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On meeting (MF) Doom, the man behind the mask

It is Thursday afternoon and the press conferences for the various artists who will be performing in this year's Cape Town International Jazz Festival are already in full swing. Some artists are still arriving at their temporary hotel residence for the duration of the festival. The hotel foyer is naturally buzzing with activity when I arrive back from a lunch break.

As I steadily inch my way to the press conference venue I notice a lone figure sitting by the bar. He is wearing what looks like a charcoal flat-cap held firmly in place by a pair of matt-black earphones that match the frames of his spectacles. Initially, I don't think anything of it, though by his posture he looks like he could be one of the musicians who are scheduled to perform.

I stop to take a good look, wondering if maybe I am seeing Robert Glasper who I intend to interview the following day. I change my mind. He doesn't look like he is the same height as Glasper. In this brief moment one of the logistics people for the festival walks up to him and says something – I don't hear exactly what except the name "Daniel".

Now I am curious. The logistics person walks off back to her table so I decide to go after her and ask about the stranger. She says she doesn't know him save for the fact that he has just arrived from the airport and that his name is Daniel.

Okay then. I decide to satisfy my now burning curiosity and approach the man myself. I lightly tap him on the shoulder and ask, "excuse me sir, is your name Daniel – as in Daniel Dumile? I heard the lady call you by that name." He turns to me with an interested smile on his face and asks "what if I am, who told you that?" I tell him I was just guessing after hearing the name Daniel which I also know belongs to one Daniel Dumile. Dumile is the special guest of Robert Glasper at this year's Jazz Festival, popularly known as MF Doom or the updated Doom, in the hip-hop world.

He laughs and extends a warm hand of greeting saying: "You're the first one to spot me." What he means by that is that I am the first person to spot him without his signature mask, which looks like that of Marvel Comic villain Viktor von Doom's, a feature that has made him the elusive and mythical hip-hop character that he has become over a long and illustrious career.

He tells me he has just arrived on a long flight, saying that the weather in Cape Town is "just lovely". I ask where he was flying in from and he says London. "That's probably why the weather in Cape Town is lovely," I think to myself. Despite his weariness, he is very friendly and open. I ask the obvious question of whether a one-on-one interview would be possible.

"Sure, just speak to my manager over there – the dude in the blue cap, his name is Adrian," He says. "Tell him I said you should speak and we'll see if we can organise something." I am beyond ecstatic and awkwardly nervous now.

That one of the most interesting rappers in the game should be performing alongside the Grammy award-winning Glasper should not come as a surprise. A quick search on YouTube will give you all the explanation and context that you need.

Doom is essentially to hip-hop what Fernando Pessoa is to literature with his many interesting heteronyms. He too has many sides – alter-egos – and just as much creativity. His style of delivery, let alone his lyricism is without parallel, at least as far as I am concerned. But for now, I will contend myself with the hope that I will still get a chance to speak to this legendary genius of hip hop and look forward to seeing him doing his thing on the stage.

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Mpho Moshe Matheolane
Mpho Moshe Matheolane is a Motswana from the little town of Mahikeng. He is a budding academic, researcher and writer with interests in art, history, semiotics and law. He sits on the Constitutional Court Artworks Committee – a clear case of serendipity – and is a firm believer in the power of an informed and active citizenry.

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