Dead Prez and Kool Keith
Fri, Sep 28
Underground rap icon "Kool" Keith Thornton released more than a dozen albums under almost as many pseudonyms after first gaining fame as a founding member of the Ultramagnetic MCs in New York in the mid '80s. After three notable albums with the MCs, Thornton's solo debut single, "Earth People" as Dr. Octagon, appeared in 1995 on San Francisco-based Bulk Recordings to little attention. It was the full Dr. Octagon:Ecologyst (1996-Mo Wax) LP first released on the then-hot UK label that drew international attention to Thornton and his prior work. Major label Dreamworks re-released Dr. Octagon – with its contributions from Dan the Automator and DJ Shadow – to an enthralled American public in 1997 and it would cast a large shadow over his future work. Amid an era of gangsta rap and political rants, Thornton delivered warped lyrics as and smooth as they were clever. Hilarity and complexity matched the Brooklyn MCs fearless attacks on commercial rap, as well as explorations of outer space, aliens, animals, toilet humor, serial killing, medicine and pop culture. Notable releases Sex Style (1996-Funky Ass) vaunted the invention of “pornocore” rap while the ironically boisterous Black Elvis/Lost In Space (1999-Ruffhouse) hit number ten on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. First Come, First Served (1999-Funky Ass) featured Thornton in the role of serial killer Dr. Dooom killing Dr. Octagon, while the raw Matthew (2000-Threshold) made number forty-seven on the Heatseekers chart. The much respected Spankmaster (2001-TVT) precluded a series of less notable collaborations before Diesel Truckers (2004-Dmaft) reunited Thornton with original solo producer KutMasta Kurt. Mixtapes, small run releases and unauthorized releases soon muddled Thornton's discography, culminating in The Return of Dr. Octagon (2006-OCD) – which was released without production input from Thornton; he disavows the recording in the press. The Best Kept Secret (2007-Dmaft) with a reunited Ultramagnetic MC's came out to poor reviews, and Thornton returned to character with Dr. Dooom 2 (2008-Funky Ass). Thornton continues to record and tour and remains untouchable as hip hop's strangest, most innovative MC.