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I love talking to Kool Keith. An undisputed albeit often overlooked hip-hop legend, the Ultramagnetic MC has forged a unique path as a rapper, which makes conversation with him all the more compelling. Earlier this summer, in our second CABBAGES interview, he addressed a number of topics on his mind at the time, inclusive and separate from his latest solo album Black Elvis 2. Below you'll find some edited excerpts from our phone call that didn't make it into the originally published feature.
You see your personal production style as part of the legacy of funk music. But then there are these producers who send you beats that aren't really for you. It's like they have an idea in their head of what they want Kool Keith to sound like.
Kool Keith: I'm just saying a lot of these guys out there want to give you something super eclectic to rap on. See, after [Dan The] Automator came out, that messed up a lot of those producers' heads. A lot of those producers were so into trying to get close to him and duplicate Dr. Octagon. They just kept going in the studio, not even thinking of being original themselves. I would've respected them for not trying to do Automator. A lot of those producers, they listened to Ultramagnetic and Funk Your Head Up, Black Elvis and Matthew and Dr. Dooom, but they didn't have it in them to make that kind of shit. When Automator made [Dr. Octagonecologyst], maybe that was the closest they could get–to make weird shit.
You got people that will give you a beat that they wouldn't give Rakim. They wouldn't give [Big Daddy] Kane that beat. They figure like, you're the most classified person for that beat. Even if it's the beat they got in their house, they saved it for 20 years, they're like, this beat right here is for Keith. I'm going to give it to him when I see him. This weird shit I created, this is something. I got it on my hard drive. I'm going to hide it under the bed. When I see Keith I'm going to give it to him. So I'm just thinking that's where their mind is at, basically.
There are people who have this wrong impression of you, that you'll only rap over "weird" beats or only do "weird" lyrics.
People got caught up in the press part of it instead of being like, okay, he did that project. But some people fall in love with something and then they forget it the origins. With Octagon, they think my own career started in San Francisco, rapping on weird beats and skating down the hill on a San Francisco skateboard. And it backfired. They forgot this guy's from the Bronx, talks Bronx stuff. They want to erase it.
I guess they just figured Automator grabbed me out of my element, took me up to San Francisco–which we did. We locked into a project. We went up in the attic in the capsule and locked into a project, which I had to play a part. It was like Stephen King wrote a movie. I just played a part. Like, when you rap on a project, sometimes you play the part of the record. People sometimes take it serious, like, you should do all your tracks now like that. You know what I'm saying?