There are no words to reconcile the loss of a brilliant artist. For MCs, there are no better words than the words they themselves have written and performed on the mic. At learning of MF DOOM’s passing on New Year’s Eve, the opening line of “Accordion” jumped right into focus.
“Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster/
That’d be the hour they knock the slick blaster/”From the album “Madvillainy”
Remembering DOOM’s life story, the tragedy, the triumph, and the art that came from it. With that, I recalled another set of prophetic bars from the hook on “Doomsday”.
“‘Ever since the womb ‘til I’m back where my brother went’/
That’s what my tomb’ll say, right above my government: ‘Dumile’/
Either unmarked or engraved, hey, who’s to say?/”From the album “Operation: Doomsday”
You Can Call Me Your Majesty
MF DOOM’s work is known and documented here at BNP. But don’t get it twisted, I am profoundly saddened by this loss, but that’s not what we’re here to do. Today, right now, we are here to celebrate the Underground King of Black Nerdom incarnate. This man was a fully realized Blerd from way back. His whole visage is based on Dr. Doom, and the homie dropped lines referencing Hanna-Barbera classics, Marvel comics, hood colloquialisms, and more onomatopoeia than you will ever hear. MF DOOM is an exemplary rapper, but more importantly, he was a consummate artist in each and every facet of his expression.
Do It Like The Robot To Headspin To Boogaloo
Like every Black nerd, there is something that drove MF DOOM to do everything. Fam was engaged in every element of Hip-Hop culture. He could rap, break, DJ, and was a graffiti writer. Each aspect influenced the other. So it is no surprise to his fans that his reference game was bananas. Nothing was too obscure. If anything, that was one of his tenets: if it existed, it can referenced. DOOM always went HAM on whatever lens he was using to design his themes. What he leaves behind are the blueprints for a career built entirely on a concept, that you have everything you need to build your own persona.
MF DOOM came in the door slinging raps about 70s and 80s pop culture. This was the peak region of his nerdom. TV, movies, commercial slogans. Nothing was off-limits. The interludes on his projects lifted directly from the animated Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The fact that most of his aliases centered on plays on either Dr. Doom (all of the Metal Fingers, Metal Face Doom, Viktor Vaughn, etc.) or Godzilla villain Ghidora (King Ghidra) or whatever he thought would rep his persona the best. This man was all the things to each if the communities his work tapped into.
And He Won’t Stop Til He Got The Masses
If anybody had Black Nerd Problems it was MF DOOM. That problem: which fandom do I want to rock with today? How else do you explain how he brought Hanna-Barbera into damn near every verse? At no point was his skill put to the test more than with the Adult Swim-sponsored collaboration/concept album, The Mouse and The Mask. Under the moniker DangerDoom with producer Danger Mouse, this whole project is S-tier Black nerd excellence from start to finish. It dropped in 2005 and I am still finding gems DOOM dropped in that one. One of my favorite DOOM bars of all time gets delivered on “Mince Meat” and I get hyped every time:
Spitting like a bionic sneeze that freeze vodka/
Just to clear the air like the Ionic Breeze Quadra/From the album “The Mouse and The Mask”
For clarity, this line layers OD lyrical rap hyperbole alongside a deep cut to a commercial for an air purifier that ran on Adult Swim in its early heydays from 2002 to 2004. This line alone should cement MF DOOM in the Black nerd hall of fame.
Madman Never Go [pop] Like Snot Bubbles
All while spitting obscurity and using jazz standard sample flips and never really breaking through to any mainstream “success”, MF DOOM was still your favorite rappers favorite rapper. In his time, he’s been seen chilling in pics with OGs like Tupac:
to being fanboyed over by Odd Future standouts Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt:
Never mind the never ending list of collaborations and features with Nas, Royce Da 5’9”, Phonte, Bishop Nehru, Ghostface Killa, De La Soul, Talib Kweli, Czarface, and a litany of either well-known or well-respected rappers. In my opinion, we don’t get a Yugen Blackrock, a Jay Electronica, a Sammus, or a Mega Ran without the blerdy foundation laid by MF DOOM.
Even though he never sought out media attention, he’d earned a spotlight in the culture by just doing what he loved by his own rules. MF DOOM made his own lane by being a Black nerd and leaves behind a legacy for the Hip-Hop community to keep it going. Just remember, all caps when you spell the man’s name.
Mural in Cover Image: RIP MF DOOM. San Diego, CA