Kool Keith is a man of many mysteries, many personalities and, of course, many surprises. Since the twilight years of hip hop's Golden Era, Keith (aka Black Elvis, aka Dr. Octagon) has held the torch for rappers who dare to be different, and a little eccentric. You'll definitely get a taste of that in this excerpt of a phone interview he did with the Weekly in preparation for a totally awesome, totally random gig at Slidebar in Fullerton this Sunday with Free Moral Agents and Speaker Junkies. Check it out.
So I've heard you're making a trip to Slidebar over in Fullerton?Have you ever been down there before?
Kool Keith: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm comin' down to hang out. I think I have, isn't House of Blues somewhere around there? I've done some Black Elvis tours down there. I remember it was always warm there.
You've also got a new record coming out on Oct. 13, Bikinis and Thongs, can you talk a little bit about what's going on with that?
KK: I have a couple of records out.
Right, this one and Lost Masters are your 2009 releases so far right?
KK:Yeah, I had Lost Masters Vol. 3 it's an add on combined with Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Those are the Lost Masters which are the collector's additions of all the albums, which are a colossal piece of records, things I didn't release and things that people would probably love to hear as records that I never put out before. Bikinis and Thongs is a collaboration with Yeti Beats and Dennis Deft. I think the originally under the name KDY.
Those are both artists you've worked with in the past. What was it like recording with Dennis and Yeti this time around?
KK: We recorded some tracks when I was in L.A. and we made a lot of records when I was in Los Angeles in the last couple months and made some videos but we never really "collaged" it together, I guess they finally "collaged" it together. We were working kinda random, we didn't know it was going to end up as an album. We just made videos and records and after a while, you keep recording enough and it ends up being an album. I forget sometimes what I did. I forget how many records I've accomplished.
At this point in your career, what are some keys that help you stay prolific as an MC?
KK:I like to record a lot, my thing is recording. To me recording is perfection. A lot of rappers they don't record with practice, they don't practice, they just record records at certain times. I record and I experiment. And I have a two way side with recording. There's times where I collaborate with producers and there's times where I just do my own original music.
It's kinda hard sometimes, but I'm professional, I could rap on all types of tracks. But sometimes the lyrical content that I'm making from scratch and straight original is like something that's fit for the lyrics. When you're making Star Trek, you want the whole sound track to be Star Trek. When Mr. Spock is coming out the ship, you want whatever sounds match Spock coming out the ship. And if he's having a fight, or when he's getting beamed up, you want the records to match that part.
Who are some artists that are listening to these days or taking notice of?
KK: I listen to myself of course [laughs]. There's not too many lyrical artists out there no more, every one has a catch to their music. I feel like people are like repeating the same three words like 50 times in a record. And make fours bars and rhyme it. And then they repeat: "I THROW THE ROCK AT THE TREE, I THROW THE ROCK AT THE TREE, I THROW THE ROCK AT THE TREE." I think music is less creative on the mental right now, there's not too many people to listen to.I listen to different types of sci-fi music. I used to listen to rock, but rock ain't even rock anymore. People say rock is rock, but I hear rock music without any guitars or anything. I like rappers who are writing more.
And most of the rappers talk about the same things. Everyone is rapping about how good their livin', Champagne, "I'm shooting everybody". We have so many killer rappers. everybody's coming in like "I'm killin' your house, I'm crushin' your family, I'm pulling the 9 out". We've had 20 years of that rap and I'm kinda tired of it. We have too many crime bosses in the studio. We have too many conscience rappers. Too much conscience rap. Everyone wants to help Obama now, and turn all Chuck D. I give Chuck D the credit because he was original. We got too many crime bosses and too many people who want to be Chuck D. I think I'm a balance in the middle of all this stuff. I'm the equalizer.
Do you have tour going on in support of the latest album, Bikini's and Thongs?
KK: Yeah, I just came back from Japan, I'm heading through the mid west, Chicago, Minneapolis, Iowa, Idaho, Seattle...I pretty much have a round about way of touring. Then I got back to Australia, then I go back to Tokyo, then I go back to the States and then I go to Europe. I travel around the world a lot. It's pretty good for a rapper who hasn't been on a label in a long time. That's not really my concern, being on a label, I think my ability to be original have been fantastic. I didn't know how proficient my career could be until I got off labels. I felt more trapped when I was in a label deal. They're easy to get in and hard to get out. I like the freedom I have now.
It's like you're playing on a baseball team and you got coaches whispering in your ear and they don't know what to tell you, and then say another employee joins the company and they coulda been workin' for Mickey Mouse last week and now they're telling you what kinda records to make and what choruses to make. I don't have shackles on my legs. A lot of MCs have shackles on their legs.
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Are there any projects outside of the music industry that you're working on these days?
KK: Yeah, I got a couple things...some lingerie visuals I'm doing. Some broad ideas. I'm trying to put spark back in the world. So I want the girls to feel comfortable. Everyone can be a doctor, everyone can't put on scrubs to work so we need some women out there to be different. I mean Grace Jones was the only different kind of woman. I think America has to adapting and being different, I think the world is getting over-conservative now.
In a lot of the magazines and stuff, everyone is a basic model, everybody's got a lot of conservative stuff. And everyone's trying to show off the hottest jeans and the hottest shirts. I think that's over redundant. If you go to a fashion show, you see jeans, and jeans have been out for years, just jeans on your ass. I'd rather go to a fashion show and see a woman come down the runway with like a space helmet on and a thong up her ass [laughs]. I don't get impressed no more. Fashion has taken a nose dive. Everyone has a scarf around their neck and they look cool or whatever and their wearing a shirt by Casa Blanca or whatever and it just gets to be monotonous.It's just like rap, I try to write stuff that people wouldn't even think about.
What are some of the ideas you like to rap about the most? The craziest stuff.
KK: I'm writing stuff like "I'm scratchin' my balls on planet Jupiter" or "I'm shavin' my pubic hair while I'm riding in the space shuttle", or whatever. I write stuff so "other-dimensional", these rappers sound so earthly to me. They're not taking me no where. Everyone's got the same street story... these guys sound like AM radio.
What are some elements of your live show that you're looking forward to showing some of the Slidebar crowd who might not be familiar with your work?
KK: It gotta come out with my curtains. I gotta wear my curtains around my head. The curtains is the energy that doesn't let certain energy in. I give energy out. I have to maintain that. I have a different type of protection, for ancient spirits to protect my future...My live show is what it is. My live show starts from the dressing room, how the pickles taste on my sandwich, making sure my sandwich isn't stale, whether my mustard is nice and and hot and golden, sometimes it might not be golden. Just different things. It's my crackers, are they hard? Are they soft? It's a rhythm. It's like when I get in the batter's box, I gotta put my gloves on, I gotta dig my feet in the dirt. I gotta put my gloves on, take them off a couple times. I gotta take a couple swings, I gotta look at the ball park, feel it out and get up there and hit a home run.