Theres really no one in the wide world of hip-hop to compare to Kool Keith. Partly, this is due to his willingness to say things almost no other rapper would say (i.e., rhyming anything with the words space doo-doo pistols). But mainly, Keiths position comes from his willingness to perpetually reinvent himself with a range that I honestly didnt think was possible in rap music.
In the 1980s, he was the superfar-out member of the Ultramagnetic MCs, the New York old school experimenters who were already way farther out than any of their contemporaries. In the mid-90s, he took the leap from underground luminary to underground legend when he took the name Dr. Octagon and teamed up with turntablist DJ Q-Bert and producer Dan The Automator Nakamura to release Dr. Octagonecologyst, the potty-mouthed masterpiece by which all subsequent potty-mouthed masterpiecesand for better or worse, all progressive rap albumshave been judged. Some readers doubtless just put down the paper at mention of the album, needing no further justification to dish out their $12 at the Neurolux on June 13.
However, its fair to ask what the Doctor has done for you lately. After 12 years of uneven but prolific recording, regular appearances on the Vans Warped Tour and albums by a host of other less-ballyhooed invented characters (Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis and Mr. Nogatco, or octagon spelled backwards, to name a few), Keith wandered as close to the hip hop mainstream as he has ever come with 2004 release Diesel Truckers. His most recent single, Break You Off, is exactly what the title indicates: a jumpy bassline topped with horny but not particularly memorable rhymes and a chorus of a girl cooing in her best private-dance voice, Come here baby, Ima break you off.Is this what to expect at Keiths upcoming show? I have no idea, especially since as his never-ending stream of archival and unauthorized neo-Octagon releases shows, hes always got one eye looking to the past. In such an intimate setting, however, this is a show thats not to be missed no matter which of his incarnations shows up.