Pimp To Eat
Nu Gruv Alliance
Kool Keith, rap's most idiosyncratic and schizophrenic MC, has been described in recent years as hip hop's Sun Ra. But this increasingly legendary trickster is more logically analogous as hip hop's Frank Zappa: subversively odd, dangerously prolific, and, unfortunately, capable of the occasional misstep. But also, like Zappa, when Keith missteps, the results are still light years ahead of the competition. The misstep in question, Keith's new solo album Matthew, does little to advance the career of the man who reached hip hop apotheosis as Dr. Octagon and spearheaded the science-rap movement as Black Elvis, but still manages to have enough twisting flows and ear-spanking grooves to assure his place as one the most progressive men in hip hop. The main problem with calling Keith's shouted choruses, repetitive drum smacks, über-syncopated bass lines, and dissonant keyboard lines "formulaic" would be that the formula is still endlessly fascinating. Lyrically taking on the music industry's corrupt and unimaginative, Keith's always-bizarre flow is at its most pointed, but is occasionally easily ignored due to its faithful adherence to the Keith blueprint utilized so artfully on his Sex Style record and last year's Dr. Dooom offering.
On the other hand, Keith's new record with the loose-knit Analog Brothers collective takes the same blueprint, redraws it, stuffs it in the Mars Explorer, and blasts it off into the cosmos. With rapid-fire verbiage from a scintillatingly scientific five-man crew and a grandiose production that takes the Kool Keith/Kutmaster Kurt science-funk formula and appends buzzing keyboard sweeps, digital swoops and oodles of noodling doodles, the Analog Brothers sound like a full realization of the futuristic Black Elvis concept.
This articulate and profane crew creates hopelessly original Jetsons-rap, wrapping space-age rhymes about negative utopias, musical warfare, and sexual mischief around some of today's most avant-garde flows. Handing out beat-downs and adding a dry explicitness to the mixture, Ice T (as Ice Oscillator) truly shines under a new guise and offers some of the most impressive rhymes of his career. But the obvious star in this rarely traversed galaxy is Keith himself who, as Keith Korg, asserts his dominance on this starship as early as the first track with an extended sexual/musical metaphor that continues his quick-tongued flow well past the end of the beat. In the background, noisy squeaks topple over rumbling bass lines, the occasional gurgle and defiantly syncopated snare kicks. If this isn't the future of hip hop, it is at least an infinitely entertaining and refreshingly original speculation.
Threshold Recordings LLC, P.O. Box 5260, Santa Monica, CA 90409-5260; Nu Gruv Alliance, 1135 Grandview, South San Francisco, CA 94080.
Christopher R. Weingarten