MF DOOM and the SB Dunk: How Nike Captured the Supervillain

“This is the villain.”

The overture came via cellphone signal beamed out to the Utah wilderness, from guiding a set of quantities that didn’t betray its origin.


“The villain.”

Rob Sissi, managing his phone as he drove by the mountains of Mormon country, imagined maybe a fuzzy link was actively playing tricks on him. He wasn’t anticipating the call.


“This is DOOM.”

MF, the holder of a boulder. Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Zev Like X before that, and Daniel Dumile (his birth title) even ahead of that. The masked person of a lot more monikers than there is certainly means to pores and skin cats. MF DOOM, the supervillain who dominated underground rap in the 2000s, was calling to discuss sneakers.

Out of that discussion with Sissi, who worked for Nike from 2003 right until the stop of 2020, came a shoe collaboration. The sneaker, an MF DOOM variation of the retro Dunk Substantial product, produced in July 2007 through Nike SB, the firm’s skateboarding division that Sissi worked for throughout his tenure there. Recent tragedy made the shoe newly suitable: Dumile’s wife shared via Instagram on Dec. 31, 2020, that he experienced died on Oct. 31. The design has re-emerged on social media feeds and resale marketplaces considering that his passing as a memento solid in the rapper’s likeness.

The MF DOOM x Nike SB Dunk Higher was made to look like its namesake, the gunmetal grey panels on its higher reflecting the armor of Health practitioner Doom, the rap villain’s comic reserve inspiration. It sampled his album art on the soles and stamped his bubbly fill-in symbol at the ankle. Like the finest Dunks of SB’s golden period in the mid-00s, it gave new depth to the product and cultural cachet to Nike by drawing a line from the model to a source of inspiration that would have previously been unbelievable for a sportswear organization.

There was a precedent for the DOOM Dunk, even though, and the Nike sneaker’s roots are identical to people of his songs. Dumile made his debut as Zev Enjoy X in the late ’80s in the team KMD, whose model overlapped with De La Soul and the related Native Tongues collective. His SB sneakers ended up a spiritual successor to De La’s, who had their individual SB Dunks in 2005. In accordance to Sissi, who worked on equally tasks, De La manufactured the preliminary backlink among Nike and Dumile.

“I experienced kept in touch with them and I experienced requested primarily if they knew—obviously understood that they realized DOOM,” he remembers, “so I just said, ‘You think he would be fascinated in accomplishing some thing?'”

De La agreed to reach out on behalf of Sissi, who experienced been a fan of Dumile given that the KMD times. He didn’t believe significantly about it following the request, but the villain came contacting. That to start with dialogue, in the Utah mountains, was a very long just one about music, sampling, and, ultimately, sneakers. Dumile was down to do a Dunk, but didn’t keep tremendous near to the project.

“He was variety of hands-off in the feeling of he realized what he wanted,” Sissi claims, introducing that just one of the rapper’s mates managed substantially of the design function.

As with several of his jobs, intermediaries transmitted facts back and forth. Dumile would disappear into record manner on some outdated Buddha monk shit and communication would turn into far more complex. Sissi never ever achieved him in particular person as they labored on the SB Dunks.

“This was all just over cellphone calls, emails, and I would chat with his spouse, Jasmine, as well,” the previous Nike staff claims.

Continue to, it remained a private sneaker. The Dunk for DOOM was originally mocked up in Knicks hues of blue and orange, an apt choice presented his desire at the time for jerseys of numerous New York athletics squads. That palette was later nixed in an electronic mail edict from Dumile’s workforce.

“The villain only wears black,” study a note from the author.

And so, the shoe was redesigned, this time in black with hits of great chrome alloy. The logos that appeared on original samples ended up also edited. In the first version, shared by longtime Nike staff James Arizumi on Instagram in the wake of Dumile’s passing, the brand embroidery at the heel and ankle specified him as MF DOOM. The mark on the heel failed to make it to the retail pair. At the request of the rapper, the “MF” was eliminated from the ankle strike proper just before the shoe went into production. The partial rebrand prolonged to his music—his 2009 album, Born Like This, billed him as just DOOM, sans MF.

The early sample of the 2007 MF DOOM x Nike SB Dunk is not the only sudden sneaker to area in the social media mourning. Blake Lethem, a shut good friend of Dumile who did artwork for him for several years, posted a sketch to his Instagram in January of a proposed sequel Dunk. The concept showed a reworked tongue, anything like that on the Air Jordan 6, formed like DOOM’s mask. Lethem, who writes graffiti under the title Keo, served make Dumile’s very first mask when he returned to rap as the metal-faced supervillain in the late ’90s.

The second SB shoe never took place, even though Nike SB did use a tongue and heel tab equivalent to all those revealed in the sketch on the FPAR x Nike SB Dunk Significant from 2019.

When reached through a 3rd bash, Lethem declined to comment for this story, but a subsequent Instagram caption from his account in January aspects a DOOM x Nike products that never materialized.

“The NIKE SB dunk hi we were pitching numerous years back was intended to have a ‘metal mask’ keychain usb drive hang tag which would have exclusive information with music and films and url again to the GasDrawls site,” he wrote in the caption, which appears to reference the similar Dunk demonstrated in his sketch. “Looks straightforward sufficient, but NIKE has distinctive divisions for songs licensing, and authorized and so on., and all these individual groups have to cooperate, and they would have to supply 3rd social gathering manufacturing, and the bean counters will convey to you it is way too expensive.”

Dumile’s dying gave new mystique to unrealized ambitions like that second Nike shoe. It also additional allure and secondary industry hype to the Nike sneaker he did set out. For a long time the MF DOOM x Nike SB Dunk Significant, which initially sold for $150 at retail, could be had for all around $400 on resale platforms. Costs shot up in close proximity to the thousand-greenback mark very last yr since of the rekindling of Nike SB buzz. Kylie Jenner putting on a pair also experienced a little something to do with it. Due to the fact the information of Dumile’s dying broke, pairs on StockX have on a regular basis marketed for effectively about $2,000.

The maximize in demand presents a ethical quandary for resellers who are wary of generating income off the artist’s passing. Is it wrong to cash in on the DOOM Dunks for greater charges now that people today want them that substantially a lot more? Or is the rate of keeping warmth as well high? The sneaker scene confronted a similar problem early in 2020 after the dying of Kobe Bryant induced resale rates on his designs to rise across the board. Lots of stores and on line marketplaces halted their revenue of Nike Kobes as a result, reasoning that it was gross to reap higher revenue off the decline of life.

Truest, a retail store in Honolulu that specializes in scarce footwear, stopped selling Kobes for a total yr. Store operator John Om designed a similar selection with the MF DOOM x Nike SB Dunk Highs he was carrying on consignment immediately after the rapper passed.

“We actually pulled all of our pairs and returned them again to the sellers,” Om claims.

The reselling of Dumile’s operate extends beyond his minimal version Nike sneakers and existed very long right before he died. As he turned a vital darling with albums like Mm..Food stuff and the Madlib-developed Madvillany, equally produced in 2004, new admirers scrambled to gather his outdated assignments. Authentic pressings of Procedure: Doomsday, the 1999 album on Bobbito Garcia’s Fondle ‘Em Data that reintroduced Dumile as MF DOOM, could very easily go for $100 on eBay at the time.

His a lot of albums have been dropped in distinctive editions, packaged with added trinkets, and reissued to feed desire in releases that resemble individuals for retro sneakers. They developed approaches for collectors, of new music or of footwear, to come to feel like they belonged to a club. This experience for consumers was essential to the results of Nike SB in its heyday. Sissi was there for it, but was never rabid about amassing sneakers.

“I was not a big shoe hoarder, but the ones that meant a whole lot to me I have held on to,” he suggests. “DOOM remaining 1 of them.”

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