Kool Keith zat na zijn show backstage duidelijk op zijn praatstoel. Een interview van ruim een uur was het gevolg dus ga er maar even rustig voor zitten.
R2P2: -Critical Beatdown is something you will always be remembered for. The album was so influential and groundbreaking as far as beats, production and lyrics concerned. How do you reflect on that when you look back on that time period?
Kool Keith: I feel like an Olympic gold medalist, it put me in a legendary status of my career. It was music history, not only rap, but overall music. People know me from Critical Beatdown from everywhere – every stage of the music industry, rock to pop and so on. Critical Beatdown set a big stage for my whole career.
R2P2: A lot of people are like almost demanding a Critical Beatdown or Dr. Octagon follow up, they love those albums so much, they just can’t leave that alone. But isn’t it a fact that you left that behind you – in a positive way- and look further- that you can always make new music instead of doing the same albums over again?
Kool Keith: I want people to not get stuck on a project. It’s good that they do, but I want people to know that every album I do is a classic regardless if it’s different. They should not compare Black Elvis to Mathew, Spankmaster to Mathew, Black Elvis with Dr. Doom- every album stands alone, they should take it as a different project. I think the critics sometimes get caught up with records, it’s just all totally different. We’re gonna do another Ultramagnetic record. I don’t want it to be classified as Critical Beatdown part 2. I want the people to take it as a different record, different, but it’s still good, it’s still Critical Beatdown in our own way. It’s just gonna be Ultramagnetic doing a record together again. But it’s not a comeback, it’s just Ultramagnetic on distinctive tracks, something different again. The people and the chemistry again on brand new records again, brand new beats.
R2P2: Who’s doing the production?
Kool Keith: I’m doing it, Moe, Trevor, Ced, everybody’s got a hand in production. We gonna keep it in house, so we keep the sound, I’m gonna do maybe only one song (production wise) I wont even probably touch the album, but it’s all distinctive tracks.
R2P2: About the gold era golden age of the 80’s, Ultramagnetic performed with Boogie Down Productions, how was that like, being both from the Bronx and representing it? Was there like a bond between the two groups?
Kool Keith: We were the hottest two groups in the Bronx. Before anybody got hot in the Bronx I think we represented the Bronx as the New School first, you know, there was nobody from the Bronx poppin, you had other groups from other cities, until Ultramagnetic came out and KRS as far as the next wave and the new wave. People always say old school, but there is no such thing. We came out in 87, which they had thousands of groups out way before us. So we couldn’t be old school, we was like the golden age, it was the middle era. People like MC Shan, that was like the middle school. Kool Herc and Bambaattaa had records out, I mean, Whodini, LL, a lot of people were out way before Ultramagnetic. Treacherous Three, T La Rock, SugarHill, Kool Moe Dee, Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, Fearless Four, Run DMC. We hadn’t even had a record- we were middle school. People get mixed up, old school, new school, the middle school- the middle school- is like the second generation. I can’t get with this old school, new school, middle school. You know, people don’t consider Mick Jagger old school. They don’t say Elton John is old school, it’s just they still rock.
R2P2- They are like old men but not like old school?
Kool Keith: Yeah, we were in the middle.
R2P2: Is there still like any contact between you and KRS?
Kool Keith: I see KRS sometimes when he’s on the road, a lot of groups still doing shows from that era. As a matter of fact- I got a show with KRS coming up soon.
R2P2- What about the rumors of a live album release from Ultramagnetic and BDP from that time?
Kool Keith: No, there is no such thing.
R2P2: You and Ced also did production in that time period for Krown Rulers, and you were down with Tuff Crew, one of my favorite groups.
Kool Keith: Yeah, we had a big impact on Philly, it was like a hometown city for me to perform. At that time we performed in Camden, Philly, shows around Philly. That was when Steady B was around, Hilltop Hustlers, Schoolly D, Yvette Money, I even did shows with Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Will Smith was in Philly, we did Camden High together, it’s funny, we did that with all these groups. Three Times Dope, everybody in Philly was a big part of the golden age.
R2P2- Tuff Crew had like the distinctive sound, same like Ultra, is there still any contact with people from Philly?
Kool Keith: A lot of good people from Philly, I like Philly from back in the days. A lot of hustlers were doing shows, at high schools, they treated us well. They had us out there, you know, people like Mitch, Lady B, Power 99, 103. They supported Ultramagnetic to the fullest. Those were the good days. We had a lot of people there- it was big city behind us, I haven’t got nothing but love for Philly. Everybody was always down with us.
R2P2- Is there a difference in the audience in this time when you are performing and like 15/20 years ago?
Kool Keith: There is a difference; I mean the crowd crossed over. I mean, now when I look at the audience I see a lot of different children. Back in the days it was very ghetto, more of a ghetto crowd, more of a projects audience. Like hustlers, drug dealers. Blacker areas. Ultra used to perform in front of a lot of black people. Now it’s suburban. We perform for a different audience now. I think that comes from Octagon. And maybe Sex Style and Black Elvis. That put me in a different genre of rapping. People are now catching on to what I was doing. The wave caught on. What we came to through as street and dirty, doing clubs and you know…we were a big group on the streets. We crossed over kinda like to an eeeh… eclectic pop audience. Not pop in a way of Britney Spears, but a pop audience of like, you know, doing shows in Spain, Holland. You know, a legendary audience, cult following people. People who will buy records forever. Dedicated people now, people who did research. I’m glad my career went into a generations of people.
R2P2: Do you remember doing a track in Holland with All Starr Fresh (King Bee) and Rude Boy in the 80’s?
Kool Keith: Yeah, when I first came to Holland it was All Star Fresh, King Bee, LJ. Holland was great for me. I came to Holland in 88/89. And Kees (de Koning) – Kees was the first one. I remember 89 walking through Holland with Kees. Kees was real skinny. Now he’s big. I love Kees.
All Star Fresh- I remember nothing but hospitality. I stayed at All Star Fresh his house. His mom cooked chicken. I had fun, it was real. I was in Amsterdam way before I even knew I was in Amsterdam. It was nothing but love, my realness of coming out here, I liked Holland ever since. I came out here a long time ago.
R2P2- That’s why you get so much respect also I think.
Kool Keith: Yeah.
R2P2: Was there a first time out in the Bronx when you felt- this is hiphop- this is rap, this is what I want to do?
Kool Keith: It’s funny. I kept on going. The dedication on writing and doing songs- I think eeh… I kept going when everybody gave up…you know Trev and Moe, Tim, everybody did their thing, Tim is still doing shows. But I think the ambition of the group got a little lazy but I kept going. Moving on, I never got mad at them, you know, we never broke up or nothing. It’s just that I had to keep moving on and keep making records. Even when I started to do the Ultramagnetic album I wanted to do a solo album anyway.
R2P2- Yeah, that was the intention right? You and Ced Gee doing solo albums?
Kool Keith: My first deal with Ced was to do a solo record. I was gonna be a solo artist. I was gonna be solo artist regardless you know what I’m saying?
R2P2: You said in an earlier interview Paul C (RIP) was the first or only person to get you to get tight on your lyrics. And at that time nobody else could tell you that.
Kool Keith: I’ve known Paul C for years. He would tell me to go back at my vocals. I’ve thought nobody could ever tell me that to do my lyrics over in life. But I listened to him, and he was right. To this day I take that Paul C energy when I go do my vocals, I go out and listen to ‘em myself when I go in the vocal booth. I listen to see if I said the words, you know…see if I pronounced all the words…see if my vocals are up high.. I learned even from Andre Harrel, he told me all the time, he said, star vocals. I always wondered what he meant by that. He said, always mix your vocals upfront and eeeh… You know there maybe some records… when I go into a bullshit studio…You know, 90% I’m going to a top A studio, and I always try different places, but as far as Paul C, he was one of the most influential persons on me on vocals. I keep working on vocals, staying on point. I do my own criticism on my lyrics, I come out the booth and listen to them for maybe two or three rounds. See if they mispronounced words, or vocals aren’t said right. You know, I go do it over. Even when I kick one verse, I kick two, three or four verses, you know, to make sure. Sometimes I do one take stuff, but I do criticize my vocals. I listen to everybody’s vocals, reading everybody’s vocals.
R2P2: How do you push yourself every time further with each album, having this high standard, being original? Where do you find inspiration?
Kool Keith: Well, I try to do new stuff, I’m ahead of my time. The industry… a lot of magazines are more newer and fresher to the industry then my music. My music has been going on for years. My music has been going on longer than magazines. So you have a lot of magazines coming out with a lot of young staff, they gotta make critical comments about records and stuff like that. My music is way beyond the music that’s coming out, so way beyond the staff. You know, these people may be 16 or 17 years old. So they try to criticize a lot of records that I come out with. It’s more jealous people or haters of what I’m doing, because I’m doing something totally different. Like records that I’m making, they may say something about it, because they still stuck on Ultramagnetic MC’s, or records in the past. But I think they should move on, and try to adjust to the new stuff that I’m doing, because eventually everybody gonna switch of, and do something of the new stuff I’m doing anyway. Regardless. It’s like, when you look at the industry now, you got a lot of producers that are coming out, I respect Lil’l John, Timberland, Neptunes. I remember when the industry was just doing samples, know what I’m saying? But, I was the first guy originally doing like brand new beats and innovative tracks. Original, no samples, I didn’t loop jazz records, I didn’t go looping Indian records, I didn’t go looping all these different records. I think I was the first guy probably on the underground scene doing brand new beats. And I think a lot of people were just jealous and hating on me just being originally new. A lot of these guys came out with political promotion and they got the recognition that they were brand new, doing brand new beats, but I was the first in the underground doing brand new beats that people never heard. Distinctive tracks, using brand new synthesizers and new keyboards to make records. So now all of a sudden you got all these people coming out doing brand new beats, they be putting them in all these music magazines, and these top producers and…best production and…categories and stuff like that. I was the first person ever in the United States to make brand new records without sampling, and using Joe Cocker and using these different people, eeh… Johnny Hammond, The Birds, Ronny Carter, I was the first making brand new records from scratch with brand new keyboards, futuristic sound and stuff.
So what happened was a lot of these groups went to sign with major labels, and took their press campaign national and to the world. So people may think a lot of these artist that are hot now, but they took it commercially, with a pop staff that promoted them. Which I didn’t have. Which I am sorry for that Sony could have done more of a job for you know, expose my creativeness of making brand new music. I think Sony slept on what I was doing. And maybe other groups took ideas from what I was doing. And took it and expanded it to other levels and make it better, you know, expose more and put a real foundation. And say they created brand new music. But I was the first guy. You know when I came out with Black Elvis, Spankmaster, all those were like the next wave of albums for me to make brand new records. But the United States is so corrupt; they went and changed the books and history. United States is very cruel, doing a lot of shows, a lot of events with false representation of having acts perform saying they were legends or giving somebody status. They’ve only been rapping for two years, saying somebody deserves an award, they’ve only been rapping for one or two years. Saying this guy is the best beat maker, he’s only been in the industry for one year. I mean, that’s the corruptness of the evil demon of the United States. Only certain people know the truth you know I’m saying? I did the mask, the costume, all the wigs, straight jackets. Now you got a lot of groups coming out, they got gimmicks, they be wearing clothes, different costumes. So I just totally left that alone. I just said, I want people to see me as a chameleon, they don’t have to predict what I wear to a show. I don’t want people to say: we’ll Keith is always gonna wear a pink hat every night. Or Keith is always gonna wear a garbage can around his head. I just turned into a chameleon because the industry has gotten so phony, to take the pattern that I created. I just want to be a chameleon now because the industry raped so much stuff I did, it’s pathetic.
I record constantly. Everything is a grade A. I got stuff for different types of situations. I got fast music, slow, mid tempo. Spanish, fast Spanish music, all types of records. You’d be surprised of things I’ve created musically that you would not think I would make. I’m not gonna be a predictable artist. I’m not gonna be artist that’s stuck! My goal is to have generations of music. I think my music grows with people. Other kids, 20 years from now will say, wow, Kool Keith music is still music to listen to till this day. You know, timeless. I like to sample, but I don’t make a lot of tracks for everybody to say, we’ll this album is finished. Every album is eternal. I want every album to be eternal. In the future people will always listen to Black Elvis, in a minute they buy Lost Masters 1 and 2- that’s collectors items. I go to the studio every time, I look for the most futuristic keyboards and sounds. I think I am a fanatic of making new music and try to keep the music industry going. Because we have futuristic cars, futuristic ipods, futuristic technology, futuristic watches, I feel the music doesn’t match the time. People still listen to old shit from the 70’s, you know- they stuck.
R2P2: Speaking about Lost masters 2, again an original record, with lots of percussion, less snare and drums.
Kool Keith: Lost Masters 2 is a big risk, I took a big risk, but I didn’t take a big risk, because I meant it to make it that way. In Africa and the music in the Middle East, they don’t even have drums and kicks. I took more of an African feel to make that record. If I was in the jungle I couldn’t have snares and kicks. I rapped on snares and kicks all my life. I wanted to prove to a rapper, any rapper in that sense, I think no rapper in history has ever done that. To rap over bongo’s. I could go into the jungle and rap with 4 Africans playing drums and be on beat. I just think percussion is only timing. And that album will last for years.
People are programmed to think that everything has to be a drummer. You know, rock groups think you gotta have a drummer, R&B thinks you gotta have a drummer. I think no producer in history till this day has ever used percussion at it’s best. Bongo’s, conga’s, I have a lot of tracks now in the making, experimenting globally into my music. Records with a lot of percussion. I don’t wanna look for the snare from Herbie Hancock, I don’t wanna try to find the drums from who eva..you know, the stingdrums, i don’t need all these different drums. I wanna make records that are innovate and different. Percussion to me was a big thing.
R2P2: I especially liked the track “Dark Thought”, a really deep and dark track. That struck me.
Kool Keith: What I did, I distorted my voice in a dark tone. I think me doing that was a good thing. I got a lot of records that are weird now, I’m messing with eq’s on my vocals on a lot of records, doing a lot of new shit. I ‘m experimenting at an all time high right now. I think I recorded about 5000 to 6000 records right now. My experimentation is at it’s highest peak right now.
I know a lot of critics are hating, you know, they got magazines, they got producers that do regular beats all day. I know they hating. People always say- if you get the dance floor moving they feel they are the best. I just try to make new music. I’m trying to give the world brand new ideas.
R2P2: What about upcoming projects? And what’s up with Jay Capone?
Kool Keith: Ohh Jay Capone is with Ice T, you know, he’s the pimp. I did a track with him. Jay’s trying to do his thing. I’m not really confining myself. I’m getting ready to do the Kosmos project. My Kosmos project is gonna be like… I wanna venture in different things, I wanna do my production, but with different artists. I wanna experiment. A Spanish guy on top of Kool Keith stuff. I want a Spanish singer. I want a girl from anywhere, Jamaica, on a record. It’s a project of endless, timeless music. I don’t know. I’m gonna release maybe another mixtape. With just unique stuff on it again. I’m gonna take time of now to go into experimentation. It’s not experimentation, what it is, its something I was meant to do. Everything I’m making now is what I was meant to do. I’m gonna make other music. I got some disco stuff, house music, all types of shit I’m waiting to put out. I’m going to the studio everyday. I’ve done rap already. I’ve done hiphop. Kurt was hiphop, Automator was eclectic. But me myself I have other ideas way beyond that. I just wanna make worldwide music. I’m in a global thinking right now. But not pop. Not that I’m making records for a massive amount of people. I’m happy for people that work with me in time that blew up, I am happy for them. I’m happy for Black Eyed Peas. They used to open up for me. I used to do shows with them, I got nothing but love for them. I know people get mad if people blow up or change or go to another level. But I think people should appreciate success. I’m not mad at them.
R2P2: Reflecting on that- you made this track about it with Kurtmasta Kurt- “Bow down to the masta”. There are these contest and articles/books out there about shit like the best 50 rappers around and so on. There’s no Kool Keith in it, no original mc’s from way back- how’s that possible?
Kool Keith: Well who ever writes that type of books , they have illegitimate information. In the States you have a lot of books that are written’ falsely. Without true information. Everybody is trying to sell a book or magazine on a cheap way. There’s not that much honesty in the States right now. Everybody’s trying to make an overnight greatest mc and all that stuff. It’s funny to me, it used to be comical like you said but… a lot of people tend to come in the business with maybe two or three years rapping and all of a sudden they are a legend, all of a sudden they are the best. Best rapper division and so on.
R2P2: Or even worse, they say: I’ve saved rap, or comments like: I’ve come to save rap, what’s that?
Kool Keith: I mean the States is all money and like you are saying, they are trying to make an overnight star. It’s a rapping movement of a lot of rappers that’s just coming out on covers of magazines. I mean, you don’t know ‘em anywhere else in the world. You’ve never seen ‘em, never heard of them in your life. You don’t know nothing about them. You see, back in the days people had a growth. Like Redman came from EPMD, Tim Dog came from Ultramagnetic, people would see build up. Jamalski came from BDP. People know a build up. You can’t have people just jump out of nowhere on the cover of a magazine. And that’s what these corporate people are doing. They puttin’ a lot of artist out, they’re floppin’, they are sellin’ no records, putting a lot of people on covers of magazines overnight. You’re getting a lot of stars, that ain’t stars… forced down… forced down a lot of peoples throats. And if you don’t know better, some people eat all that shit up. They don’t really feel like, the artist aint paid nothing…no respect of dues. That’s why I say, certain artist like the Black Eyed Peas, they made records before. They’ve been through a lot of bullshit. Fuck it, they blew up, I feel happy. When I blow up… to me, I’m already blowing up. I think I am a star already. Because I’ve been around the world, I have been in the same hotels, I flew around the world…I’ve been to France, England, Germany. I’ve been around New York, California, I’ve been on the same stages, resorts, I’ve been in the top hotels that any other rapper has been walking around the world. I have been everywhere, I took pictures on big stages, I did small stages, I performed with big rock groups. Went on tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers, I think I have done enough in the music business to appreciate myself as a legendary status rapper. I have been on television, BET, MTV, Rap City, every station, VH1, I mean what more can I say?
I rode in limos, I’ve been in the dressing rooms, small, big, been in small clubs, big clubs, arena’s, theaters, There’s nothing I can say about my career, I love my career. My status in rap is.. is…. is a no comment. I don’t feel no less that any rapper or pop who think they are more popular then me.
R2P2: What’s the role of the internet in your music, like spreading it, marketing, is there a role?
Kool Keith: I just want the people on the internet to start buying records and support artists who are working hard at coming out to do shows for them. The pop people out there, the top 50 and 40 people, they buy records. You gotta go out and support artists, buy their merchandise, I don’t care if it’s a rock group. I don’t care if it’s a band coming. I don’t care if it’s an upcoming act. You gotta go out and support acts. You can’t download music from your supporting acts out there. Because right now pop people are buying the pop acts. You can’t get mad when a pop group blows up. Support any act that’s local or independent. You gotta go out and buy things, shirts, records. You gotta stop just downloading.
R2P2: About the Global Enlightment DVD, what was the thought behind that? A lot of people were expecting something else.
Kool Keith: I didn’t really want it to come out. Right now I’m working on a movie documentary that’s gonna come out big. With a big film and everything. Big pictures and big tours. Global Enlightment is an appetizer as far as I am concerned. It was just an appetizer release. Wait till that movie comes out, more of a steady movie, with jokes, effects, a whole movie- a day in the life of Kool Keith.
R2P2: You being an adult movie lover, everbody knows that. You have this one guy, Rocco, is he like the Kool Keith of porn? Or are you like the Rocco of mc’ing?
Kool Keith: I like Rocco, Rocco is the big man in Europe, I’ve been a Rocco and Evil Empire fan for years. Rocco be in LA, he’s the man, you know, Rocco retired, he did his thing, he’s the legend of porn. Rocco’s the man. I will always have mad love for Rocco.