February 27, 2003

Ed's Underground

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Everyone keeps talking about all this “mature” music — going on about stuff like brilliant lyrics and insight into the human condition. Well fuck all that. Really, what more do you need to know about humans than sex? Kool Keith knows what I’m talking about, and he dispenses with the bullshit in favor of a ridiculous blend of kindergarten toilet humor, sci-fi comic book themes, and more raunchy innuendo than a Saturday night Skinemax flick.

While Keith’s guttermouth may be well known, equally famed is the beat-making ability of producer Dan the Automator. Together with scratches by flashy DJ Q-Bert, Keith and Automator bring to life the over-the-top personality of Dr. Octagon, a gynecologyst with a decidedly, ahem, unprofessional interest in his patients. It’s not exactly high-concept, but it is one of the most fun hip-hop records of the ’90s.

All three collaborators are crucial to the album’s success. The Automator turns in his usual sci-fi orchestrations, inventively mixing soaring instrumental samples with funky, ass-shaking beats. And Q-Bert’s scratching is inspired, outshining future Automator partner Kid Koala with harsh scrapes and bursts of wicky-wicky virtuosity.

But the real star is of course Kool Keith. The infamous shape-changer drops casually into the role of the sexy Doctor. His raps are laid-back, with a casual flow that conjures images of Octagon, shirt unbuttoned, leaning suggestively on the examining table. Under it all is the appropriate tinge of sleazy self-confidence, suggesting that this smooth-talking professional is not all he seems. And when he really gets super-freaky, he could make even Rick James blush with his fluid stream of single entendres and all-out nastiness. The Automator’s strings may serenade, but Keith unfailing sours the romantic mood by whipping it out and leering — which of course is just part of the always unpredictable fun.

Archived article by Ed Howard