MF DOOM: In Memoriam

January 4, 2021 | By


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The news of MF DOOM’s passing was announced New Year’s Eve via a statement made by his wife Jasmine. He had died two months prior, on Halloween. When I found out, it got me thinking about the impact DOOM has had on my own life. Memories of my first time listening to Madvillainy came to mind. I was about thirteen or fourteen when I stumbled into the record by way of my interest in the now-defunct rap collective Odd Future. I saw Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, both of whom were very influential on my middle-school-skater-boy self, repeatedly made reference to the work of the masked supervillain in interviews; citing him as one of their own greatest influences.

Like one does when they are recommended something by someone they revere, I gave Madvillainy a listen on the bus ride into school one day. I didn’t love it. I specifically remember being very annoyed by the track ‘Accordion’ and its prominent sample of the titular instrument. This reaction is one I could compare to spitting out a piece of food simply because your parents suggested it and you really feel like sticking it to them. I heard a lot of the subsequent tracks on the record and thought they sounded weird; so I rejected them on that simple basis. After a few months the song that had so vexed me came up again on shuffle, so I gave it another listen.

Whatever changed about me between those two listenings remains a mystery; suffice to say I enjoyed it quite a bit that time around. I then went back to the full album and listened to it again, finding that I was able to enjoy it in its entirety. The enveloping sonic landscapes provided by Madlib’s production met DOOM’s maniacal rhymes to create something very close to an auditory version of the comic books I’d been collecting since an early age. I also noticed the cheeky references to those very comics in DOOM’s dense lyrics, leading to my interest in the record’s references that I wasn’t yet familiar with.

Madlib’s sample of The Mothers of Invention’s ‘Sleeping in a Jar’ intrigued me to the point of researching and getting into the work of the great Frank Zappa. The inclusion of a Sun Ra monologue on the back end of Shadows of Tomorrow later on the record nudged me in the direction of jazz. Atop it all was DOOM’s grim and otherworldly persona, leading me to take a deep dive into some of his other work.

Throughout his discography I found even more reasons to dig his work, and even more disparate references to interest me in different spheres of culture. Through an album like his DangerDOOM collab with Danger Mouse, one can stumble upon nods to Psycho, Skittles, Shakespeare’s  Othello and the Wu-Tang Clan all in the same verse. This is a perfect example of why DOOM’s appeal is so wide ranging; he’s truly got something for everyone.

A decade later, I find myself coming to terms with the fact that the prime influence of my own eclecticism has passed away. Many people are certainly similarly affected, indicated by the various social media postings I’ve seen in tribute to his memory. Thankfully, DOOM spent his life prolifically, producing more quality tunes than most of his peers would be able to assemble in two lifetimes. We will undoubtedly be unravelling it for generations to come.




-DJ Straight Edge


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