Watch Open Mike Eagle's Tribute to the Late MF DOOM

The rapper who went from MF DOOM fan to collaborator spoke to VICE about the villain's significance to his career.
Ashwin Rodrigues
Brooklyn, US
January 8, 2021, 5:19pm
Open Mike Eagle with MF Doom imposter photo
Screenshot via YouTube

For one of the few times in 2020—and certainly the last—everyone was talking about the same thing at once: the death of MF DOOM at the age of 49, announced by his wife, Jasmine on December 31, 2020. Daniel Dumile, who performed as MF DOOM, was a singular talent with his wordplay, wide-ranging references, beat creation and selection, not to mention his legendary “onstage” antics. He was a rapper that Yasiin Bey said would bet $1 million on against Lil Wayne in his prime.

Advertisement

People shared untold DOOM stories, others their favorite DOOM interviews and profiles, many their favorite DOOM tracks. Rappers ranging from Lupe Fiasco to Michael Christmas to Pivot Gang's Joseph Chilliams paid homage via freestyle. Open Mike Eagle was among the first to release a personal tribute.

Eagle spent New Year's Eve and New Year's day processing the loss of DOOM, he told VICE. "In my thoughts about what to do to help push through the feelings, it hit me, 'I should write something. I should rap in honor of him somehow.'" He started writing a verse that Saturday. The next day, he finished it, and shot the video, rapping over production by Detroit artist and producer illingsworth.

In just two minutes, Eagle somberly raps what is essentially a densely-packed obituary.  Some of it is resonant to all DOOM fans; Eagle wonders at first if the mysterious death announcement from Instagram was "kayfabe," possibly a dispatch from the mysterious MF DOOM character, not Daniel Dumile. The verse gets increasingly personal Eagle. For example, Eagle reflects on reaching "Ground Zero," rapping with one of his heroes, though he never met the villain in person. He only spoke to the masked rapper via "a go-between." (In 2018, When a fan asked Open Mike Eagle what DOOM smelled like, Eagle replied, "like email.") Open Mike Eagle and DOOM rapped together twice: first on "Phantoms," on the album Czarface Meets Metal Face in 2013, and then again on "Police Yourself.

"When I was doing my TV show on Comedy Central, each episode of it had an original song with me and a guest star," said Open Mike Eagle. "The entire culmination of that was incredible for me, in terms of stuff that I never thought I'd be in a position to do. But getting him on it just made it that much more special." 

Advertisement

MF DOOM was always an inspiration to the 40-year-old rapper, who released the deeply personal album Anime, Trauma and Divorce last year. "He was the ultimate manifestation of being able to make a really successful career based on making the music that appeals to me," He said. "The music that draws me to rap to begin with, in terms of the freedom to sample and rhyme over whatever loop appeals to you. To be motivated to go as crazy with the wordplay as possible." 

While Doom's singular ability to turn a phrase appealed to Eagle, there was another factor that made the villain special. 

"He's a Black man who had a lot of whimsy in his music. A lot of stuff about comic books, a lot of stuff about cartoons. And that balance with street shit. With drug shit, with alcohol shit, like, both sides of that equation meant a lot to me. He had the music that was most important and motivational and inspirational to me." 

Follow Ashwin Rodrigues on Twitter.