The Poetry of MF Doom – Part 1

Taking on the masked appearance and namesake of Fantastic Four villain Dr Doom, this exceptional lyricist who has been providing content for the hip hop scene for decades is one who consistently stands out from the crowd. MF Doom (the MF widely known as standing for metal face) was born in London, which may surprise those who listen to his music or know of his history in the music scene. This is because he began his career as part of a group called KMD along with his younger Brother DJ Subroc. Their group was formed in New York, which is where the hip-hop scene was going from strength to strength back in 1988. After the group grew popular and consequently record labels became interested it was a few years until tragedy struck. His brother was hit by a car and killed.

From here his life took a turn and he disappeared from his music career. During this point he was living hand to mouth in Manhattan. What happened during this no doubt incredibly low point of his life is anyone’s guess, but it did not stop him from having a phoenix-like comeback much like another Marvel comics character. In 1997 open-mic nights at venues all over the city would begin to see an appearance from a man who had a great skill. This individual would constantly hide his face, sometimes wearing a stocking over it even, much like a bank robber. This villainous anonymity spawned the new identity he would be known as up until today, as eventually the stocking became a mask and his pseudonym – MF Doom.  This transition is not only an impressive turning point in the life of a man stranded in a foreign country, but a significantly poetic twist as he assumes the identity of a man who has great power but is permanently scarred.

From here his career accelerates as his ability and iconic style begins to settle without hesitation in the ears of listeners worldwide. His ’99 album operation Doomsday opens with a soulfully backed old school style beat that shows his incredible ability to melt lines of words into one another. With the standard rap landmarks of identifying oneself and comparing your skills to that of others comes the unshakable family event. “On Doomsday. Ever since the womb ‘til I’m back where my brother went. That’s what my tomb will say.”  This subtle darkness quickly fades as the jazzy and bubbly backing of ‘Rhymes Like Dimes’ follows. Here the humorous beat and outro wash away the more morose tones. In fact, the samples from cartoons and old TV shows, the funky beats and the fun and numerous nods to pop culture purvey a feeling that is far from the same atmosphere that must have shrouded his life up until this point. Unlike other artists on the scene who more blatantly spoke of gang violence and oppression MF Doom never fully adopted the darker side of the genre. The comic style of his album covers, and intelligent jovial rhymes make him to this day more known for his uplifting feel.