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

Before his transformation into that mask-wearing supervillain character, Doom went by Zev Love X, and was part of the group KMD alongside his brother Subroc. At the dawn of the 1990s, KMD was making artful, incisive, sociologically savvy hip-hop that was indebted to De La Soul and the Native Tongues, but with an additional layer of wry skepticism. Subroc was killed in a car accident in 1993, and the group was dropped from its label before its second album was released.

Doom went solo a few years later, and began experiencing success in New York’s independent hip-hop circles. Later, beginning with the Madlib collaboration “Madvillainy” in 2004, he began to garner wild acclaim as a cult figure, finally heard and loved beyond the coterie of scene purists who embraced him when he first re-emerged as Doom. But that triumphant stretch has often had the effect of minimizing the legacy of his early career, which set the table for the artist Doom was to become.

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


Stretch Armstrong, of “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show”

Bobbito Garcia, of “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show,” and the owner of Fondle ’Em Records, which released MF Doom’s first singles and album

Dante Ross, a former A&R executive at Elektra Records who signed KMD

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