Published Apr 18, 2016With a career that spans over 30 years, Kool Keith is not just a veteran in the hip-hop industry, but also a pioneer of its wild rebellion and bizarre imagery with the Ultramagnetic MCs and an array of adopted personalities. While the now-defunct group left an expansive blueprint for the "wild child" rapper of today, Kool Keith has maintained his relevance by simply listening to the very same kids that were birthed out of the UMC legacy.
"I think with me, by doing Dr. Octagon and stuff, I stay close in the range, but I think a lot of other people out there got distance and got bitter," Keith tells Exclaim! "They're kinda bitter [at] the kids and what they're doing, instead of trying to learn what they're doing. A lot of these [older] artists have been spoiled with the big labels spending the money and giving them the studio, then they quit rap because of the handicap of not getting money from the record companies. A lot of your favourite artists are sitting around waiting for some type of budget that doesn't exist, so most of the people you hear now are very independent and put money in it themselves."
With the latter half of his career self-funded, Kool Keith stresses that "quitting rap" isn't natural. "I don't think there are enough people making natural records anymore, people are just making records. I mean, how do you stop recording? Everybody records. I'm quite sure Obama has a studio — everybody is making records," he laughs.
As much as Kool Keith acknowledges a growing age gap in hip-hop's history, he also believes once-independent events like SXSW perpetuate a lack of historical knowledge.
"A lot of these events are getting kinda uneducated, because a lot of kids are going down there, buying these passes, and they could be standing next to Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and they don't know who he is," he continues. "The person they're looking up to that's been in the business they worship a lot maybe only got into the industry six months ago — [and they're] doing something somebody else did that they don't know, that they should know. They should know that the artist that they like took from an artist that they should know — that's a problem, a big problem."
Following the release of his Ray West collaborative album A Couple Slices of Pizza, which he notes he did not authorize, Kool Keith has already set his sights on new ventures.
"I'm working on an album with Analog Brothers, and I'm working on an album called Features Magnetic full of guest stars, like MF Doom, and that's gonna come out in the fall. I'm producing a lot of songs lately, making beats. Hopefully I come out with a solo album after, a Kool Keith solo album. I think I'm going to do a 70-track solo album. I want to make at least 30 songs. I have this thing where I think music should go back to quantity and quality, instead of waiting four years for nine songs. That's now a good ratio."