What could have been a where-are-they-now story has become one of the more interesting resurrections in hip-hop history.
M.F. (Metal Face) Doom, also known as Zev Love X, a clever rapper from the long-lost rap group KMD, will have his underground classic, 1999's Operation: Doomsday!, re-released on May 1. KMD's second album, 1994's Black Bastards, will also be re-released May 15.
Zev Love X, who first appeared on 3rd Bass' "The Gas Face" in 1989, became an underground star upon the release of KMD's whimsically subversive Mr. Hood in 1991.
After touring the country, experiencing the ups and downs of the music industry and preparing for the impending arrival of their children, KMD (which included X's brother Subroc) entered a different mind set when they started working on their second album.
"Maybe there was a little more struggle then," X said. "I guess that came through on the album. Black Bastards is still fun, but it has a harder edge to it."
The group's situation changed dramatically in April 1993 when Subroc was hit by a car and died. KMD was only three songs away from completing Black Bastards and were working on "Constipated Monkey."
"We were both supposed to be on that song," X said. Subroc had started work on it and "he was going to come back, but he didn't get to."
X recorded the tracks "F--- Wit' Ya Head!!" and "Suspended Animation" himself. The group was dropped from Elektra soon after, at least partially because of Black Bastards' controversial cover, which depicted the lynching of a Sambo-like character.
Forced underground after losing both brother and record deal, X concentrated on raising his son and started work on Operation: Doomsday! "I kept doing the music, but it couldn't get out because I didn't have the budget I had when I was on a major label," he said.
Originally released in November 1999 on the indie label Fondle 'Em, the M.F. Doom collection features two distinct Dooms: X the rapper and his comics-inspired alter ego. (KMD's Mr. Hood featured the exploits of the eponymous character, with a story that ran through the album.)
Incorporating different identities into his music results from his upbringing.
"That's what I grew up on," he said. "A lot of music and TV is nostalgic for me. When I put it in my music, it brings me back to that time. I incorporate it for my own personal reasons, but I assume it will affect the listener in the same way."
The new version has a different ending courtesy of a bonus cut, "I Hear Voices," with the track's video on the reissued CD.
As someone who came of age as a hip-hop artist, it was nothing for kids such as Zev Love X to have more than one nickname. Indeed, he was known as Doom since childhood (his real last name is Dumile), while Zev Love X derived from his graffiti work.
Both personas coexist in his music today. "I'm bringing Doom to the forefront now so he gets to shine," X said. "Zev Love X is still there. I like to keep it interesting with different characters, like I'm the narrator. I'm like a director or author who writes for different characters."
X introduced M.F. Doom about two years ago on the "Dead Bent"/"Hey!" single, and many fans who heard it didn't realize they were listening to Zev Love X's latest incarnation.
"I think he reinvented himself in such an ill way," said Company Flow's Big Jus, who is releasing both the M.F. Doom and KMD albums on the Sub Verse Music label he co-owns. "He came back with an entirely different personality and vibe, and just murdered it. I wasn't as big a KMD fan as I am a
M.F. Doom fan, and he really came different on both of them."
X is working on an album as King Ghidra, one of the characters on Operation: Doomsday! An M.F. Doom instrumental release will arrive soon, and X hopes to release another Doom project in a year. He will reunite with 3rd Bass on their forthcoming album and also promised another KMD album eventually.