"I am Dr. Octagon." That's what Kool Keith (aka Keith Horton) claimed on Friday on the phone from the L.A. offices of Geffen Records. "I'm Octagon by name, I call myself that."
Then, he went on, "... they have a group called Dr. Octagon, but I don't really care about who owns the name. I've got my own stuff going on."
Sounding distracted, sometimes bored but definitely there, ever-elusive Keith was responding to the confusion surrounding the rights to the Octagon entity -- which consists of Keith, DJ Q-Bert of the Invisible Skratch Picklz and producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura -- questions left unanswered when Keith apparently vanished last month just before Octagon were scheduled to play the opening weeks on the second stage of Lollapalooza '97.
Nakamura said, as far as he was concerned, it was unclear who or what Octagon was, but that wasn't the real problem that led to what appears to be the dissolution of the group and the alleged disappearance of his partner in rap. "It was basically about money," Nakamura said last week. "He agreed to do Lollapalooza, then he never showed up."
The loss of the Lollapalooza dates came just a month after the Octagon crew missed-out on some potentially lucrative dates opening for Beck in May. But, as far as Keith is concerned, he wasn't missing -- he just didn't know. "I was unavailable," Keith said about the missed rehearsals. "Nobody called me. I didn't get the proper calls about this tour. I didn't come to the rehearsals because there were too many late notices to my management," he added, yawning into the phone.
With all due respect to Keith, Nakamura said that he would likely never work with him again. "I love Keith. But he's been with five majors and never done a second album, so I'm prepared not to work with him again. I've never heard from him since May and he just didn't show up."
Keith's excuses, he said, are just his attempts to cover his tracks. "I've never had a personal problem with Keith, but he definitely avoided some of his responsibilities," he added.
It got so bad that Nakamura said he had to exclude Keith from the decision-making process -- which for a time involved plans to bring in Brand Nubian rapper Sadat X to back-up Keith in case the elusive sex-style rapper didn't make it to Lollapalooza dates . "We could never find him," Nakamura said.
As stories about Keith's alleged disappearance began surfacing, stories circulated that the real reason the self-proclaimed extraterrestrial MC, a former member of the legendary Ultramagnetic MC's, was MIA was because of a dispute over money. "He got his $140,000," Nakamura said. "No one didn't get paid."
Surprisingly, Keith concurred, explaining that he was basically a hired gun on the Octagon album, Dr. Octagonecologyst, recently re-released by Dreamworks Records with extra tracks that weren't available on the original 1996 Bulk Recordings version of the album. "When I worked with The Automator," he said, "It was basically a 30/70 split, 30 on my part and 70 on his. It was more his project on the musical tip. I was mostly laying down the rhymes. I did what I was paid to do. There's no dispute."
In fact, the Octagon project was one of more than half-a-dozen albums and 12" singles that Keith appeared on in 1996.
Keith, who can currently be heard on the track "Diesel Power," from The Prodigy's fast-selling The Fat of the Land album, said he's already on to several new projects, although he kept the details mysteriously vague. "I'm recording a funk album now in L.A. with a bunch of different people and producers. It's my own funk that sounds more like me."
Keith, who also recently recorded a single with his protege, Sir Menelik, called "Space Cadillacs," said the unnamed funk project is in addition to a "new wave album" he's working on that will be different from the Octagon beats-and-rapping trip. "It will be more advanced. I'm not into beats anymore. I liked the beats and distinctiveness of the Octagon album, but I have stuff I have to do now. I can't stick to one thing. You might hear me rapping on some things you wouldn't expect me to be on. I can't donate my whole life to Octagon."
And with that cryptic clue, Keith -- the man who calls himself Dr. Octagon -- was gone again.