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How Zev Love X Became MF Doom

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On New Year’s Eve, MF Doom’s family announced that he had died in October at the age of 49, a Quixotic end to the life of one of the most Quixotic hip-hop characters.

Before transforming into this masked super villain, Doom passed Zev Love X and was part of the KMD group alongside his brother Subroc. In the early 1990s, KMD made artful, incisive, sociologically savvy hip-hop that was thanks to De La Soul and the Native Tongues, but with an added layer of ironic skepticism. Subroc was killed in a car accident in 1993 and the group was struck off their label before their second album was released.

A few years later Doom went solo and enjoyed success in New York’s independent hip-hop circles. Later, starting with the Madlib collaboration “Madvillainy” in 2004, he began to gain wild recognition as a cult figure. After all, he heard and loved her beyond the coterie of scene purists who hugged him when he first reappeared as Doom. But that triumphant stretch has often resulted in minimizing the legacy of his early career that set the table for artist Doom.

This week’s popcast is a series of conversations with some people close to Doom in its earliest days in the industry, when he was still Zev Love X: Dante Ross, the A&R manager who signed KMD; Stretch Armstrong, who had Doom work on music in his home studio; and Bobbito Garcia, who along with Armstrong welcomed Doom on the radio and released early Doom material on his record label.

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