When rapper Motion Man announced to thousands of fans at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK last weekend that fellow rhymer Kool Keith was in a mental hospital, he said he had the best of intentions.
But perhaps Motion Man should have checked in with Kool Keith first.
Although he's been hospitalized for depression in the past, Keith denied Motion Man's allegation Monday. Additionally, the situation seems to have driven a wedge between the always-unpredictable Keith and one of his other collaborators, Kut Masta Kurt.
Claiming that he didn't know the source of the information, Motion Man now says he was just repeating a story someone had fabricated to explain why Keith the multimonikered solo artist and former leader of New York's pioneering rap group the Ultramagnetic MCs wasn't onstage.
"I announced it onstage," Motion Man said Thursday. "I was looking [out] for [Keith's] best interests."
But, back in Los Angeles, Kool Keith (born Keith Thornton) said he'd been fielding calls from European promoters who "almost didn't want to mess with me," indicating it wasn't just fans who believed what he claims was a lie about his institutionalization.
The rapper said his former producer, Kut Masta Kurt, told overseas promoters that Keith had been committed to an asylum to explain why there wouldn't be foreign dates to promote his recently released album First Come First Served, which was recorded under one of his many pseudonyms, Dr. Dooom.
Keith said Kurt, who produced the album, had scheduled the shows behind his back in a plot to steal his limelight.
"[He] made up that I was in a mental hospital," Keith said Monday while clarifying his recent decision to fire Kut Masta Kurt (RealAudio excerpt of interview).
Like Motion Man, Kurt (born Kurt Matlin) said he went along with the story about Keith, but denied being the source of the rumor. However, Keith's manager, Jeremy Larner, supplied SonicNet Music News with a letter he claims Kurt sent to a UK booking agent, stating that Keith had to cancel shows because he had been committed to a mental hospital.
The letter, dated June 21 and bearing a signature and fax identification line reading "Kut Masta Kurt," states: "By now I'm sure you've heard about Kool Keith's commitment to the sanitorium [sic]. He could be there for weeks or even months." It goes on to blame Keith's recent decision to duck out of a joint tour with Detroit rappers Insane Clown Posse and hard-rockers Coal Chamber on his allegedly fragile mental condition.
The letter appears to be the same document attributed in a story bearing the headline "Kool Keith Seeks Psychiatric Help" in the current issue of the British magazine New Musical Express.
Kurt would neither confirm nor deny that he wrote the letter, calling it "unincidental." Instead, Kurt claimed that he went along with a rumor to "cover Keith's ass."
"There was a rumor that may have been created to protect everyone involved," he said. The DJ went on to argue that Keith's fans are aware that he has spent time in mental institutions before, and that they would find it easier to accept that Keith was back seeking treatment than that he had "flaked" on the shows.
"That was the only realistic excuse," Kurt said.
Keith claimed he ducked out of the tour with Insane Clown Posse to launch his own solo outing; both the rapper and his manager said that he didn't know about the European dates until two days before the Glastonbury Festival in England. However, Kurt and others involved in the overseas shows argued that Keith had been part of the planning since the beginning.
"The bottom line is that he disappeared," said Jon Sexton, head of Copasetik Records in London, which handles overseas distribution for the Dr. Dooom album.
Sexton, who had arranged for Keith to appear on the Glastonbury festival with Kut Masta Kurt and Motion Man, said he had discussed the shows with Keith for several months. While the other dates were canceled after it became clear Keith was not going to travel to play them, Kut Masta Kurt and Motion Man (who performs on the Dr. Dooom album) played the Glastonbury festival without Keith. It was during that performance that Motion Man remarked to the crowd about the rapper being in an institution.
"All the guys have done is quite simply cover his ass," Sexton said.
While Keith said his main reason for firing Kurt was that the DJ had gone behind his back to schedule the shows, he also charged that Kurt is taking too much credit for First Come First Served. The album centers around a serial-killer/cannibal character named Dr. Dooom and features the songs "Dr. Dooom's in the Room" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Neighbors Next Door" (RealAudio excerpt).
The Dooom persona follows a host of alter egos Keith has carried out on his albums; next in line is his Black Elvis character, which will debut in August on the Columbia Records release Black Elvis/Lost in Space.
Kool Keith first made an impact on hip-hop in the 1980s with the influential Ultramagnetic MCs. After the demise of the Ultramagnetics, Keith spent some time in a mental institution to battle depression, then reappeared in 1995 under a variety of names, most notably Dr. Octagon.
Kool Keith and Kut Masta Kurt met in San Francisco in 1992 and began working together the following year. Kut Masta Kurt produced the Dr. Octagon album Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996), featuring San Francisco Bay Area DJ Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, with whom Kurt also had a falling out in 1997. Kurt also oversaw Kool Keith's 1997 raunchy solo album Sex Style.
The Dr. Octagon character ceased to exist after Kool Keith mysteriously disappeared a month before he was scheduled to appear on a leg of the 1996 Lollapalooza summer tour.
Keith, who said he will replace Kurt with another DJ on his upcoming tour, said he is taking action to discontinue production of First Come, First Served as well as 1997's Sex Style to ensure that Kurt does not profit from the albums. "It's a shame that I have to stop, but it's the bottom line," Keith said. (RealAudio excerpt of interview)
"He can't do it," Kurt said in response. "He's going to have a problem trying to do that. He's going to create more problems for himself."
Before the letter allegedly written by Kurt surfaced, he said he was unaware that Keith had fired him. "No one has communicated that to me directly, so I would take it with a grain of salt," Kurt said. "If I had decided to stop working with someone I wouldn't announce it via the news. I would tell that person directly first."
Kurt added that his collaboration with Keith on First Come First Served was "close to 50-50."
As it happens, the cover of First Come First Served appears on a billboard on Highland Ave. in Hollywood, with an announcement stating: "New album by Kool Keith and Kut Masta Kurt."