5 Things You Didn’t Know About MF DOOM’s Debut Solo Album

MF DOOM’s debut solo album, Operation Doomsday, was released today in 1999. It was released through Fondle ‘Em Records in 1999, reissued by Sub Verse Records in 2001, then released by Doom’s own Metal Face Records in 2011 with a deluxe remastered version. Self-produced using lo-fi bedroom production and low-budget audio mixing techniques, the effects of its seismic influence will be felt forever. And that is why he is often referred to as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” because of his impact on the genre. I mean, it even had Mos Def back in 2000 “preaching the gospel of DOOM” to Questlove “like a Jehovah’s Witness would preach, trying to convert [him] to a new religion.” From his influence on Odd Future and Joey Badass to Peanut Butter Wolf trying not to nerd out on him, MF DOOM always had cult-like status. Born Daniel Dumile, the late rapper gave himself agency by rebirthing himself with the Metal Face persona. 

In celebration of one of the most influential albums in indie hip hop, here are five things you may or may not have known about the late rapper and the cult classic. But, to kick it off, apparently Dumile has always been Doom – it was a nickname his mother used to call him. 

Album cover for Operation Doomsday

1. The album cover art is recreated from a specific scene in the Fantastic Four cartoon

If you’re a fan you probably already know that DOOM based his persona on the supervillain, Fantastic Four nemesis Victor Von Doom. He paused his VHS copy of the Fantastic Four cartoon on a scene that featured Doctor Doom holding a microphone in a helicopter. Lord Scotch aka Scotch 79 aka KEO X-MEN of the NYC X-Men Crew then traced and recreated the still for the album cover art.

The still of Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four cartoon

2. MF DOOM’s very first mask was a store-bought Kane (WWE wrestler) mask

Blake Lethem, aka the Lord Scotch mentioned above, was also behind the MF DOOM mask we all know and love today. It came from a replica of the Gladiator mask. They bought a Gladiator helmet from a comic store in Union Square before taking the face plate to a metal sculptor. However, it took a few iterations to get it right. The first edition was a spray-painted Darth Maul Halloween mask, which he wears in the “?” music video ft. Kurious Jorge. But, Dumile’s very first mask was a store-bought Kane (WWE wrestler) mask that he painted silver.

Regardless, anonymity was the goal and Lethem said, ““In the beginning he’d throw on a bandana, or whatever he had to do…” His first performance as MF DOOM was at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, an epicenter of underground hip hop and slam poetry in the 90s. In true DOOM style, not giving a single fuck, he pulled a stocking over his head. It was paired with his signature red Phillies hat. 

Ironically, he wouldn’t be recognized at clubs or bars when he wasn’t wearing the mask, leaving him to socialize in peace.

The masked Kane
A still from the “?” music video where DOOM rocks the Darth Maul mask. Shot on 16mm Film in December 2000 on location in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
DOOM’s first performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, NYC in 1998

3. The original vinyl test pressing was on auction at Sotheby’s

The Original Operation: Doomsday test pressing, [1999] was on auction at Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest brokers of art. It is now estimated to be worth between $3,000-5,000. It came from the personal collection of Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love from Fondle ‘Em Records.

“OPERATION: DOOMSDAY” WEA Manufacturing Test Pressing, 1999.

4. The MF DOOM logo is the result of a throwie at “The Hole,” a gay club

Apparently, after the pair went to visit the metal sculptor in the East Village, they went street bombing in the area. And the throwie at the gay club, “The Hole,” is the one that would become the DOOM logo.

5. Operation Doomsday was born from tragedy and angst

If you didn’t already know this, shame on you (just kidding). But, as a refresher, the mask is meant to hide a symbolically scarred Dumile. Traumatized by both the unforgiving nature of the music industry and the sudden death of KMD member Subroc, Zev Love X from KMD became MF DOOM. His own story has a striking parallel to Doctor Doom’s own origin story. After wallowing in depression and near homelessness for a few years, Dumile swore to get revenge on the industry that symbolically disfigured him. Hence, the mask and DOOM’s verbal intent to “destroy rap” on the title track. However, according to Kool Keith, his inside persona matched his mysterious outside persona. Apparently, he would text Kool Keith from different numbers with “area codes you never seen before in your life…It was like you were really working with Wolverine or something.”


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