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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A villian worth idolizing

Published: November 2, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

In the spirit of the recent-celebrated Halloween Id like to acknowledge an artist and influential figure in underground hip-hop, who never seems to maintain his Halloween spirit all year-round.

Of course Im talking about Daniel Dumile, also known as The Super Villain, Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Metal Fingers, Metal Fingered Villain, Zev Love X and most popularly as MF Doom. Dumile, who hails from London, has been in the game a long time, working with a plethora of artists including Talib Kweli, Ghostface and the Gorillaz.

He first received mainstream recognition in 2004 with the release of his album Madvilliany, which had several tracks featured in the Aaron MacGruder show The Boondocks. Therein, the rhymes of Dumile (in the guise of MF Doom) were combined with the creative production of underground producer Madlib. The result was harmony;

weird harmony, but still, harmony.

Dumiles style of rap is anything but contemporary. His rhymes embody his very own swagger and cynicism and are full of bizarre metaphors and intentional breaks from the norm. His odd use of cadence has his lyrics sometimes seeming like they came together by accident and at other times not going together at all. This is an aspect of Dumiles appeal. Similar to gangster rapper Styles P, Dumiles rhymes dont necessarily have to rhyme but theyre always really clever in the most simplistic way imaginable.

In the song Rhinestone Cowboy MF Doom (Dumile) states, “Certainly smashing in a fashion thats timely/ Madvillain dash in a beat rhyme crime spree/ Who rock the house like rock and roll/ Got more sole (soul) than a sock with a hole.”

The themes of many of Dumiles songs involve his alias Metal Face Doom. This persona originated from Dumiles fascination with the Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom (The alias Victor Vaughn is also a play off of Victor von Doom). Dumile assumes this persona by wearing a metal face mask, somewhat resembling that of Russell Crowes in the movie Gladiator.

The mask, over time, has taken a multitude of meanings including a means of maintaining anonymity and therefore creativity in ones work by not over associating with it on a personal level. This motivation is similar to that of past creative partner Damon Albarn, the lead singer of the band Blur.

As Albarn, who is founder of the Gorillaz and who also provides the vocals for 2-D, and Daniel Dumile agree upon, by taking on an animated or false alias one can fully put their ego into a work without being held accountable for the result, as it is, in fact only pretend.”

Dumiles mask is also said to cover the metaphorical scars caused by a time of desolation in his life in which, soon after the death of his brother, his first record label abandoned both him and his original rap group KMD (Kausing Much Damage). As MF Doom, Dumile will only take pictures with his mask on. Furthermore his content will change to involve more fantastical themes and his rhyme scheme is shifted to the third person perspective, to emphasize the super-villain image and comic book storylines involved with his character.

Dumiles genius, as I see it, is found in the fluidity of his character. Dumile has a diverse personality, artistically speaking. The range of his topics and his willingness to go almost anywhere creatively are what have made Dumile (and all of his aliases) so well renowned in the world of underground hip-hop. To begin with Dumile has taken the whole alias idea which was also adopted by such greats as Notorious B.I.G. (aka Frank White), Tupac Shakur (aka Makiavelli), Jay-Z (Jigga, Hova) and Nasir Jones (Nastradamus, Nasty Nas)to a whole new level.

For years artists have used relative masks to pitch to different audiences and make music on different subjects without compromising the integrity of any one of their artistic aspects. B.I.G. was the party animal, Frank White was a black modern day Scarface. Jay-Z is the rapper. Jigga is the hustler. Daniel Dumile has managed to use masks such as these in totally new ways;

at times even setting one of his personalities against the other (a-la the T.I. vs. TIP idea except that Dumile did it first).

Dumile is also willing to create new characters by working with others and allowing them to don his mask (metaphorically). The character Madvillain is essentially an animated version of the MF Doom persona. He was spawned in Dooms collaboration with producer Madlib for the poignantly titled album Madvilliany.

The Madvillain character has inspired a line of action figures and other novelty items. He even has his own cartoon which can be seen in the video for the song “All Caps. The Madvillian character was a physical manifestation of the meshing of minds of Madlib and the Dr. Doom like character of MF Doom. This carries through in the “All Caps” video a well as in samples of 50's cartoons like the Fantastic Four all throughout album production.

Dumiles newest co-alias is Danger Doom. The already weird rapper Daniel Dumile has matched minds with the producer strange enough to combine the Beatles with Jay-Z. Yes, I speak of none other than Danger Mouse. In a similar fashion as Madvillainy, the meshing of two very creative individuals has spawned not only great music but great eye-candy. The Danger Doom character is a mouse wearing the MF mask. As one would expect with a Danger Mouse related product, the music and creative direction is less subtle and a bit more zany than past MF projects.

Although not a huge commercial success, London rapper Daniel Dumile has and will continue to make waves. How couldnt he? He is one of the few artists left that goes by the principles of old school hip-hop, yet he also brings something so fresh to the table that one isnt sure whether or not they should like it. However, you eventually realize you do and thats okay.