Kool Keith: Dooom Seeker

The rap game is notorious for the short shelf life of its artists. Many of the MCs who packed stadiums in the 90’s, or early 2000’s, have either been labeled irrelevant or have simply disappeared from view altogether.Hip-Hop mainstays like De La Soul and LL Cool J are respected not only because of their skill, but because people still look forward to their albums decades in the game. The number of rappers in that group is small, but with a little more than 20 years in the game “Kool” Keith Thornton has earned his spot in that circle. Kool Keith has been able to maintain a healthy catalogue by giving his loyal fan base the unexpected.From his trendsetting work with Ultramagnetic MCs, to his solo rap work and more experimental albums Kool Keith’s main theme has been change: “I just switch up,” says Keith. “I make my life interesting and come up with different music, different images… The fans are interested in my evolving changes… They didn’t just hear me talk about one particular subject all my life. They didn’t hear me everyday rapping about champagne and cars or rapping about girls all the time. They heard other sides of my [creativity], my talent.”Ultamagnetc MCs “Raise It Up” Video

Over the years that creativity has turned into a page full of aliases, costumes and spaced out album covers. Kool Keith has donned a plastic wig to rap as Black Elvis (1999), got creepy as Dr. Octagon (1996), got lyrical in The Best Kept Secret (2007), and on his new album, Dr. Dooom 2 via Threshold Recordings, he gets grimy. Working behind the boards with DJ KutMasta Kurt, the album is an intro to first time listeners but manages to give fans in his own words, “That funky dark horror s**t,” as well as the eccentric beats and off-the-wall rhymes they expect from the veteran. While the music is in line with his usual aesthetic, Keith is quick to point out that part of that signature is its ability to fluctuate. “A lot of rappers from my time ain’t really doing s**t cause they stuck at what they did in 19 whatever,” he explains. “They just stuck. I had different ways of doing things. Me being me, and changing, opened up new doors. Me being flexible got me on a lot of other projects that were very successful without even being in the rap circle. [Projects] that were really big and prosperous, and that were quite interesting.”  “I have flexibility,” he continues. “I have dimension to my writing skills. [Others] are stuck. They gotta come out either one way or another. If they don’t come out that same way they done. Talking bout I got rims. I got this, I got that… They stuck.”  Kool Keith/Dr. Dooom “RIP Dr. Octagon” VideoThat ability to shift gears and create different music got him working not only with DJ KutMasta Kurt but also Ice-T on Analog Brothers (2000). “I rapped on Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up,’” adds Keith. “Diesel Power sold 3 million records. I’ve been on a lot of projects. I’ve been on Africa Bambaataa mixes. Ended up working with groups that people thought would never really deal with me. I’ve done it all.”  Kool Keith has a history in the game, and has worked on a number of different projects (many with UK artists who still admire the music of The Ultramagetic MCs and Kool Keith) but understands his place in the Hip-Hop time line. “A lot people had records out way ahead of me. I used to see [Grandmaster] Flash perform and see them in the Roxy, and I wasn’t even making records. Scorpio and everyone, so those guys had records out years before [me]. I was still coming into a new generation of rap. My time didn’t even start until around ’89 like Rakim. That’s not even the old school time. Old school had its time pass behind the Fresh Fest. I wasn’t even on that stuff. It kills me when people say old school. I wasn’t even in that time zone.” Ultamagnetic MCs “Poppa Large” Video”When I came out I set a new tone,” continues Poppa Large. “I was on some futuristic space music. To this time and day. I’m spaced out now. I was ‘Star Treked’ when I came out. So my s**t was always advanced. People used to say, ‘What is he saying? He just says weird stuff.’ But now I’m glad. You got a person like Lil’ Wayne. He’s space now.”In talking about his placement in the Old School vs. New School spectrum Kool Keith says, “A lot of rappers from my time don’t really like the new rappers. They feel like It’s like only a few can really hang. But there are only a few rappers from a certain time, my time, that can hang with the young rappers. I think my style is adjustable to the time. There are only a few rappers from 80 something that can rap with the new guys right now. A rapper from my time being here is great cause your cadence did not deteriorate. You don’t rap off the beat or still rap like, ‘Yes yes ya’ll. Come on now! Gotta give it to the people’” Honestly you can’t do that Kurtis Blow. He was the man, but times change. That’s how I look at rap. I’m the equivalent to Allen Iverson. He’s been in the league for a few but he’s good. He can still get through and penetrate, still good on defense.”  Fans of Kool Ketih have been waiting for this sequel to the original Dr. Dooom (1999) and it promises to not disappoint. The all-original beats (Kool Keith doesn’t sample) still create that dark mood, and his crazy wordplay is still on point. Not dwelling on his years in the game, his eyes are still focused on the next thing, the next sound, and the next idea that will open the ears of Hip-Hop heads looking for something new.Kool Keith “Plastic World” Video

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