Chicago artists pay tribute to MF DOOM in murals honoring rapper who died in October
One mural in Logan Square and another in the West Loop memorialize the hip-hop star. ‘I saw him as a creative muse,’ one of the mural artists says.
Chicago’s murals & mosaics
Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.
And, in Logan Square and the West Loop, street artists got to work, creating murals memorializing the British American performer.
Added to the vast assemblage of public art that already lined Hubbard Street was a 12-by-70-feet mural that artist Rahmaan Statik says aims to provide a look at the “human side” of the rapper.
“Society changes us into these characters that make our legacy and what we’re known for,” says Statik, 40. “It’s the plight of an artist.”
With his poetic lyrics and samples from movies and other media, Dumile’s style set him apart from other rappers in the early 2000s. Though best-known for his masked persona of MF DOOM, Dumile got his start in music in the 1990s hip-hop trio KMD. Statik, then a college student, has been hooked on his music ever since.
Set against a pink-and-red background in the West Loop mural are two versions of Dumile at different points in his career. The first has him in KMD. The second is of MF DOOM in his signature mask.
The mural shows the inspiration for the persona: Doctor Doom, a character from the Marvel comics.
Statik spent three weeks battling wind, snow and ice to complete his tribute near Hubbard and Green streets.
He says showing multiple versions of Dumile shows “the rise of DOOM wasn’t a singular event.”
Statik credits MF DOOM with inspiring him to become an artist.
“I wasn’t inspired to become a rapper, but it pushed me deeper into my own work as a visual artist,” he says. “I saw him as a creative muse.”
Statik’s piece was a collaboration with the B_Line Project, a nonprofit arts initiative. Nearby you can see murals honoring dead artists Frankie Knuckles and Juice WRLD.
Near Fullerton and Milwaukee avenues is another tribute to MF DOOM, this one by James Spurgeon, an artist who goes by Graffiti Nerd.
Spurgeon says he was a “big fan” of the late rapper and started work on the mural after being contacted by the coordinators of Project Logan — a graffiti-art permission wall in Logan Square with a rotating selection of art.
The mural is centered around a closeup of Dumile in his MF DOOM mask. A bottle of liquor next to his head is being poured out — an homage, Spurgeon says, to the practice of pouring out some liquor as a sign of respect for the dead.
Spurgeon is 47, lives in West Rogers Park and has been doing graffiti art for 30 years. He wrote the words “Nerd” and “DOOM” to the left and right in graffiti “wildstyle” with cubist and abstract influences.
Beside being an acclaimed rapper, Dumile was a “brother in paint,” Spurgeon says. “DOOM was a graffiti artist himself.”
While putting up the mural in early January, Spurgeon says all sorts of people would come over to take a photo. He wasn’t surprised at the interest in MF DOOM.
“When he put on the mask, you listen to his lyrics, not his personality or clothes,” Spurgeon says. “It was about staying true to hip-hop’s roots.”