Dr. Octagonecologyst

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Dr. Octagonecologyst
Studio album by Dr. Octagon
Released May 6, 1996
Recorded 1995–1996
Genre Alternative hip hop, underground hip hop, trip hop
Length 65:48
Label DreamWorks/Geffen/MCA Records (U.S.)
DRMD-50021

Mo' Wax/A&M/PolyGram Records (UK)
540 530
Producer Dan the Automator
Kool Keith chronology
Dr. Octagonecologyst
(1996)
Sex Style
(1997)
Singles from Dr. Octagonecologyst
  1. "Earth People"
    Released: 1995
  2. "3000"
    Released: 1996
  3. "Blue Flowers"
    Released: 1996

Dr. Octagonecologyst is the debut solo album of American rapper Keith Thornton and the first album he released under the alias Dr. Octagon. It was released May 6, 1996, on Bulk Recordings in the United States and Mo' Wax in the United Kingdom, and re-released in the US on DreamWorks Records in 1997. Dr. Octagonecologyst was produced by Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and featured the work of turntablist DJ Qbert. KutMasta Kurt provided additional production work. The artwork for Dr. Octagonecologyst was drawn by Brian "Pushead" Schroeder.

Dr. Octagonecologyst introduces the character of Dr. Octagon, a homicidal, extraterrestrial, time-traveling gynecologist and surgeon. The album's distinctive sound crosses genres such as psychedelic, electronic music, horrorcore, and trip hop. Thornton's lyrics are often abstract, using surrealism, non-sequiturs, hallucinatory psychedelia, horror and science-fiction imagery, and juvenile humor. The unique sound and lyrics of Dr. Octagonecologyst helped revitalize alternative and underground hip hop, gaining more attention than any contemporary independent hip hop album "in quite a while".[1]

Although it did not sell enough copies to reach the mainstream music charts, the album was well received with positive reviews and recognition. Thornton's lyrics and Nakamura's production were highly praised, as was DJ Qbert's innovative scratching. Dr. Octagonecologyst has since been ranked as one of the best hip hop albums of the 1990s. The character of Dr. Octagon has appeared in multiple works by Thornton, including First Come, First Served (1999) and Dr. Dooom 2 (2008), both of which contain tracks in which Octagon is murdered by Dr. Dooom.

Music[edit]

Production[edit]

Following the release of the Ultramagnetic MCs' third album The Four Horsemen (1993), member Keith "Kool Keith" Thornton produced two songs under the alias Dr. Octagon: "Dr. Octagon" and "Technical Difficulties".[2] Thornton mailed the songs to radio stations as well as giving copies to several DJs and record producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura. This led to Nakamura's role in producing the album.[2]

DJ Qbert made fundamental contributions to the album's production with his innovative scratching.

Dr. Octagonecologyst has been praised for its original sound, which has often been attributed to Nakamura.[3] However, Thornton states that he was largely involved with the production of the album.[4] Thornton is quoted as saying "Automator and Kurt are probably receiving more credit than I did, but I was a big musical person behind Octagon."[4] Nakamura has said he wanted Dr. Octagonecologyst to stand out from other hip hop albums, citing the music of Eric B. & Rakim, Mantronix, and Run-D.M.C. as influences.[5] "Hip-hop was always inventive. Then the '90s hit and everyone wants to be Dr. Dre; no one wants to be their own thing anymore. Everyone now wants to have the Lexus and deal pounds of drugs. We don't do that. That's not our lifestyle. You don't see us coming out with the fur coat. There's more to music than that," Nakamura said.[5] The album incorporates use of organic instrumentation and features Moog synthesizer, flute, and string instruments.[5]

Dialogue excerpts from pornographic films appear on multiple tracks.[6] On the Bulk Recordings edition of the album, "halfsharkalligatorhalfman" is preceded by an excerpt from the comedy film Cabin Boy.[7] Lily Moayeri of Rolling Stone called the album a "psychedelic hip-hop concept album."[8] Allmusic reviewer Steve Huey wrote that the album "shed some light on the burgeoning turntablist revival via the scratching fireworks of DJ Q-Bert" and its "futuristic, horror-soundtrack production seemed to bridge the gap between hip-hop and the more electronic-oriented trip-hop".[1] Steve "Flash" Juon of RapReviews also praised its sound, writing that "Cuts are provided with infinite skill and precision by DJ Q-Bert" and that the DJ Shadow/Automator remix of "Waiting List" is "so good that you could hardly miss the original, if indeed there was one."[9] An instrumental version of the album was released in 1996 under the title Instrumentalyst (Octagon Beats). Kembrew McLeod of Allmusic wrote of the instrumental album, stating "If any other artist released an album such as this it would be considered throwaway trash—something for the hardcore fans. But Dan the Automator's backing tracks are so fresh and original, it's actually nice to just hear the beats minus the rhymes."[3]

Lyrical themes and storyline[edit]

Thornton received praise for his unconventional lyrics.

Thornton has been praised[1][6][9] for his lyrics, which are often abstract,[9] surreal,[10] and filled with non-sequiturs and juvenile humor.[1] Music critic Chairman Mao wrote that Dr. Octagonecologyst occupies "...the heretofore-undefined area where hip-hop meets hallucinatory sci-fi and porn."[6] In the album's narrative, Dr. Octagon is an extraterrestrial, time-traveling gynecologist and surgeon[1][6] originally from Jupiter.[9] Dr. Octagon's history is detailed throughout the album's songs, skits, and samples.[10] "Real Raw" describes him as having yellow eyes, green skin, and a pink-and-white Afro haircut.[10] "General Hospital," "A Visit to the Gynecologist," and "Elective Surgery" detail a list of services offered by Octagon, who claims to treat chimpanzee acne and moosebumps, and relocating saliva glands.[10] Octagon is described as being incompetent, as many of his surgery patients die as he conducts his rounds.[6] Octagon also pretends to be a female gynecologist and often engages in sexual intercourse with female patients and nurses.[1]

According to Mickey Hess, author of Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most-Wanted Music, "The album's beginning and ending tie together the stories of the fictional character Dr. Octagon and the rap career of Kool Keith Thornton himself: We begin with '3000' and end with '1977,' which purports to be an audio recording from an early rap performance by Kool Keith ... announcing a 1977 rap show featuring ... pioneers Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, the L Brothers, and the original scratch creator Grand Wizzard Theodore [sic]. The message is clear: Kool Keith is a part of hip-hop history, and even as rap moves on to the future, Dr. Octagon does not replace Kool Keith."[10]

Singles[edit]

"Earth People," released in 1995 on Bulk Recordings, was the first single from the album.[11] The 12-inch single featured the songs "No Awareness (Lyrical Hydraulics)", "Bear Witness (Q-Bert Gets Biz)", and the "Interstellar Time Travel" and "Earth Planet" mixes of "Earth People".[11] "3000" and "Blue Flowers" followed as singles in 1996.[12][13] The "3000" 12-inch also featured the "Automator 1.2 Remix", "Bear Witness (Automator's Two Turntables and a Razor Blade Re-Edit)", and "Tricknology 101".[12]

The "Blue Flowers" 12-inch single release featured the original and instrumental versions of the song, the "Automator Remix", and the instrumental version of the remix.[13] The "Blue Flowers" maxi single featured the original vocal and instrumental versions, the vocal and instrumental versions of the "Automator Remix", the "Flower Bed Mix *2" by DJ Crystl, the "Secondary Diagnostic Mix" by Photek, and the DJ Hype remix.[14] A second 12-inch single of "Blue Flowers" featured vocal and instrumental versions of the "Automator's Stop Confusing Me Remake", vocal and instrumental versions of Prince Paul's "So Beautiful Mix", the a cappella version of the song, and the track "halfsharkalligatorhalfman".[15] A second maxi single of "Blue Flowers" featured, in addition to earlier mixes of the song, vocal and instrumental versions of the "Meditation Mix" by KutMasta Kurt.[16] A third 12-inch single was released featuring remixes by DJ Hype and Photek.[17]

Release and reception[edit]

Dan Nakamura received praise for the album's production.
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars link
Entertainment Weekly C link
Pitchfork Media (9.2/10) link
RapReviews 10/10 stars link
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention) link
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars link
Sputnikmusic (3.5/5)[18]

The album was initially released by Bulk Recordings on May 6, 1996, under the title Dr. Octagon.[5] Although the album sold relatively well, Nakamura has said it was under-promoted because it was released by an independent label.[5] In both the United States and United Kingdom, the album was issued by Bulk Records on vinyl as a double LP,[19] and on compact disc with bonus tracks,.[20] Separately, it was also issued by Mo' Wax in the UK as a triple LP, reflecting the track listing of the Bulk Recordings compact disk.[21] "When we did this record we thought of it as an underground joint", Nakamura said.[5]

None of the offers made by major record companies appealed to Nakamura and Thornton until DreamWorks Records offered to release the album nationally.[5] In 1997, the label released the album in the US under the title Dr. Octagonecologyst, which featured five new songs.[5] In promotion of the album, Thornton toured under the Dr. Octagon name. These performances featured a full live band, an on-stage breakdancer and appearances by Invisibl Skratch Piklz.[5] Nakamura has referred to Dr. Octagon as a three-person group rather than an alias of Thornton,[22] and these claims were reported by the press.[23]

Dr. Octagonecologyst received largely positive reviews. Although it did not chart,[24] Nakamura said the album sold well, even during its initial underground release. "We didn't have records in every store. We'd have 10 copies in Tower and the next day they'd be sold out, and then we wouldn't get another copy in for another month."[5] Robert Christgau gave the album an honorable mention, citing the album's introduction and the songs "Earth People" and "Wild and Crazy" as highlights, and writing simply "the shock horror! the shock horror! the perhaps authentically crazy! [sic]"[25] NME magazine described the album as "...nineteen strong doses of pure, undiluted hip-hop."[26] Steve "Flash" Juon of RapReviews wrote that "If you aren't laughing, you should be bugging. Kool Keith obviously doesn't care. You should, though, because like every other record Keith has ever been on, it will be hailed ten years from now as a classic."[9] In his review, Chairman Mao of Rolling Stone wrote "Kool Keith leads and oversees the chaos with a Zappa-esque commitment to decadence."[6]

Alternative Press gave the album a rating of four out of five stars,[27] while The New York Times called it "...one of the most progressive rap projects to be released in the past year."[28] JazzTimes magazine lauded Thornton's lyrics, writing that his "...oddball excursions reach near-cinematic levels."[29] Pitchfork Media reviewer James P. Wisdom wrote that "Dr. Octagonecologyst is a fun-house ride in hell. All of the expected norms of G-rap have been violently removed and replaced with a healthy dose of creative perversity. It's throbbing and wet, snickering at your hangups, laughing at your conventions."[30] Additionally, Melody Maker called it "bloody essential" and stated "While commercial American hip hop is slithering into an insipid mire of soulless, identikit swingbeat, Dr. Octagon has made an album swathed in character [...] Get yer prescription fixed."[31]

Entertainment Weekly critic David Browne praised the album's production but disliked Thornton's lyrics, commenting that "...the inane, often gruesome raps of Kool Keith, is an appointment worth missing."[32] Also, The Source awarded Dr. Octagonecologyst 3.5 out of 5 mics, and called it a "quality album with the proper ingredients".[33]

Following initial reactions to the album, Dr. Octagonecologyst continued to earn praise from contemporary writers and music critics. In the Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music and The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, the album received a rating of four out of five stars.[34][35] PopMatters columnist Michael Frauenhofer called it "...a landmark album of dope beats and mind-bending experimental flows."[36] Steve Huey of Allmusic wrote that the album "...remains as startling and original as the day it was released."[1]

Influence[edit]

Allmusic reviewer Steve Huey wrote that Dr. Octagonecologyst "...attracted more attention than any non-mainstream rap album in quite a while, thanks to its inventive production and Keith's bizarre, free-associative rhymes." Huey also states that Dr. Octagonecologyst represented "...the first truly new, genuine alternative to commercial hip-hop since the Native Tongues' heyday. It appealed strongly to alternative audiences who'd grown up with rap music, but simply hadn't related to it since the rise of gangsta".[1] Thornton expressed some frustration with the Dr. Octagon nickname, saying, "I just made a record. I was an artist on a project, and I think people misconcepted [sic] that I was an artist on a project. Octagon wasn't my life...I've done a lot of things that were totally around different things other than Octagon. Are some people just afraid to venture off into my life and see that I do other things which are great? I think people stuck me with something."[2]

In 1999, Thornton introduced the character of Dr. Dooom on the album First Come, First Served (1999). The album featured a track in which the character murdered Dr. Octagon.[37] In 2002, Thornton announced The Resurrection of Dr. Octagon, a proposed sequel to Dr. Octagonecologyst that would reintroduce the character.[4] The resulting album, The Return of Dr. Octagon released in 2006, was largely produced without Thornton's involvement, based upon three completed vocal tracks and reconstructed outtakes.[38] Thornton later produced Dr. Dooom 2 in response to The Return of Dr. Octagon.[2]

In 2006, Dr. Octagonecologyst was ranked among the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery.[39]

In 2011, Dis Magazine released a 32 minute mixtape, Octagonecologyst (Sandra Bernhard Remix) by Feminine Itch, which married instrumentals from the album with Sandra Bernhard's stand up comedy.

Track listing[edit]

Accolades[edit]

The information regarding accolades attributed to Dr. Octagonecologyst is taken from AcclaimedMusic.net.[40]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Blow Up Italy 600 Essential Albums 2005 *
Ego Trip USA Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98 1999 12
Fast 'n' Bulbous USA The 500 Best Albums Since 1965 345
Pitchfork Media USA Top 100 Favorite Records of the 1990s 71
Robert Dimery USA 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 2005 *
Spin USA Top 90 Albums of the 90's 2005 86
Hip Hop Connection UK The 100 Greatest Rap Albums 1995–2005 90
(*) designates lists that are unordered.

Personnel[edit]

Information taken from Allmusic.[41]

Musicians[edit]

  • Kool Keith — vocals, lyrics
  • Andy Boy — guitar
  • Phil Bright — bass, guitar
  • C-Note — vox organ
  • Joe des Cee — harmony vocals
  • DJ Q-Bert — scratching, DJ
  • Whoolio E. Glacias — vox organ
  • Sweet-P — vox organ

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Dan the Automator — producer, mixing, mastering
  • Gordon Chumway — second engineer
  • Pushead — illustrations
  • Mark Senasac — mastering

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Huey, Steve. "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d Downs, David (November 21, 2008). "Kool Keith and KutMasta Kurt". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. ^ a b McLeod, Kembrew. "Review of The Instrumentalyst (Octagon Beats)". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Goodman, Abbey (April 5, 2002). "All The Voices In Kool Keith's Head Working On New Albums". MTV News. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Kool Keith gets freaky as Dr. Octagon". Synthesis. May 30, 1997. Archived from the original on May 25, 2008. Retrieved 27 January 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Chairman Mao (May 28, 1997). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  7. ^ Jenkins, Sacha; Wilson, Elliott; Chairman Mao; Alvarez, Gabriel; Rollins, Brent (1999). "You Might Have Missed". Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists. Macmillan Publishers. p. 311. ISBN 0-312-24298-0. 
  8. ^ Moayeri, Lily (July 23, 2002). "Kool Keith Revives Dr. Octagon". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 22, 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Juon, Steve (September 1996). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". RapReviews. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Hess, Mickey (2007). "The Rap Persona". Is Hip Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most-Wanted Music. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-275-99461-9. 
  11. ^ a b "Information for "Earth People" 12-inch single". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  12. ^ a b ""3000" 12"". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  13. ^ a b "Information for "Blue Flowers" 12-inch single". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  14. ^ "Information for "Blue Flowers" Maxi-Single". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  15. ^ "Information for "Blue Flowers" 12"". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  16. ^ "Information for "Blue Flowers" Maxi-Single". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  17. ^ "Information for "Blue Flowers (DJ Hype & Photek Remixes)"". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  18. ^ Robertson, Alex (Feb 22, 2013). "Album Review - Dr. Octagon: Dr. Octagonecologyst". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "Information for Dr. Octagonecologyst (2xLP)". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  20. ^ "Information for Dr. Octagonecologyst (CD)". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  21. ^ "Information for Dr. Octagonecologyst (3xLP)". Discogs. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  22. ^ Downs, David (October 25, 2006). "Dashed Hoop Dreams". East Bay Express. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  23. ^ Kot, Greg (June 27, 1997). "Back to the Future: Dr. Octagon looks to the past to cure hip-hop". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 January 2009. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Artist chart history for Dr. Octagon". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-01-25. 
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the 90's (revised ed.). Macmillan. p. 84. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. 
  26. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". NME: 53. May 25, 1996. 
  27. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Alternative Press: 83. October 1996. 
  28. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". The New York Times: C13. July 16, 1996. 
  29. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". JazzTimes: 81. October 1996. 
  30. ^ Wisdom, James P (December 31, 1999). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-01-27. [dead link]
  31. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Melody Maker: 50. May 25, 1996. 
  32. ^ Browne, David (1997-06-06). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  33. ^ "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". The Source: 102. March 1996. 
  34. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (fourth ed.). Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-923-0. 
  35. ^ Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  36. ^ Frauenhofer, Michael (June 29, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  37. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review of First Come, First Served". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  38. ^ Downs, David (September 27, 2006). "Kool Keith CD Scam Exposed". East Bay Express. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  39. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe Publishing. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  40. ^ "Accolades for Dr. Octagonecologyst". AcclaimedMusic.net. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  41. ^ "Credits for Dr. Octagonecologyst". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 

External links[edit]