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
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
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
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,