Artist: Kool Keith
Album: The Return Of Dr. Octagon
Label: OCD International
In a time where hip-hop is considered a mainstream, commercial entity and the creative seems to be lost in the media spotlight, Kool Keith a.k.a. Dr. Octagon has brought the creativeness back to hip-hop. Kool Keith has helped hip-hop heads rediscover that purpose of music and that simply is to express oneself as creative as possible. His new album Return of Dr. Octagon takes you through a journey of electronic rhythms and melodic scratches. The album also provides a different approach to rhyming, replacing the average lyrics with more of a spoken word style of rhyme. The average hip-hop track will not be found on this album. It provides freshness that hip-hop has been looking for. With each track, Dr. Octagon mixes humorous banter with current socio-political events. Usually, this mix makes for a musical disaster but Dr. Ock does it in a way that works.
From the intro, the sense of the humor that Dr. Octagon brings, this is a reoccurring theme throughout the album. The intro pokes fun at a banking company and how they jerk people. Unfortunately, for most this is truth so it may not be that amusing. “Trees”, creates an old school vibe with scratches and horn sounds reminiscent of the early years of hip-hop. Yet the track is arranged so flawlessly that you can appreciate the complexity of it. The transition to the next track is smooth, even with the major difference in the beats. The joint “Aliens” starts with a slow, rolling beat with Keith speaking, as the track continues the beats pace quickens and reminds you of the track name. The next track is a personal favorite, Ants is a perfect mix of what is old and new in hip-hop. The beginning scratches are reminiscent of DJ Q-Bert and the turntablist movement of the 90s. The rhymes that are kicked in this track are also very powerful, giving insight to the world from an overseeing eye. The horn sounds are common to that of hip-hop today, but when it is blended with the rest of the elements it becomes something new. After a brief skit which seemed to be necessary at this point of the album, the bass-heavy track Perfect World is heard, this track uses more electronic sounds with all computer-generated beats and melodies. The next cut “Al Green” gets a little confusing, the beat is playful and sounds like it could be a party track, but Kool Keith is speaking about deep issues which may have been done intentionally. At this point of the album, the beats start to run into each other, but like most hip-hop albums towards the end you get the sense of similarity with each track. Dr. Octagon’s remedy for this is switching his vocals to a deeper, dark voice and adding more horn sounds that haven’t been heard in the previous tracks. At this point, the darker voice takes over, like he switched to an alter-ego at this stage of the album. The beats have also turned darker, which is a good blend because it changes the pace without losing a step. The last track “Eat It” is a complete change because it has female vocals (Princess Superstar) on it and this is a perfect ending to a truly unique album. The use of guest vocals is particularly overused in hip-hop today, but for this album, it could have used a bit more guest vocals to add variety and depth.
The only problem that this album faces is the similarities in the beats throughout the album. To real hip-hop heads that truly listen to hip-hop music, this would not be a problem. But to the average listener, you could get lost or may not understand the perfectly organized chaos that is brought forth. This album is good throughout, but loses you at times if you are not hearing it. One thing this album does do is that it reminds us that hip-hop is a form of music and the creativity comes from the individual creating it not the mainstream standards. Overall, this album gets 4 out of 5 stars, strictly on because of the level of creativity on it.