Record Review - 1 July 18 2001

We've known all along that former Ultramagnetic MC and cosmic superfreak Kool Keith (aka Dr. Dooom, Rhythm X, Dr. Octagon, Mr. Gerbik, Black Elvis) truly was certifiable, having spent time as a psychiatric patient at Bellevue Hospital. But many of us gawked anyway, floored by his demented scatological flow and alien autopsy freeform associations. Along with plenty of barely passable work, there have been moments of near-brilliance, chief among them "Blue Flowers" on 1996's Dr Octagonecologyst. Kool Keith also has taken one-off star turns with Prince Paul, DJ Spooky and as the sampled menace powering the Prodigy's techno-metal crossover "Slap My Bitch Up."

Kool Keith thrives with talented collaborators, but sadly, his burn-all-bridges track record with talented beat makers who've either lost patience or been spurned as enemies for stealing the credit for his success — think The Instrumentalyst (Octagon Beats) — has left him collaborating with former porn actress Heather Hunter and Detroit horrorcore icon Esham Smith. Spankmaster is a record low, devoid of almost all the humor that has been crucial to his success. Kool Keith is over his head as musical director and executive producer. He's too far gone to realize that Spankmaster's production isn't gritty and street. It's just half-assed and amateurish, drawing inspiration, such as it is, from Esham's squiggly techno-laced acid-rap, circa 1992.

Though the subtitle, "There's a new kind of hero on the streets," and paddle-to-booty artwork intimates that this is a high-concept affair, Kool Keith spends most of his time mowing down big-time MCs who, among other things, stole his wigs, stage show and superstardom (OutKast's Andre Benjamin?). In "I'm a Tell-U," Kool Keith lays into an enemy, "with his hair like little Kim, contact lenses, Dapper Dan get with ice on his wrist/Just like the girls, you want a guy to say come here biz-itch!" The loverman falsetto on the chorus does nothing but add to the confusion.

The best songs, "Haters" and "Blackula," find Keith regaining his loony balance atop slippery bass lines, eerie keyboard noir and ping-ponging Space Invader boom-bap. But two songs do not a record make. And there's no excuse for "Girls Would U Fuck Tonight" or "Spank-Master," which are just foul and embarrassing. Is there anyone left who still gives a damn?

Kool Keith appears on the Warped Tour Wed., July 25, at HiFi Buys Amphitheatre, and at the Warped Tour afterparty at the Masquerade the same night.??