In 1988, rapper/producer, Daniel Dumile, under the alias of Zev Love X, started the hip hop group KMD with his brother Dingilizwe (aka DJ Subroc), getting their first little boost from the group Third Base and their classic track, “The Gas Face.” From then, until now, Dumile has gone on to rap and produce under a number of monikers, including “Viktor Vaughn” and “King Geedorah,” each with their own individual storylines, but nothing else has been as prominent or dominant as MF Doom, the “supervillain” emcee, which involves Dumile giving nods to Marvel‘s Fantastic 4 nemesis, Dr Doom. It is through Doom that he has has gone on to leave an impact and influence on the world of hip hop to a degree that is difficult to even calculate. And all along that road from Gas Face to Metal face, there have been various collaborations with one very important element of Dumile‘s multi-faceted career remaining the involvement and focus on methodically crafted aesthetics. But while most people would understandably think of albums/projects like the critically acclaimed Madvillainy (his breakout collaboration with producer, Madlib) or something like Danger Doom (with DJ Danger Mouse) or the long awaited Doom Starks full-lenght (with Ghostface Killah) when they think about a Doom collab, arguably, one of the most enduring and notable figures that has contributed to the Doom legacy is a visual artist from San Francisco by the name of Jason Jagel.
Those who know the history of Daniel Dumile, his evolution, and his transformative career, know the story about his brother Dingilizwe being struck and killed by a vehicle on the Long Island Expressway back in 1993, when KMD was really beginning to reach their creative potential. The group was effectively over and were officially, dropped from their label, Elektra, while the brilliant album that they were working on, Black Bastards, was shelved, indefinitely, due, in large part, to the controversial cover art which featured an illustrated depiction of a racist sambo figure being hanged (Dumile was given a check for 25 grand and the masters). Other than a promo cassette and some demos, Black Bastards wouldn’t officially hit the shelved for 7 years, when the label Ready Rock finally put out the CD, but in the meantime, it was hailed as one of the greatest hip hop albums to never be released, now sounding as innovative and relevant in 2015, as ever. What many people don’t realize is that the sambo image on that cover, as was the case with most of KMD‘s imagery, was actually created/drawn by Dumile, who is also an incredibly talented visual artist.
The story goes that, after his brother’s death, Daniel pretty much vanished from hip hop and much of the rest of the world until about 1997. He had relocated to the Atlanta area and has discussed doing things like sleeping on park benches while trying to get his mind right. When he eventually resurfaced, he did so under the alter ego of MF Doom, adopting the narrative/mythology of a supervillain swearing revenge and masking his face after being disfigured by the industry. He initially began popping up to freestyle at open mics with a stocking pulled over his head, no one being aware that this was Zev Love X from the infamous KMD that they were witnessing. Later, he began working with a graffiti writer by the name of, KEO (aka LORD SCOTCH 79 – born Blake Lethem) to develop the now-iconic mask that he wears today. Going through variations that included a modified, silver spray-painted plastic KANE mask, featured in the “Question Mark” video, KEO eventually, got a hold of a prop helmet from the movie Gladiator, removed the face-plate, and had a metal sculptor friend shape it out into what it’s become. KEO is also credited as the creator of the cover for the first MF Doom release, Operation: Doomsday [1999, Fondle ‘Em records], but as he explains it, the whole concept and everything came directly from Dumile, who, being an incredibly talented visual artist, and even graffiti artist himself, back in the day, would bring him sketches that he would then scan into the computer and “flip,” since Daniel didn’t have access or the skills to fuck with that computer technology. When Operation: Doomsday was reissued by Stones Throw in 2011, legal complications prevented them from reusing the original cover art, so new artwork was created for it that paid tribute to the original cover, yet updated it — the og cover featured a straight up rendering of Marvel’s Dr. Doom holding a mic, while the reissue is clearly of Dumile with his own mask. The artist who recreated the cover for the remastered rerelease was Jason Jagel.
When Dumile‘s second solo album as MF Doom, MM… Food (also an anagram for “MF DOOM”) was released by Rhymesayers in 2004, Jagel was the one that created the paintings that grace the front and back of the cover. As art director — not to mention the artist behind the visual representation of Madlib‘s Quasimoto alter-ego — Jeff Jank explains that Jagel actually crafted Doom‘s now-legendary cover art fairly quickly, in an inspired fashion.
“I called Jason to ask him if he’d like to do anything for DOOM’s FOOD album, and I got the feeling that he had started on a sketch before I was done with the question. His painting which became the cover was finished in less than a day – something I marveled at when looking at the incredible details hidden into the edges. As art director, all I had to do was say, keep it simple, and – ironically – edit out a large blunt at the request of Mr. Doom.” – Jeff Jank
Knowing Dumile‘s own skill, his involvement with every aspect of his work, and how meticulously crafted his aesthetic is, a lot of trust must have been placed in the hands of Jager, who was personally requested to work on the release, and rightly so. That Mm… Food cover, has become so instantly recognizable, with Jager‘s style becoming deeply embedded in the classic Doom aesthetic and legacy. Such is also the case with Jager‘s art for the subsequent single from the album, “Hoe Cakes.” Aware that there would be a huge demand, Stones Throw released a massive 28″ x 28 “Hoe Cakes” poster through their site back in 2010, which is still available. Then, in 2011, they followed it up by releasing a beautiful 14.75″ x 12.75″ signed/numbered limited edition print of Jagel‘s original Mm… Food artwork (blunt and all) in a limited edition run of 100 [sorry… shit like that doesn’t stick around for long].
Last November, a similar signed/numbered fine art print of the “Hoe Cakes” artwork (this time, in a limited edition run of 180) followed, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Mm.. Food album release. This one also quickly sold out. On the official release page for the print, Jeff Jank went into further detail about the collaboration with Jagel on the album artwork. Here’s what he said:
“The year was 2004. DOOM & Madlib’s Madvillainy had just been released and the album was enjoying a glow of critical success. Scores of new people were discovering, debating, and being dumbfounded by DOOM’s brilliant wordplay, and his long time underground fan base were all making their voices heard, and there were more of them than perhaps even DOOM knew about. These people – those among us who knew DOOM from the days of KMD and Operation Doomsday – they had already been living on bootleg copies of Madvillainy for a year, and wanted his new solo album, MM FOOD, which he’d been publicly hinting at for years.
I became the art director on MM FOOD when DOOM called me up one afternoon with a problem. He had an album cover that the label (Rhymesayers) didn’t want, and a second one that he didn’t want, and no money to spend on a third album cover, because all the budget had been spent on the first two. After agreeing to work for no more than a few bucks and a “good lookin’ out,” I called Jason Jagel, a painter in San Francisco. Even before I was through asking Jason if he’d split ten bucks with me to work on the FOOD album, I had the feeling he was already sketching out ideas.
Jason knocked out the MM FOOD painting in a matter of a couple sleepless days, and then we were asked for a back cover, and then a sleeve for the 12-inch single, Hoe Cakes b/w Potholders. This one, which we see here, is my favorite because it’s deceptively simple, full of the same in-jokes and hidden references that characterize the music – the Adidas stripes on the “shoe fly pie,” the box of bling cherries, the superhero comic reference of the city in a bottle. Next too Doom is Count Bass D, who is featured on “Potholders.”
– Jeff Jank
So, you missed out on both the Jason Jagel “Mm.. Food” and “Hoe Cakes” prints and all that this post is working to do is bum you out about it? Well, the good news kids is that, if you’re in the Los Angeles area from 12 – 8pm tomorrow — Saturday, June 20th 2015 — you have the chance to check out some of Jagel‘s original work and even picks some prints in person. Outside of his work for Doom, Jason is an accomplished artist in his own right with work featured in such collections at that of the Museum Of Modern Art, and beyond, but the selection of artwork that will be on display tomorrow is ALL MF DOOM & DOOMSDAY RELATED!!! The Doomsday Show is being held at Rappcats and will feature a number of items for sale, including a limited amount of hand-embellished versions of the “Hoe Cakes” print above!
The following into is taken from Rappcats.com:
“One day only. Paintings and prints by Jason Jagel. We’ll have prints for sale, 40 “Extra Doom” hand-embellished Hoecakes prints, our back stock of MF DOOM Operation Doomsday lunch boxes cassette box (out of print), two new tees.”
And here are samples they’ve provided for some of the work you’ll be seeing.
Don’t let this one slip your mind, folks. The show is completely FREE OF CHARGE!
Here are the event details.
THE DOOMSDAY SHOW
Doom-related art exhibit by Jason Jagel
Saturday, June 20, 2014
noon – 8pm
5636 York Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90042