Brother From Another Planet

When it comes to hip-hop, Dr. Octagon veteran Kool Keith is out of this world.

These are hardly the only complaints Keith levied against The Automator and Dreamworks. He also accused unnamed parties of "intercepting" remixing assignments by asserting--inaccurately, he swore--that no one knew where he was. Moreover, he condemned these parties for implying that he hadn't been terribly involved with the creation of Dr. Octagon's sound. "All the Moog patches and the space stuff and the bubbles, the bubbly shit--that was mine. So was the stuff with the soulful bass lines; I always play a lot of my own bass lines, and that's what I did on Octagon. The violins and the harps and the loops with the flute--that was Automator. But a lot of it was my shit, even though it was marketed and shopped and represented all over the world like it wasn't."

On the surface, the Automator/Dreamworks spin would seem to present problems for Keith, particularly when it comes to convincing another company to back him. But he maintained that he had been able to overcome them. "I'm workin' on my new shit," he said, "and it's goin' to be on a big label that you've heard of--one of the big, big, big, big labels. And I'm gonna redo the Octagon thing my way, with a brand-new band and a lot of next-shit bass lines: new futuristic funk shit, but with all the alternative taken out of it. Octagon was alternative mixed with funk, which was like takin' a Rolls-Royce and puttin on a Ford Granada grille and Volkswagen wheels. And on this project, I'm rippin' off the wheels and rippin' out the grille and makin' shit that is so fuckin' pure.

"My channel is the real, real rugged funk-shit channel. Not the weird channel: That was Octagon. When I was doin' that, I was tryin' to do shit that was next and weird, but you could still play it in both worlds--like, the white people would love it and the black people would love it. But Octagon more or less catered to weirdos. You had a lot of weirdos that loved it, sayin' it was a masterpiece thing, and you had other people sayin', 'Hey, I can get with this'--like hardcore acid kids and techno kids into that Prodigy shit [the controversial Prodigy hit "Smack My Bitch Up" is based on an Ultramagnetic MC's sample]. But then you'd have funk people who'd say, 'This shit is funky, but I can't get with it.' It was kind of a selfish project musically. It was like it was sayin', 'Fuck you, listeners.' But I don't want to be selfish this time. I want to invite everybody in. I want people to say, 'Yo, this shit is dope. It's fuckin' weird, but it's just weird enough for me to get on.'"

Of course, having a reputation as a freak can be a chore at times, as Keith readily admitted. "I get a lot of people who want to work with me, but they think all they got to do is to make somethin' weird," he said. "And I like weird, but then you get people who make it too weird. They're like, 'Keith is so weird he would even rap on this shit.' And I'm like, 'Wrong. Wrong. BAAAAAH--press the buzzer. Wrong.' They think, like, 'He's Mikey, he'll rap on anythin'.' But that's not the fuckin' situation. The track is wack, take it back. I mean, I am a different type of person. Like, I'll walk into Macy's and there'll be seven blue coats hangin' up next to one yellow coat fuckin' glowin' in the dark--and I'll buy the yellow one. Different is my get-off. It's my adrenaline. But that doesn't mean that any kind of different will do. It's got to be the right kind of different."

As I was about to ask Keith to elaborate on this point, knowing in my heart of hearts that he would likely ignore my request, I glanced at my watch and noticed that I had been on the horn with him for a full hour--far longer than I had anticipated. Realizing that the clock was ticking, I tossed out one last question in the vain hope that he would acknowledge it. A lot of people are thrilled at the prospect of your playing a gig in Boulder, I told him, but they're wondering if you're actually going to show up. Are you?

"I don't know anything about it," Keith replied. "Where's it at?" And as I filled him in, I felt my excitement and my trepidation going head to head again.

Kool Keith. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 24, Fox Theatre, 1335 13th Street, Boulder, $15.75, 786-7030.

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