Kool Keith: the ever changing image can add Kool Konfusion

18th March 2017

Title: Black Elvis/Lost in Space

Label: Music on Vinyl

Just who is this guy, eh? Apart from being former psychiatric patient at Bellvue, that is? We know that he formed Ultramagnetic MC’s along with Ced Gee and DJ Moe Love but then left to become Rhythm X, and then Dr. Octagon and then Dr. Dooom and then Mr. Gerbik and then well, Kool Keith. His work is packed with critique (of his fellow artists) and layered with enough metaphor to demand, from the listener, a studied reply in essay form (on my desk by Monday or else).

His work has been well received and sought out. Witness the reaction to his debut single, Earth People which was an underground hit on Bulk. The man certainly knows that surrounding himself with talent is a ‘good thing’. His collaborations as Dr Octagon, for example, with the likes of DJ Q-Bert and DJ Shadow worked well, providing an effective combination of the strange and the artful.

His track record then is one of exploration and adventure and individuality: love him or hate him. And some people found his coiffured Black Elvis thing a little too much to cope with. This debut as Kool Keith, on Ruffhouse, features two discs (Disc 1 is Lost in Space and Disc 2 is Black Elvis). Despite the name change and the image revamp, it was a sort of revisit to music of old but without the efforts of DJ Q-Bert to give it added zip.

That’s not to say that this is a bad record, far from it. Originally released in 1999, this newly pressed reissue remains an excellent release, well mastered (with a 4-page insert included) and has the space to display a range of tonal facets in and around the insistent beats. Whether that be a streak of smooth soul and funk on Lost in Space or the darker, sub bass environment of Rockets on the Battlefield

It’s just that the image change wrongly triggered new expectations which never really arrived. The man gets bored, it seems and needs a new wardrobe on a regular basis. Hey, everyone needs a hobby.