Kool Keith Brings Black Elvis, Other Characters, To Club Show

Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom and some Ultramagnetic MCs tracks make their way into set, too.

NEW YORK — Although he wore the hockey jersey, plastic wig

and gold cape that turn him into Black Elvis — a rapper from the

future who slings rhymes about flying saucers — Kool Keith had a

career's worth of characters with him here Wednesday night.

During a 70-minute set at the downtown Manhattan club Wetlands, this

man of many voices took on the roles of Dr. Octagon, a twisted gynecologist,

and the evil Dr. Dooom. And he reached back to old-school hip-hop to

perform several rhymes he wrote as a member of the New York underground

group the Ultramagnetic MCs, including "Two Brothers With Checks (San

Francisco, Harvey)" and "One, Two, One, Two."

But he never doffed the wig and cape, and as the set wound down, he

shouted, to the crowd's approval, "Black Elvis has not left the building.

He's still here."

More than 350 people were at Wetlands to witness Kool Keith's boisterous,

outrageous persona, which surfaces on the album Black Elvis/ Lost in

Space, released in August. But some were happy just to see Kool Keith

(born Keith Thornton).

"I think he's always stayed true to himself," said a 31-year-old man who

gave his name as Tshienda Cosmic. "Even though he plays different characters,

his music and his rhymes are the same."

Cosmic, visiting New York from Belgium, said he came to the show as a

fluke — he was walking past the club halfway through the set and

recognized Kool Keith's music.

The rapper, who didn't arrive onstage until shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday

(Sept. 2), played on his new album's brother-from-another-planet motif,

busting a move while he and a three-man crew he called his "hype men"

performed "Livin' Astro" (RealAudio

excerpt).

As Dr. Octagon — a pseudonym under which he released two albums in

1996 and 1997 in collaboration with producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura

— Kool Keith invited about two dozen young women onstage to dance

and frolic as he recited the demented anti-romance of "Girl Let Me Touch

You" and "Blue Flowers" (RealAudio

excerpt).

There were no costume changes or grand introductions of the various

alter egos, and through them all, Keith and his hype men threw raw chicken

wings in plastic bags into the crowd, in an apparent continuing reference

to the white Elvis.

Earlier in the night, fans heard the flip side of Kool Keith's old-school

beats and lyrical musings. DJ Spooky, known for his apocalyptic sound

and dizzying turntable ability, played a 40-minute set that sounded like

a warning signal for a nuclear holocaust, or maybe a simulation of time

travel on acid.

"This isn't your usual scratching sh--," Spooky (born Paul Miller) told

the audience.

Using turntables, sound-effects machines and an upright bass, Spooky

unveiled cryptic and eerie revisions of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and

Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." At other moments, his performance

bordered on psychedelia. The combination failed to capture listeners,

who responded with mild applause and a few jeers.

"This isn't Spooky's usual audience," concert-goer Lisa Levine, 26, of

New York, said. "They don't appreciate him as much."

Kool Keith continues his tour Thursday at the Higher Ground in Winooski,

Vt., and Friday (Sept. 3) at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton,

Mass.