deadwords » interviews 22.08.2007
Kool Keith – A lot of rappers don’t know the order

Dead: Regarding the hiphop scene nowadays, it seems like most of the people are just copying successfull concepts, even in the so-called underground rap scene you can see people running after their idols with the idea of being different instead of striving for a unique own style. Some of your records where ahead of time. Is this what you expect from yourself, like thinking “what could be done to create something
different” or how do you get on working on a new project?

Kool Keith: “All the records, I’ve made, I like to do things different. I don’t have a format of which elements I use and what happens musically. After a certain time of production I just let it out, there a no limitations, I just let it go.”

Dead: Do you think it is really possible to create new stuff in times, when it seems everything has been done before and the only thing, you can do, is taking existing material, combining it with others or do you think exactly when everything seems to be exhausted there can rise new forms in music or art in general?

Kool Keith: My whole career, I’m reinventing myself, I’m a blueprint for the industry, that’s it. But I’m challenging myself, take it to the next level and I feel good with it. I’m working together with other groups, image-wise and everything, and that’s challenging me to do something else, so I always do that.

Dead: What is influencing your lyrics, where do you take your weird ideas from?

Kool Keith: I like to say things that scare people, but I don’t have an influence. I just say what needs to be said, my lyrics are coming straight. People are trying to say a lot, they choose a big-skill thing, but with my lyrics I just want to say, what I want to say. I see a girl, that’s ugly, I just write it down: “that girl was ugly”. I’m just trying to be honest and don’t hold it back.

Dead: And all this alien/science fiction stuff?

Kool Keith: I have a moment of my music taking me to do that sci-fi thing and stuff like that, which is a creative part of me, then I have a part of me, that is writing more that reality stuff, that I’m going through my life and stuff, things, that people don’t understand, my lifestyle, living in the Bronx, urban life, growing up, dealing with everything bothering me dealing with everything situation. 20% of what I write is sci-fi stuff, that I feel I’m artistically good at. Some people can get sick of that kind of stuff, but I write more about reality, my life….

Dead: You dropped more than 30 records. Doesn’t the huge amount of output influence the quality of your records?

Kool Keith: I make a record accordingly to how I feel, it depends. I made records with 24 tracks, some with 5 tracks, there are records I made in ten minutes, there are records, I made in an hour, just how it is. I recorded on different types of mind. I have more a chemistry naturally taking a record for what it is, it’s natural comfortable, and if I feel good with that, the record is coming put that way, regardless to what that record is, I made it, what it is, it came out that way. At that time that’s what I was working with, I don’t have a significant role for the record way. There are artists like Quincy Jones, music for dancefloors, for NY and certain towns. I don’t have it like that, I’m making it just how it comes.

Dead: One could say, you were the first to do this abstract rap stuff?

Kool Keith: I don’t have a lyrical format write something better…I never had all kinds of styles, kind of weired but different, but it’s like kind of true, wow, it was not like I wanted to be totally different , enough to be different, I had this style from day 1, it suddendly grew up and I travelled through what came into my mind, plays, and stuff and that became me since 88.

Dead: How do you see the development of rap music in general, you
were talking about a drought, do you still think so?

Kool Keith: I think rap has got evolved a little bit more, more open minded, I mean somehow it sucks….We’ve been doing the same thing, talking about the same things in the golden age…a lot of guys are creative, but right now I think, it’s just about champagne, bar, girl car, pool, champagne, bar, girl car, pool, it is stuck like that right now there should be development, but it’s not that the guys are evolving it a bit more.

Dead: What about all these new styles like crunk, hyphy, grime guys doing abstract rap?

Kool Keith: I look at everything a little bit, I don’t care, its coming up and its going for whatever reason it is, what it is and how it is, I just keep doing my own thing, anything of too much is not good, it may not mean, that people get tired of it but its a point of how you take something, innovate it, take it to the next level, keep the people interested. It’s still all part of rap

How do you regard this internet thing, do you think?

Kool Keith: Well, I think the internet, I think, there’s some kind of artists, who can get that types of outlet to get bigger promotion, I think the internet works great. I feel it’s overdone in the consumer day for somehow, many don’t go out and buy the album with the artwork, because they download it, it’s probably hurting all kinds of things , magazines, you can read them online, listen to music online, move up music online, but you should support more hip hop, however it came about, just a foundation destroyed by technology, the most popular albums are downloaded… downloading an album of an artist that you like, but you should support that artist and buy the records, buy the vinyl! It doesn’t make sense to save money and at the same time destroy what you like.

Dead: Can you tell me something about the time in the 80′s, when you started Ultramagnetic MC’s?

Kool Keith: I think that was the Golden Era, the rockstar days, you know, understanding the whole time is like, it can not be kept in a moment, it was the rockstar days and when I say rockstar days, I mean times changed . The treatment, the groups, the limousines, the parties, the nightlife, the girls, the whole era of that time, everything is together in one big whirlpool of, that was star time, venues, representing the people at that time, my first contract, you know, you can not replace that

Dead: There has been kind of reuninon with the Ultramagnetic MCs. Back in the days you were dissing whole New York rap scene. On the new one your not saying names?

Kool Keith: You know, things are changing, it’s really not competitive now. How to give competitive answers to someone, who’s even not a rapper now, everybody is more a party rapper, I’m rapping lyrical, and if there’s somebody who is talking about “hey, keep the party on, keep it movin’..”, that’s nothing we do. Well I like that party thing, well but this competitiveness, maybe its coming back slowly, there are some, dissing, but in another way, like it moves some more (not lyrically) “I don’t give a fuck about you, I smack you” and these type of things. But rap is a sport, if you are a wrestler or playing in the NBA, you shake hands on the court, but they don’t do it anymore, they are too scared, like fuck that.

Dead: You were also dissing New York?

Kool Keith: Well I’m not necessarily dissing New York, it’s more the people involved in certain movements, I want to be honest, when I look at the world, I’m from NY and rap music goes bullshit. NY is the center of a lot of things and they didn’t keep it that way. When I look at the world and the culture rapmusically, visonally I see NY came up with a lot of things, but I think they didn’t keep it, but that goes for anywhere, that goes for London, for down-south for the mid-west, Japan, anywhere. You know we had many things, that we did not have a lot of diversity, we had all the Nikes in NY, we had all the Leatherjackets and stuff like that, we had all the leather pants and exotic stuff, New York still does these same people still visit NY people come and go, but I’m not focused on that. They are always looking for a record deal, those with diamond rings on, chains, whatever it takes, big muscles, that’s what they did. There was people in NY complaining about who was the good rapper, this man is whack, that man is whack…It’s a place where it all started from, the culture, the clothes, the fashion, the innovators they’r,e all coming to city and start stuff. Everybody in New York should be really fly, dressed to the fullest to represent New York City. At one time people started leaving the city. It’s like a big state, when you come to London, people know, you’re from New York, LA, or Japan, they know, you’re from NY. Now you don’t have that anymore, you don’t have that present stigma, you can’t represent, so everybody slacked off and stopped buying clothes , people got out of shape and are looking like bums and the when they started wrong things, they have no significant image to represent theirselves. Other people now coming to the city and they look more like stars and like people on TV, and that was their whole downfall, they let themselves go and their representations, they had to pick up and had to do… and that’s my only issue, you know, NY lost a lot of its image. People looked up to it a lot, and there’s a lot of rappers, that just fell off in general. And they didn’t brought any new subjects, they kept talking about what’s happening on their way, others are talking about more universal things, every is rapping about their block or having beef with somebody.

Dead: Are you tired of that?

Kool Keith: I’m definitely tired of that from a cultural point, we lost it, we let them diverse it, what they wanted, what we were supposed to do. we let diverse it into other fashions, lost the original b-boy mentality, like the clothing line, they got diversed with other things fashions diviners and TV put other things in their faces, telling the people, hey, you got to wear this and that, them.The b-boy element totally died and people can’t come no more and get this element they are telling them to wear straight black pants to your ankles.

Dead: You’re making rap music for such a long time now. Do you sometimes think about quitting?

Kool Keith: No, I enjoy rap and writing things about people, I enjoy people thinking, that I’m not good. What You have now, there’s a lot of rookies coming up, it’s like, you are Reggie Miller with the Indiana Pacers and you see a lot of rookies coming and they cant really shoot, they just get into the league, they got a whole perspective of they show they’re like famous, new, they boogie on the mic, they got what it takes, they got style, charisma, they can throw better than you, they go. I get off on the advances of different rappers, you advance on them not having a lot of experience. They will try to come to approach the significant throw like a fake. It’s like someone coming new to the league and trying to do a slam dunk over night, like someone, who’s playing for years. It’s like your in the lead but you can not be better than Michael Jordan, Larry Byrd in the corner with a open shot, but you really think he cant hit a 3-point shot, and that’s when they have the immaturity going on there. It’s good, that you have people around, you keep them in check, you got your KRSes, you got different types of people, other MCs that are kind of holding the standpoint, well at least it’s very few, they also get a way of this disrespected in a way, that they think they are good, thats what I gotta kicked out of it, they think they are good, nothing is wrong with having confidence, but I think they didn’t do their homework, and ain’t studying right, like who is this person, how does he rhyme, what is his skills. They just go out there with there ass out, but you still got rappers out there…funeral, shut them down , they just have no experience. Its like when you play professional basketball and watch the tapes of every team, the Pacers, the Nuggets, how they play, Miami Heat, and they don’t really do that. They just go and say fuck that and approach people. That’s why you have a lot of rappers, that don’t know the order.

Dead: Tired of performing?

Kool Keith: I work with other groups, a lot of groups I work on, but people are so much focused on me or something what I may have done, stucked on different things, some might be stucked on Dr. Octagon, but this is what I’m totally not into at that time, I moved on to something else, might work with other groups, in present, there are many new projects, but people are so limited in their mind, they don’t see, oh Keith is out with another group, it’s not that they are not open minded, but they are so much focused on me. Hey Keith, you still rap, we want you to throw us a tune. But I got Conference Room, The Comissioner, Ultramagnetic, they put so much energy onto me, but hey, look at the other things, I got so many other things. I have other projects, that I can lay back and see them grow but hey, I got other stuff, that I like and they are very different, I’m not gonna waste my life away, not gonna octagon my life away, not gonna Black Elvis my life away,  I got other things, even for myself I got music, I’m working on. I got other projects, so extreme, media picking certain things, getting caught up things like scifi, they get close to you start picking in your mind. Maybe I come out with an album about my whole reality, maybe one month I might make a record about  states. It’s just something wild in my head, my fantasy about flying saucers or rockets, but people think I’m an artist of Sci-Fi, but I’m versatile, I’m an univeral artist, one day I will write my reality, my soulmate, working, my food, I might write about my hand hurting for a year and they can absorb my reality and I’m working out of the Bronx. I’m just chilling, looking out of the window, checking out things. Even the critics have certain levels of me, I’m not writing about space, I must not be good, I just took the time and I wrote about space issues, just write things, why would I do keep on doing stuff, that I mastered for years, no one can beat me at it!  I’m the king of space, the champion of space, the crown royal prince of space, I can write Sci-Fi with my eyes closed, but sometimes I don’t choose to I feel like, hey, cause I don’t mean you don’t go to a magazine saying something negative about me think that took a lot of people off limits and the fans got kind of sucked into the media, vacuumed In one year I might say I want to battle rappers…

Dead: Where can the real Keith Thornton behind all these aliases be found?

Kool Keith: I kind of show people in my videos with ultramagnetic me and Seth playing cards, wearing, regular clothes, jewelery, I think people see that, I think a lot of people running the whole universe, don’t really believe like I live in the Bronx, I see the things going on in the Bronx, I walk around, I hear people, I see the cars, cop cars, projects, I see the ghetto…when I see graffiti in other places around the world it doesn’t even matter to me, because I grew up around that stuff all my life. There’s no ghetto like New York, NY is a giant ghetto, NY is a big South Central, it’s 90 % projects, it’s a big giant ghetto, you can’t get more urban than NY nowhere in the world nowhere ever, Atlanta, Georgia, nowhere. In Europe, you cant, no place, nothing is more ghetto than NYC, the Mekka of urbanness, even from plane you see NY’s urban life, it’s quicker…sometimes you go to other cities to see their urban life, but the urban life is not present, New York is like, hey this is NY a baseball cap, a guy with his hat backwards, a guy walking special with a radio, you feel the urban syndrom fast its so fast and its rapid..look at the kid with its hat backwards and its only 5 years old and he’s already like, yeah, gangsta!

Kool Keith: You know now you got the politics against you, you got anybody rating rappers, saying who’s the greatest and all this stuff, you really got to promote your own stuff like you got to say “fuck them guys, they are whack, I’m the best”, cause no one is got to do it for you, because everybody is going with false history in life, convincing the world of things, that don’t even exist. They are putting people into the wrong places, saying the wrong things in magazines and on TV the media fooling the people all around the world they all have me thinking, that they all put things in different perspectives, they got everything in the world kind of twisted, they are running shows and stuff on TV, the top10 groups, the top 10 best MCs, who’s the best in this and that its disgusting for me as a rapper and people should just stop lying to people around the country. Everybody wants to put people in places at a certain time and they don’t even have a lot of credibility they took that much time into rap. There are certain people like Grandmaster Flash, that’s cool, thats the preserving person to talk about, of course but they don’t talk about KRS and others with legendary status. They had very little time in their whole participance of rap and thats the way they are fooling people, putting other persons in their place. But they put no time into this, they gain a lot of different credits for no reasons, it’s like where were you at this time, you may have signed by a major label, that has given you a push for 2 or 3 years but that don’t add up to you being in this position. And there’s a lot like this going on in the industry, you got a lot of uneducated people. They tell the people, that this is what’s going down, but people getting fooled all over the world, no, they lie into their faces. And there are a few people in this position, that are able to speak about it, people, really on this position, but they don’t want these people in those positions. Some people come out and tell you the there’s only a few people telling truth, but those people have been shut down politically by politic, they cant speak no more They don’t let Afrika Bambaata do his radio station telling you the truth, they don’t let Kool Herc, they just gonna have some jackass over night, that used to be a fireman start writing a book, even in movies, whoever the pick for a role, they just pick the wrong cast that’s what things have been about laziest really lie, that you take some grandkids, that don’t know about rap. That’s what’s into rap right now: People want to express rap, but they are not teaching the people the history of rap. All these kids don’t even know where rap came from, they don’t even know rap came from the Bronx. They misinterpret the education, they give them a half of the story. When these kids grow old, they think these pop stars are big…they wont will have a real outlook on what’s going on, they will think a pop song in the radio is big and everything will just be in the dark..

Published in DEAD Magazine Issue III
Foto(s): Christian Netter