A petition recently launched requesting that the City of Long Beach, New York rename a street after legendary rapper MF DOOM. We spoke to the person spearheading the campaign.
On Monday, a petition was launched in support of getting a street in Long Beach, New York named after legendary rapper MF DOOM (real name Daniel Dumile) who passed away at the age of 49 on October 31st, 2020. (The death wasn’t revealed until New Year’s Eve.) The petition, which, as of publication, surpassed the 1,500 signatures mark, was sent by Dr. Patrick C. Graham on behalf of the KMD-MF DOOM Way Committee. The petition requests that “the City of Long Beach rename East Hudson Street’s block between Riverside Boulevard and Long Beach Road ‘KMD-MF DOOM Way.'”
The same day the petition went live, a letter — using the same language as the petition — was sent to Long Beach City Council members.
The letter makes its case by stating:
“Mr. Dumile still inspires many young people to view the potential of everyday life. Long Beach should be proud of its native son and honor him and his legacy on a street sign. Just as important, the city should embrace the unity Mr. Dumile represents for generations to come.”
Dr. Graham, who now resides in Richmond, Virginia, has an intimate relationship with Long Beach; he was raised there, did his Ph.D. dissertation around the developments in the community, and, for years, ran the Martin Luther King Center in Long Beach. He also attended Long Beach High School with DOOM.
“We weren’t the closest, but we definitely interacted a lot,” Dr. Graham said over a phone call on Monday evening. “[He was a] very shy young man growing up.”
Dr. Graham said that this push to get a street named after DOOM is being supported by the rapper’s family. (Members of the Get Yours Posse, DOOM’s group of childhood friends, have publically supported the petition on their Instagram.) The street was initially only going to be called DOOM, but the late rapper’s family requested his KMD roots also be represented.
“We have members who are in touch with his family. His family has given the blessing, and they [have helped] guide at least the naming,” Dr. Graham said.
Although MF DOOM was born in London he was raised in Long Island. In the late ’80s, Dummil, who was going by Zev Love X at the time, formed KMD with his brother DJ Subroc. By 1989, Zev Love X had a breakout performance on “The Gas Face,” the hit single off of 3rd Bass’classic The Cactus Album. In 1991 KMD released their debut album Mr. Hood, which had the minor hit “Peachfuzz.”
And then tragedy hit. While recording the follow-up, the much darker Black Bastards, Subroc was killed attempting to cross the 878 Nassau Expressway. Then, weeks before Black Bastards was set to be released in 1994, the album was shelved by Elektra Records, partially due to the controversial artwork, which features a Sambo character.
Zev Love X was soon dropped by the label.
Dummil spent years in a funk, broke, living in various places throughout the country. (He even did a short jail bid in Baltimore.) He then remerged in 1997 with a new moniker — DOOM. As Dr. Graham points out, DOOM was clearly indebted to his childhood years in Long Island. It wasn’t just the name DOOM or the artwork for his solo debut Operation: Doomsday but his rhyme style and wordplay, which was packed with old cartoon references.
“Whatever happened during that period, there’s a great transformation that occurred. And for Doom, I think that he went through his moment of isolation, introspection. And really, if you read, he actually got in touch with some of his younger self and his childhood,” Dr. Graham said. “Whether it was cartoons, whether it was other things. And so I think that that is an amazing metamorphosis that occurs during a period when a lot of people use the word that he almost disappeared. And then he reappears with this.”
Over the last couple of years, there have been various movements to rename streets after important deceased hip-hop figures. Just yesterday, a street was named after Fred da Godson in the Bronx. In Brooklyn, St. James Place, between Gates Ave and Fulton St, is now called Christopher Wallace Way, named after The Notorious B.I.G. And in 2019, a Queens street was renamed Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor Way, to honor of the late A Tribe Called Quest rapper.
Beacuse of this climate, Dr. Graham likes his chances. This initial petition is a “soft launch” and there will be an event next month officially announcing the campaign. The KMD-MF DOOM Way Committee also plans on getting notable figures in hip-hop to get involved. (“I don’t think we have an issue with that at all. I think that actually is low-hanging fruit for us when it comes to Doom,” Dr. Graham said.)
In the years before his death, DOOM’s struggle with immigration was an important part of the story. Despite being one of the most influential artists of the last 20 years, he never became a full-fledged American citizen and the Obama administration denied his re-entry into the United States back in 2010. (There was even once a petition directed at Obama, asking him to naturalize the rapper as a US citizen.) But even with those immigration troubles, that doesn’t mean DOOM isn’t Long Beach’s “young native son” as Dr. Grahem says. And he thinks it’s only right that the community finds a way to honor one of hip-hop’s greatest writers, who was once educated in Long Beach public schools.
“One of the reasons that we are really focused on getting this done is that as Long Beach’s community changes, as we see more urban removal… and more gentrification, we want to ensure that there’s also a legacy of the people who were there,” Graham said. “Someone like MF Doom… was very much into harmony, very peaceful young man, and so we think that his legacy lends well to this landscape on Long Beach.”