper and producer MF Doom, died on October 31, his wife announced on the artist’s Instagram page on Thursday afternoon. He was 49.
“To Dumile. The greatest husband, father, teacher, student, business partner, lover and friend I could ever ask for,” his wife wrote. “Thank you for all the things you have shown, taught and given to me, our children and our family. Thank you for teaching me how to forgive beings and give another chance, not to be so quick to judge and write off. Thank you for showing how not to be afraid to love and be the best person I could ever be. My world will never be the same without you. Words will never express what you and Malachi mean to me, I love both and adore you always. May THE ALL continue to bless you, our family and the planet. All my Love, Jasmine.”
No cause of death was provided, only that Dumile had “transitioned” on October 31.
One of the most celebrated, unpredictable and enigmatic figures in independent hip-hop, Dumile was born in London, but relocated to New York City as a child. He began his music career under the name Zev Lov X as part of the trio K.M.D. alongside his brother DJ Subroc, and the group had a minor hit in the early 1990s. After Subroc was killed in a car accident in 1993, the group disbanded, and Dumile retreated from public view, only to reemerge toward the end of the decade with a new name and an extravagant new persona.
Now calling himself MF Doom and wearing a metal mask inspired by the Marvel Comics villain Doctor Doom, Dumile released his solo debut “Operation: Doomsday” in 1999. Produced by Dumile himself under the pseudonym Metal Fingers, the album couldn’t have been more willingly out of step with hip-hop’s mainstream. Featuring Dumile’s signature plainspoken flow and head-spinning volleys of intricate internal rhymes, off-the-wall cultural references and non-sequiturs, the album gained him a sizable cult following.
Dumile’s career was anything but straightforward, and he followed up on the notoriety gained through “Doomsday” with a flurry of collaborations, instrumental releases and projects under the alternate alias Viktor Vaughn. He aligned with the influential Minneapolis label Rhymesayers for his second album as Doom, “Mm…Food,” in late 2004, but it was another project from earlier that year that truly established him among the uppermost ranks of independent hip-hop figures.
Released via the Highland Park indie Stones Throw, “Madvillainy” united Dumile with idiosyncratic California producer Madlib, and the two established an uncanny chemistry. Featuring turns that were cerebral and goofy, drugged-out and lucid, the album offered heady, jagged-edged collages of jazz samples and obscure film dialogue, while Doom’s rhymes were as absurd, inventive, hilarious and endlessly quotable as ever. The album saw Dumile enter the lower rungs of the Billboard top 200 album chart, and brought with it substantial press attention and praise from some of the biggest names in hip-hop. (Rolling Stone would later include “Madvillany” on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.)
The following year, Dumile returned to the charts — this time breaking into the top 50 — via a collaboration with producer Danger Mouse, dubbed “The Mouse and the Mask.” Dumile’s subsequent recording output was characteristically erratic; he kept busy with plenty of unexpected projects (including repeat work with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim) and one-offs, while other long-rumored collaborations (particularly a joint album with the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah) failed to materialize. Rarely seen in public without his metal mask, Dumile became notorious for sometimes sending masked impostors to lip-sync in his stead at concerts; asked about this habit by Rolling Stone, he explained, “everything we do is villain-style.”
His last full album as Doom (having since dropped the MF) was released in 2009 — titled “Born Like This,” it featured production from Madlib as well as the late J Dilla, and saw Dumile break into the album charts for the first time as a solo artist.
His son, King Malachi Dumile, died in 2017.