You’d better get used to Kool Keith, ’cause it looks like he’s going to be around for a while. The famously freaked-out rapper has hundreds of songs already recorded — he’s been laying down four or five a day — and he’s getting ready to unleash them on the world.
He’s got about 10 solo albums up his sleeve, but first he’s gearing up for the summer release of his first group project since the Ultramagnetic MC’s — KHM, which stands for the three members’ names: Keith, H and Mark. It’s due in July on Keith’s own Gamelock Records.
“It has that significant branch off, that futuristic sound,” Keith said. “All my records have that distinctiveness. KHM is more into the new stuff. We like to make that brand new sound which nobody is doing, so it makes us creative.
“Everything I’ve made and still make will sound different from anybody in the music industry. That’s guaranteed,” he continued. “I’m always going to make groundbreaking stuff.”
The material on KHM’s still-untitled album doesn’t stray far from the funked-out, futuristic sound Keith usually delivers, he said, but it isn’t just a reiteration of material he’s already produced, either.
“KHM is brand new super space bounce. We’re basically an anti-group, very rebel. It’s kind of different, hard to explain. That’s why we called it KHM — it’s the personalities of Keith, H and Mark,” he explained. “We are very against the grain. But we do the same thing as I would always do — break new ground.”
Generally disenchanted with the current state of musical affairs, Keith claims the only person who moves him these days is Missy Elliott. “I don’t see anyone doing anything more innovative than [her], including myself. People will listen to a bunch of records that have no significance. They will go out and buy a CD just because it has somebody weird on the cover or because it looks like it has 18 spaceships on it. It’s just marketing. The CDs look so future, and then you put the music in and it sounds like some 1974 sh–.”
Keith doesn’t want to fall into that trap. In fact, his against-the-grain anti-group KHM may be the most conventional offering of the lot, considering what else he has planned. Soon after KHM’s disc drops, Keith’s solo album Keith … Straight Up Keith will come out. And then he’ll release a slew of follow-up material from the various personae in his head.
“I’ve got stuff for soundtracks. I’ve got Keith … Straight Up Keith. Then Keith Part 2: The Return of Keith; The Return of Black Elvis 2; The Awakening — Keith; Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis and Dr. Dooom; Jackie Jasper and Keith Part 1; Dr. Dooom Part 2; Matthew Part 2; Sex Style Part 2 and 3, all going down — endless. A compilation of new artists, I’ve got volumes one, two and three. Ultramagnetic Part 2: The Return and The Resurrection of Dr. Octagon. It’s all being worked on right now as we speak.”
You may remember that Dr. Octagon, Keith’s twisted gynecologist character, was killed by Keith’s Dr. Dooom. However, with plans to have Doc Oc release another album, Keith has to figure out a way for him to come back to life. In the meantime, he offered that it will be a “grave album with [illustrations by] Pushead and two skulls. Or how about two skulls and a Kangol?”
“And,” Keith added, “if [Dr. Octagon's record label] DreamWorks wants to get in the way, it will be Dr. Octacon with a ‘C.’ ”
Dr. Octagon is arguably Keith’s most famous alter ego. He collaborated with the then-virtually unknown Dan “The Automator” Nakamura to produce such hits as “Blue Flowers” and “Girl Let Me Touch You.”
“I was behind the production on a lot of the tracks,” Keith insisted, addressing what he said is the misconception people have that the album’s signature sound belongs to Nakamura. “Automator and [producer Kut Masta] Kurt are probably receiving more credit than I did, but I was a big musical person behind Octagon.”
While Nakamura acknowledges that working with Keith was an important step for him and that he’d be willing to collaborate on a follow-up to Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996), he said, “Just look at the track record,” in response to Keith’s claim.
But Keith maintains his stance. “Why should I lie? I have no reason to lie. If he did a lot of stuff on that album, I would be honored to say it, but he didn’t. But I like the Automator. We’re good friends.”
Keith’s relationship with Kut Masta Kurt isn’t exactly as amicable. Kurt said the two limit their interaction to business now. The strain on the relationship, Kurt said, “comes with all the extracurricular stuff Keith brings to the table in working with him. You know, taking him to the magazine stand and Popeye’s. It’s amusing the first time, but after six years it gets kind of redundant.”
Nevertheless, Kurt expressed respect and gratitude toward Keith for helping him get “some aspects of [his] career going” and acknowledged Keith’s role in Sex Style and Dr. Dooom’s First Come, First Served (1999). “But,” he said, “I have a lot of other productions under my belt other than these two albums. If you’d like a good example of what my production sounds like versus Keith’s, listen to Sex Style and Spankmaster. You will be able to notice the difference after one comparative listen.”
But Keith, feeling responsible for the two producers’ success and perhaps a bit left behind by it, said, “When I got signed to Capitol I helped Kurt buy so much equipment, and I can’t go there and record. I helped Automator walk. … They’re my sons, but they don’t even call me to say, ‘Hi, dad.’ “