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On the afternoon of August 15, Allen Scott, co-owner of San Francisco club the Independent, got a call from underground rapper MF Doom's agent. The masked MC, it seemed, would likely be too sick to make his scheduled performance there that evening. Later, though, the agent called back and reversed course: Doom was good to go. But when the rapper finally took the stage that night, many in the audience did a double take.
"The first thing out of my mouth to my buddy was, 'Wow, that doesn't even look like him.' He looked way skinnier — at least 30 or 40 pounds lighter than the guy I've seen before," concertgoer Dan Schwab says. "I went up to the sound guy about two songs deep and said, 'No one can hear Doom's mic.' He looked at me and said straight up, 'I know. His mic's not on, and that's not MF Doom.' "
Whoever it was quickly ended his set and fled the stage; attendees booed and tossed water bottles. Doom's scheduled Independent show the next night was also canceled, as were the seven remaining dates on his tour. Even Scott doesn't seem entirely sure what happened. "He walked [into the building] with his mask on — that's how he always does it," he says. "I can't say for certain whether it was him or not."
The concert seems to have inspired a full-scale Internet mutiny among Doom fans, who accuse him of lip-synching at recent shows in New York and Los Angeles. (Few attendees at either gig accuse him of not actually showing up, however.)
"He performed in L.A., he performed in New York, and he was totally at the show [in San Francisco]," insists Doom's Los Angeles-based agent, Jason Swartz. He added that concerns for the MC's health cut the tour short, and he doesn't know if Doom was lip-synching. Doom himself did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Mystique has certainly been central to his appeal; hardly anyone knows what he looks like without his metal mask. In 2005, he even employed a double for a pair of photo shoots for Scratch and Elemental Magazine, which he confirmed in a letter to the latter in late 2005.
"Question: Is that the real MFDOOM on the cover photo?" it said. "Answer: Yes. The part of DOOM was played by [DOOM hype man] Big Benn Kling-on, Don King." He went on to compare the "character" of Doom to the character of Batman, which is played by several actors.
"It almost seems like he hatched a plan to see if he could get away with it," Schwab says about the concert. "Why else would he do something like this?"