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The English written companion of Fake For Real: reviews, interviews and articles about rap music

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DR. OCTAGON - Dr. Octagonecologyst

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Kool Keith has been twice a crucial character, in hip-hop's history. In the 80's, he was the main rapper of the influential Ultramagnetic MC's. And later on, in the mid-90's, he was Dr. Octagon. As such, he reinvented rap once again. Playing the role of an extraterrestrial killer gynecologist, he pushed it out of its comfort zone, with the help of a new generation of talents from both New York and the Bay Area: the beatmakers The Automator and Kut Masta Kurt; the DJ Q-Bert; Sir Menelik, a rhyme partner; and even DJ Shadow, who contributed to the project with a remix.

DR. OCTAGON - Dr. Octagonecologyst

Bulk Recordings :: 1996 :: buy this record

None of these guys had rejected rap's well established formula; they were just delivering its upgraded version. Everything on the Dr. Octagon album, indeed, looked like a glance at hip-hop's future: rooted in science-fiction, horror movies and his addiction for sex, Kool Keith's weird lyrics reminded all that he had sojourned once in a psychiatric hospital; The Automator disclosed some unusual, bizarre, but very catchy beats; and Q-Bert's scratches were just from outer space. As claimed by the rapper himself, this was definitely some rap for the year 3000.

With "Earth People", a threatening synthesizer was strengthening Kool Keith's sci-fi-blended rants. With the mind-blowing "Blue Flowers", The Automator created a ghoulish ambiance, with the help of violins, minimalistic basses, some unsettling sounds and, by the end, Q-Bert's warped scratches. With "Bear Witness", an almost exclusively instrumental track made of scratches and with an old school flavor, Q-Bert showed his turntablism virtuosity. With "I'm Destructive", with some harsh and dirty guitar, the Dr. Octagon members reinvented the rap / rock crossover, as it had existed in the late 80's. And with "Wild and Crazy", his coarse music and his surrealistic stance, Kool Keith went totally, well… wild and crazy.

This record was still deeply rooted into the old school era; much more, actually, than most rap albums released around the same years. And though, it sounded utterly new, strange, alien, and highly psychedelic. It was so different from the forms of hip-hop popular by these times that, quite predictably, Dr. Octagon would never meet any mainstream success. Released in Europe by Mo'Wax, and sounding trip hop at times (a tag Kool Keith would very violently reject), it would impact many people usually quite removed from rap; and make him the godfather of a new wave of rappers, keen on pseudo-scientific lyrics and sonic experimentations, and challenging hard the many routines of their favorite music.

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