Record Label: Junkadelic Music
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An original member of New York's new-school pioneers the Ultramagnetic MCs, Keith Thornton is best known as a solo rapper. His signature styles stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow and complex vocals, two skills that earn him a perennial nod from the underground hip-hop community. The average Kool Keith album is peppered with bizarre, disjointed, even delusional or disassociated themes, concepts, and references. Nearly all of his albums incorporate a satirical dislike for more commercialized strains of hip-hop, as well as major record label scams.
After single-handedly redefining "warped" as the mind and mouth behind the Bronx-based Ultramagnetic MC's, "Kool" Keith Thornton -- aka Rhythm X, aka Dr. Octagon, aka Dr. Dooom, aka Mr. Gerbik -- headed for the outer reaches of the stratosphere with a variety of solo projects. A onetime psychiatric patient at Bellevue, Keith's lyrical thematics remained as free-flowing here as they ever were with the N.Y. trio, connecting up complex meters with fierce, layers-deep metaphors and veiled criticisms of those who "water down the sound that comes from the ghetto." His own debut single, "Earth People" by Dr. Octagon, was quietly released in late 1995 on the San Francisco-based Bulk Recordings, and the track spread like wildfire through the hip-hop underground, as did the subsequent self-titled full-length released the following year.
Featuring internationally renowned DJ Q-Bert (of Invisibl Skratch Piklz) on turntables, as well as the Automator and DJ Shadow behind the boards, Dr. Octagon's left-field fusion of sound collage, fierce turntable work, and bizarre, impressionistic rapping found audiences in the most unlikely of places, from hardcore hip-hop heads to jaded rock critics. Although a somewhat sophomoric preoccupation with body parts and scatology tended to dominate the album, Keith's complex weave of associations and shifting references is quite often amazing in its intricacy. The record found its way to the U.K.-based abstract hip-hop imprint Mo'Wax (for whom Shadow also recorded) in mid-1996, and was licensed by the label for European release (Mo'Wax also released a DJ-friendly instrumental version of the album titled, appropriately, The Instrumentalyst [Octagon Beats]).
The widespread popularity of the album eventually landed Keith at DreamWorks in 1997; the label gave Dr. Octagon (retitled Dr. Octagonecologyst) its third release mid-year, adding a number of bonus cuts. In early 1999, however, Keith's alter ego Dr. Dooom unfortunately "killed off" Dr. Octagon on the opening track of First Come, First Served (released on Thornton's own Funky Ass label). Kool Keith signed to Ruffhouse/MCA for his second album under that alias, 1999's Black Elvis/Lost in Space. Records released as Kool Keith followed in 2000 (Matthew) and 2001 (Spankmaster), while the 2002 collaboration Gene appeared as KHM (Kool Keith plus H-Bomb and Marc Live). His next project was a four-rapper group named Thee Undatakerz with Keith taking on a new persona, Reverand Tom. Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz hit the streets in May 2004. Keeping busy, Keith released Diesel Truckers in August of the same year with old friend/producer KutMasta Kurt.
As if 2004 hadn't been filled with enough Kool Keith releases, some truly oddball ones started to appear that year. The Official Space Tape borrowed from previous releases to create the ultimate Keith mixtape, the R&B-leaning Personal Album was released in a limited edition of 500 and with a high price tag, plus the Real Talk label issued Dr. Octagon, Pt. 2, an unauthorized release that had little to do with the original and was quickly pulled from the shelves by court order. The next year was much calmer with the Global Enlightenment, Pt. 1 DVD being released at the beginning of the year, followed by Lost Masters, Vol. 2 in the summer. Nogatco Rd. from 2006 introduced a new character, Mr. Nogatco ("Octagon" backward). The UFO-obsessed album was a collaboration with producer Iz-Real. The two-CD Collabs Tape compilation and The Return of Dr. Octagon followed soon after. In early 2007, Keith was part of a Ultramagnetic MC's reunion that yielded Best Kept Secret.
Tashan Dorrsett, another concept- driven release from Keith, was released in 2009. Following early 2011 is the "Legend Of Tashan Dorrsett" remix album including remixes and exclusives by Hip-Hop legends Marley Marl, Domingo, Ultrmagnetic's TR Love, Agallah Don Bishop to name a few. Early 2012, Keith released the single "Anorexic" (labeled as a Ultramagnetic track) and flooded the internet with the hit records New York and The Game Is Free
Keith's main event for 2012 will be the release of his highly anticipated new solo album Love & Danger produced by Dj Junkaz Lou and starring Def''s Shad brainiac MC Keith Murray, and NYC's groundbreaking combo Megabone .
After spending much of 2012 in the studio, Black Milk returns in top form with Synth or Soul, a vinyl-only EP release prepared especially for Record Store Day. Black Milk’s first official release of 2013 also marks the launch of his instrumental series Fuzz, Freqs, & Colors. The series is a collaborative project with illustrator Upendo Taylor (Nike, Gatorade, Leroy Jenkins), with each volume bringing vibrant, colorful, and forward-thinking visuals to both represent and complement its sound and aesthetic.Synth or Soul offers a distinctly different styles on each side of the record, while showcasing development in his trademark synth-driven or soul-sampling production.
His debut LP for Definitive Jux, DJ/producer RJD2's DEAD RINGER is a deeply creative and musically poignant hip-hop record for summer 2002. Creating a raging underground listenership from a series of 45s and white labels and being the only non-MC signed to Def Jux, RJD2's talent as a DJ and as producer, to match beats and lay cult/pop gems over dusty soul tracks, is paralleled only by people like DJ Shadow and Z-Trip. However, his ability to record and marry MCs to his primarily instrumental and sample-based style is evidenced in outstanding tracks with Copywrite and Blueprint as well as his legacy with the MHz crew; at the end of the day that puts our man from Ohio ahead of his primarily one-dimensional peer group. This set will stand out as monumental for Definitive Jux, who with their first record outside of the New York MC box continues to stride toward really being definitive in their roster and catalog of independent hip-hop.
L.A. producer, Mndsgn’s most recent project, Breatharian, gets the official re-issue treatment via the newly formed Fresh Selects label. The rising instrumentalist - best known for his work with the likes of Danny Brown, Jonwayne, Sonnymoon, Blu, Knxwledge, and more - sees his first retail release in over 4 years and has pulled out all the stops for the occasion. A diverse, conceptual beat tape that takes a varied approach into exploring the strange phenomenon known as “breatharianism” - the project made waves when it first dropped last summer and has now been professionally mixed, mastered, and pressed to vinyl for the first time. Along with it are two new bonus beats, “Hiking” and “Bweyy” (featuring co-producer, Swarvy); the album also marks Mnd’s first ever official music video - in the form of two-fer, “Hiking” / “Fif Dim.
Donuts began simply enough as an idea to turn a particularly good demo beat tape into a full-length release, and has since became a classic hip-hop album, one of the defining works of the artist’s life. Completed during a year in which J Dilla spent mostly in a hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Donuts would gain particular poignancy when, only three days after it’s release, February 10, 2006, the artist passed away, losing his battle with a rare blood disease. Back late 2005 when Stones Throw was getting ready to release J Dilla’s Donuts, they made a casual decision to use a drawing for the cover of the 2LP vinyl release, rather than the standard cover photo of Dilla used for the other releases. But now here it is, better late than never: J Dilla’s classic album Donuts now released on vinyl with the smile on the cover. Cover & illustrations by Jeff Jank; photo of Dilla by Andrew Gura. Just a few months ago Stones Throw published a short back-story on the cover photo.