Extra Kool has been rapping since the late '90s, most notably as part of the duo Optik Fusion Embrace, with Satyr. Since 2005, he's performed as a solo act, releasing a string of albums, including Tickled Pink and his latest effort, The Creature From the Whack Lagoon, on the Dirty Laboratory imprint. Although the MC's music is an unflinching portrayal of dark inner thoughts coupled with surprisingly frank autobiographical sketches, his energy and commanding stage presence suggest that anyone can triumph over the worst life has to throw at you. Extra Kool tackles harrowing and difficult subjects with a rare wit and intelligence. We were able to have a few words with him in advance of his release show for the new record.
Westword: What's the story behind that well-known phrase "Denver rap sucks"?
Extra Kool: It was a joke. I wanted to make Optik Fusion Embrace shirts, and lots of people knew who we were, but no one really liked us because of our style of rap. I was a big anticon. nerd; I wanted to be something like that. Anyway, we used to get clowned at a lot of shows, especially in school. So I just said, "Well, Denver rap sucks." And we just made Optik Fusion Embrace shirts that said "Denver Rap Sucks." The shirts were a huge success. I should print more.
Extra Kool CD-release show, with Des Tours, Calm. and more, 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 25, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $6, 720-570-4500.
Parts of the song "Monster Squad" sound like something from Straight Outta Compton.
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The song was originally titled "Monster Monster," like "Gangsta Gangsta." But the song is about the movie Monster Squad. I play Fat Kid in the first verse, and in the movie, he kills the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Time plays Dracula in the second verse, and in the third verse, I play the Creature. I was listening to a lot of NWA at the time. Whereas a lot of "Gangsta Gangsta" is about doing drugs and illicit sex, my song is about monsters and slaying monsters.
It seems as though you refer to yourself as the Creature throughout the album. Why that metaphor?
I'm definitely the Creature. No one likes the monster in the movies, but people root for the monster. In the title track, I talk about how I'm the creature at the bottom of the lagoon, looking up at the damsels swimming. Those damsels are major record labels. I see all these other bands from Denver getting signed to major labels, including other hip-hop acts — and don't get me wrong, they're all great. But I've been rapping eleven years, and I've been shot down left and right. I've been laughed at, but I'm not going to give up. The Creature is me, and Denver is the Whack Lagoon. I say that sarcastically, because Denver is so not whack. I just don't think Denver gets enough credit, and the bands that do get credit aren't really pushing Denver. Time got me into that saying: "You're from Denver, and you love Denver. Push it!"