Kool Keith – Man of a Thousand Faces

Kool Keith is undeniably the most innovative and eccentric figure to ever pick up a microphone and rap; the George Clinton of Hip-Hop. 

Born in The Bronx, the birthplace of Hip-Hop, revered as the inventor of abstract rap and a Player from the day his legendary crew, Ultramagnetic MC’s, dropped their second single, Ego Trippin’, in 1986. Dominating the hearts and minds of true blue Hip-Hop artists, fans and critics alike on the crew’s highly influential Critical Beatdown in 1988 until their third and final offering, The Four Horsemen, in 1993.

Relocating to Hollywood, Ca, Keith flipped the script and returned as the heralded Dr. Octagon, a time traveling ET gynecologist and surgeon in 1995, appealing to the designer drug crowd and touring the world in 1996, eventually signing with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks label. Referring to the project he recorded in a day as scrambled eggs with cheese and pepperoni. 

In 1997, Kool Keith the Player on a strict diet of sex, porn and the seedy side of Hollywood life, dropped the infamous Sex Style album on his very own Funky Ass Records. The label name an ode to the illusion of strippers. The cover featuring a relaxed Keith in underwear, boots and muscle shirt, posing beside XXX star Spantaneeus Xtasty. 

“Marilyn Manson, people think he’s dope. I want to be up there.  I’m up there. I’m next to Stan Beck. I’m bigger than Guns N Roses now. Fuck Nirvana. We just big. We are Rock; I’m Rock.”

Holding court on the phone for an hour back in 1997, Kool Keith discusses his storied career, Hollywood life, exposes rapper illusions, disparages sample happy Producers, and what he terms the Tracy Chapman effect of artists selling out their culture and souls to achieve success.

“I’m doing something different. I lived in New York all my life. New York is narrow minded sometimes. The Rego situation there and the mixtapes, its getting stagnant now. Those muthaphukkas is thinking an SP12 and a sampler is their life. I spoke to certain artists, and they know who they are, about drum machines and different types of things and they couldn’t understand my conversation when I started mentioning Moogs and Prophets and DX7s and D50s and different types of keyboards and equipment.

They couldn’t fucking digest it because those slow muthaphukkas didn’t understand. It’s not about an SP12 and a sampler. That’s a Charlie Brown and Linus setup. In Charlie Brown, Linus had that little fucking piano, and a lot of these narrow minded Producers should wake up a realize that they got to get up off that Linus type bullshit. Sitting down with that one fucking piano.

There’s a lot of other instruments out to use. It’s a bunch of Premier wannabe’s. I respect Premier, but it’s a bunch of Premier wannabe’s. They know who the fuck they are. They need to stop it and go out, read keyboard magazines and books, and realize and open their fucking minds to know there’s other music out here and respect other music.” 

Highly upset the evolution of his beloved Hip-Hop from streets, lights and culture experienced a cross pollination with farm and crop, “to calm America down”,  Keith rails against fantasy comical groups jumping around in colourful videos shouting out Mafia slogans. 

Citing consumer sellout plans, marketing schemes, sampling Producer thieves, and rappers who lease their own careers to illuminate a champagne lifestyle as Hip-Hop killers.  Keith illustrates how “fronting is real big in America”.

“When Rakim, when everybody was rhyming back in the days, we had our stuff made. We was wearing the Gucci stuff and everything was fly back then. All those groups had fly gear on but they didn’t rap about it. Now, its like, more rappers just rapping about what they wear and what they got and what they own.  It’s no more real skills on the mic. Its a lot of materialistic bragging. That’s like 75% of rap right now, so we have a problem.”