Kool Keith and his many pseudonyms first put his name in the game as a member of the Ultramagnetic MC’s. Since then, Keith has blazed a trail with a variety of different solo projects under a number of different names. Somewhere after Black Elvis and before Diesel Truckers, a portion of Keith’s audience dropped the rope, and swarms of new fans elbowed in. The man, the enigma has released dozens of albums, moved about the country, and returned to his birthplace of New York with Kool Keith The Lost Masters: Volume 2.
AllHipHop.com has admired Kool Keith’s complete 360. We wanted to look at the past, the future, and marvel of some of Keith’s favorite things: p###, Pontiacs, and Parisian Rap. You’ll also why Kool Keith hates rappers who air out the hood. The man who made “stupid bass” a household term is back with many more quotables…
AllHipHop.com: You keep popping up in Manhattan after really representing Los Angeles. Why did you move back to New York?
Kool Keith: I was in LA for years, I’ve done everything possible I could have done out there. I’m a social person and I needed to see more people, I got bored out there. The streets are empty in LA, no one is doing anything and the influence of my writing got dragged down. There is s**t happening on Sunset Boulevard, the party life, Shaq was out there. LA was cool, but the musical and the youthful scene has left it. My inspiration and ideas were going down. In New York, there are eight million stories. You can hear this, you can hear that. The reality of walking through the city neighborhoods, subways, it makes me go in the studio and make some rugged music. Other cities are cool when you first get there, but after being there for a couple of days you start to see that other places are trying to be like New York.
AllHipHop.com: I saw this photograph of a built up Pontiac Trans-Am of yours. How’s the car collection sizing up?
Kool Keith: I have thousands of cars, but I have five I drive regularly. When I was little, I was a fiend [for cars]. I used to watch this old guy work on them. I’m not into driving too much, I like to subway, I like to take pictures, write and experience s**t when I’m traveling. I collect p### [nowadays].
AllHipHop.com: P### is so mainstream now. What’s your favorite p#### movie and who is your favorite girl?
Kool Keith: I like a lot of the Alexander Devo films, like Ass Worship, I like the camera angles they use. I’m into Evil Empire Stuff. Well, when I was in LA, I had the best friends Champaign, Spontaneous Ecstasy. Some people in Rap have p### girls up in their videos and s**t, try and hang with them, but I actually have fun with these girls. We had great parties in LA. I had more fun than the average basketball player. These girls are still my friends to this day. I used to go to the AVN [Adult Video News] awards show out in Las Vegas. I had great friends in p###, Ron Hightower used to live up the street from me.
AllHipHop.com: They say Vivid Video is the Def Jam of p###. Do you like the girls from Vivid?
Kool Keith: You see, the Vivid girls are too commercial for me. They’re not exactly my style. I get bored with that plot and drama stuff.
AllHipHop.com: Your style is so unconventional in the last ten years. Who inspires you?
Kool Keith: I go buy C-Bo [albums]. I listen to new rappers from all over the country: Seattle, Denver and even all over the world” Paris, Brazil, Canada. New York people don’t listen to a wide range of rappers, there are rappers all over the world right now. The DJ’s out in New York don’t understand that there are talented rappers in Des Moines, Iowa that are dope. I get a wide range of feel for everything. I know how to adjust and feel things. I don’t get stuck on any particular Rap style. To me, I already conquered the New York style. When you rap all day about your block, nobody cares about that. People rap about your block and your corner, but what does that mean to some fan in Japan who can’t relate to it the block or the corner?
AllHipHop.com: Well, Tim Dog said “F**k Compton” when the neighborhood thing really blew up.
Kool Keith: I hate people who say they run the streets, they own the streets, the streets are this or that, but you never see them in the streets. I’d rather do a documentary on trying to find your favorite rapper in the hood. They need a reality TV show on finding the rappers who say they are in the streets, in buildings and on the blocks they say they’re at. Rap has got too competitive with all the houses, cars, clothes. I want to know how much you rap, I want to know how good you rap. You could be a wack rapper and have expensive s**t lying around your house.
AllHipHop.com: There have been a few rumors floating about regarding an Ultramagnetic MC’s reunion, any comments on that?
Kool Keith: Well the thing with Ultra was, I been trying to get them to do things. I’m in the hustle. A lot of artists are waiting for someone to give them two fake legs to stand on to be in the Rap game. I try to tell these cats to go and put their money into themselves and make their s**t work. Some companies have cats who aren’t even holding the clothes that they are wearing in the video or in a magazine. I buy my own s**t.
AllHipHop.com: As you’ve evolved, what connections do you see in the artist you are now, to the Kool Keith that so many of us came to love on “Ego Trippin'”?
Kool Keith: Well, I see more growth and independence; I don’t have to wait for Atlantic Records to get my s**t going. I see that the independence is far greater than having a major label cat come and run up on me and want to see what I’m doing. We made “Ego Trippin” ourselves with our own money. I’ve been on major labels, the system can’t fool me, and nothing much has change in the way the [labels] deal with the artists.
AllHipHop.com: With all your different aliases, is it hard for you to keep up? I know you’ve gained new fans through Dr. Octagon and other projects, but some core fans have been confused…
Kool Keith: Well, me I have to stay above everybody. A lot of people bite my s**t. I’ve done everything possible image-wise. A lot of people try and steal my looks and what I do on stage. People see me come out with a cape on or something, they make a call and try and infuse that with something that they are trying to do. S**t, a lot of people know me. S**t Dave Grohl [lead singer of The Foo Fighters] comes up to me and knows me. I do a show somewhere Travis Barker, Marylin Manson are in the audience and slide out the back door. There are rappers who are your fans that are platinum and they have too much pride to come up and show me some love. I went in to record something for a commercial. While I was there, I went around to all the studios and it seemed to me that all these cats are trying to do the same thing. In one room they were trying to do R. Kelly type stuff, the next they were trying to do the Destiny’s Child type-thing and in the next they were trying to do the 112 thing.
AllHipHop.com: What sort of mental-state do your write best in?
Kool Keith: I write best in a bad mental state. I like to ride a pissy train, smell a bum and then I listen to a CD where someone is trying to diss me. It makes me turn into a diesel mechanical machine, and I keep writing.
AllHipHop.com: Few people have lasted like you from ’86 to today. Where do you see yourself twenty years from now?
Kool Keith: Motherf**kin’ Mick Jagger is ready to get in a wheelchair; he looks every bit of 2,000 years-old. I want to be doing shows like he is right now. Where do I see myself? I want to start producing motherf**kers. I have different people I want to get on different beats. I’d like to start selling some tracks to artists who want to get on a vibe that is different. I want to start making designer tracks for people; I invision different ideas for different people. I want to make custom made s### for specific people. I don’t want to send out a 50 beat tape that is for everybody. I want cats to be like, “Yo, this s**t is special made.” My music is more dark-horror, all my beats have a mean bassline, I’m the last of the futuristic Funk type s**t. I want Mary J. Blige to sing on some old crazy s**t, a beat that could be for Mobb Deep.