Kool Keith

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Kool Keith
Kool Keith 2011.jpg
Kool Keith performing in New Jersey, 2011.
Background information
Birth name Keith Matthew Thornton
Also known as Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, Dr. Ultra, Crazy Lou, Poppa Large
Born (1963-10-07) October 7, 1963 (age 53)[1]
Origin Riverdale, Bronx, New York
Genres Hip hop, alternative hip hop, underground hip hop, horrorcore, experimental hip hop, trip hop, hardcore hip hop, abstract hip hop, psychedelic hip hop
Occupation(s) Rapper, producer
Instruments Rapping, keyboard, bass guitar
Years active 1984–present
Labels Mello Music Group, Junkadelic, Gothom, Funky Ass, DreamWorks Records, Ruffhouse/Columbia/SME Records Amalgam Digital
Associated acts Ultramagnetic MCs, Cenobites (album), Analog Brothers, Masters of Illusion, Thee Undatakerz, Peeping Tom, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Chilly Chill, KutMasta Kurt, Dan the Automator, The Prodigy, Spazz, Princess Superstar, Nu:Tone, Esham
Website www.ultrakeith.net

Keith Thornton (born October 7, 1966), better known by his stage name Kool Keith, is an American rapper from The Bronx, New York known for his surreal, abstract and often profane or incomprehensible lyrics. Kool Keith has recorded prolifically both as a solo artist and in group collaborations. Kool Keith is generally considered[2] to be one of hip-hop's most eccentric and unusual personalities.

Kool Keith was a cofounding member of Ultramagnetic MCs, whose debut Critical Beatdown was released in 1988. After two more albums with the group, Funk Your Head Up and The Four Horsemen, Kool Keith released his critically acclaimed solo debut album, Dr. Octagonecologyst under the name Dr. Octagon in 1996. He subsequently released a series of further independently released hip hop albums, including Sex Style and First Come, First Served (as Dr. Dooom).

After releasing one album on a major label, Black Elvis/Lost in Space, Kool Keith subsequently returned to independently releasing music, producing further efforts as a solo artist and in collaboration with groups such as Analog Brothers, Masters of Illusion, Thee Undatakerz and Project Polaroid. Kool Keith has also made guest appearances in collaboration with Peeping Tom and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He was also featured on the short track DDT on Jurassic 5's album Power in Numbers. The Prodigy's hit "Smack My Bitch Up" was based on a sample of Kool Keith's voice saying "change my pitch up, smack my bitch up like a pimp."


Ultramagnetic MCs (1984-1993)[edit]

Kool Keith began his rap career with the group Ultramagnetic MCs. After the release of their influential 1988 album Critical Beatdown, Thornton was reportedly institutionalized in Bellevue Hospital Center.[3][4] However, he later said that the idea that he was institutionalized came from a flippant remark made during an interview, and he never expected the story to become so well known.[5]

After continuing with Ultramagnetic for two more albums (1992's Funk Your Head Up and 1993's The Four Horsemen), Thornton would embark on a solo career.

Dr. Octagon debuts (1995-1996)[edit]

Thornton released his first notable solo single, "Earth People," in 1995, under the name Dr. Octagon. This was followed by the release of Dr. Octagonecologyst the following year. The album's production by Dan the Automator and Kutmasta Kurt, with scratching by DJ Qbert was acclaimed by critics, and the album was released nationally by DreamWorks Records in 1997, after an initial release on the smaller Bulk Recordings label (as, simply, Dr. Octagon) a year prior. DreamWorks also issued an instrumental version of the album, titled Instrumentalyst (Octagon Beats).[3][4]

Further releases (1997-1999)[edit]

Thornton followed the Dr. Octagonecologyst album with Sex Style in 1997, under the name Kool Keith.

In 1996, Thornton collaborated with Tim Dog for the single "The Industry is Wack," performing under the name Ultra[3][4]—the album Big Time soon followed. In 1999, he released the album First Come, First Served under the name "Dr. Dooom", in which the album's main character killed off Dr. Octagon on the album's opening track. The same year, on August 10, 1999, Thornton released Black Elvis/Lost in Space. It peaked at #10 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, #74 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and #180 on the Billboard 200,[6] and stands as Thornton's most commercially successful project to date.

Collaborations (2000-2001)[edit]

On July 25, 2000, Thornton released the album Matthew. It peaked at #47 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.[7] The same year, Thornton collaborated with Ice-T, Marc Live, Black Silver and Pimp Rex for the album Pimp to Eat, under the group name Analog Brothers, with Keith performing as Keith Korg and Ice-T as Ice Oscillator.[3]

On June 5, 2001, Thornton released the album Spankmaster on Gothom Records.[8] It peaked at #16 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, #11 on the Top Independent Albums chart and #48 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[9]

Second Dr. Octagon album (2002-2004)[edit]

In 2002, Thornton began recording The Resurrection of Dr. Octagon with producer Fanatik J,[10][11] signing a contract with CMH Records to release the album, which was eventually completed without much input from Thornton, due to a falling out over contractual terms.[11]

On October 12, 2004, Real Talk Entertainment issued the album Dr. Octagon Part 2. The album was discontinued by court order.[citation needed] On June 27, The Return of Dr. Octagon was released by OCD International, an imprint of CMH, advertised as the official follow-up to Dr. Octagonecologyst.[11] Some critics felt that it was not as good as its predecessor.[12][13] Thornton stated that he liked the album, but felt that it hurt his reputation as a musician.[11] In August, Thornton performed under the Dr. Octagon billing, but did not acknowledge the release of the OCD album.[14]

Further collaborations and solo albums (2002 onward)[edit]

Thornton, Marc Live and H-Bomb formed the group KHM, releasing the album Game on November 19, 2002, changing their name to "The Clayborne Family" by the release of their second album.[4]

On April 25, 2006, Thornton released the album Nogatco Rd. under the name Mr. Nogatco.[4]

In 2007, Ultramagnetic MCs released the reunion album The Best Kept Secret.[4] In 2009, Kool Keith released the concept album Tashan Dorrsett; a follow-up, The Legend of Tashan Dorrsett, followed two years later.[4] In 2012, Kool Keith performed at the Gathering of the Juggalos.[15] He has stated that he is considering retiring from music.[16] In 2013, Keith appeared as Dr. Octagon on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Buried Alive", from their album Mosquito. In 2015, Keith released "Time? Astonishing!" with producer L'Orange and began the start of his relationship with Mello Music Group.[17] Since then, Keith also re-issued his group album with the Analog Brothers (Ice-T, Pimp Rex, Marc Live, Silver Synth) "Pimp To Eat" with Mello Music.[18] Kool Keith's newest solo album "Feature Magnetic" is slated for release September 16, 2016 featuring MF DOOM, Slug from Atmosphere, Dirt Nasty and many others.[19] Artwork for the "Feature Magnetic" album was produced by Marc Santo.

Thornton's fan site refers to his discography of roughly fifty album releases, most of which have been commercially released. Singles such as "Spectrum" continue to appear online under the artist's name, on sites such as SoundCloud and Spotify.

Lyrical and performance style[edit]

Kool Keith performing at Mezzanine in San Francisco, California during the 2009 Noise Pop Festival.

Thornton's lyrics are often abstract,[20] surreal,[21] and filled with non-sequiturs and juvenile humor.[22] Thornton is also known for an explicit style focusing on sexual themes, which Thornton has referred to as "pornocore".[23][24] In a 2007 interview, Thornton claims to have "invented horrorcore".[25]

Thornton's lyrics are particularly dense, and he is a master of internal rhyme. His extensive use of internal rhyme pre-dates Eminem and other artists who have embraced this style.

In reference to his relationship between himself and his various stage personalities, Keith has said, "I don't even feel like I'm a human being anymore."[26]


Chino Moreno, singer of the rock band Deftones, has cited Kool Keith as an influence on his vocal and lyrical style.



  1. ^ "Kool Keith on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Barshad, Amos. "Grantland". www.grantland.com. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Kool Keith". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (fourth ed.). Simon and Schuster. pp. 466–467. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Cooper, Sean (2003). "Kool Keith". All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap & Hip-hop. Backbeat Books. pp. 267–268. ISBN 0-87930-759-5. 
  5. ^ Downs, David (November 21, 2008). "Kool Keith and KutMasta Kurt". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  6. ^ "Charts and awards Black Elvis/Lost in Space". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  7. ^ "Charts and awards for Matthew". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  8. ^ All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap & Hip-hop. Backbeat Books. 2003. pp. 160–163. ISBN 0-87930-759-5. 
  9. ^ "Charts and awards for Spankmaster". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  10. ^ Goodman, Abbey (April 5, 2002). "All The Voices In Kool Keith's Head Working On New Albums". MTV News. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d Downs, David (September 27, 2006). "Kool Keith CD Scam Exposed". East Bay Express. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  12. ^ Hernandez, Pedro 'DJ Complejo' (June 27, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". Rap Reviews. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  13. ^ Breihan, Tom (June 28, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  14. ^ Godfrey, Sarah (August 26, 2006). "Kool Keith's Bits & Pieces". The Washington Post. p. C08. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  15. ^ "Gathering of the Juggalos 2012 Lineup: Reunited Geto Boys, Danny Brown, George Clinton". SPIN. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  16. ^ "Kool Keith Preps New Album, Ponders Retirement". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  17. ^ "Kool Keith / L'Orange: Time? Astonishing! Album Review - Pitchfork". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Coleman, Jonny (14 July 2016). ""People Today Can't Party Because They Need a New Kneecap": A Q&A With Kool Keith". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "Feature Magnetic, by Kool Keith". Retrieved 19 September 2016. 
  20. ^ Juon, Steve (September 1996). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". RapReviews. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  23. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review of Sex Style". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  24. ^ Frauenhofer, Michael (June 29, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  25. ^ Kane; QED (July 19, 2007). "Kool Keith Interview". Original UK Hip Hop. Retrieved 2008-08-04. 
  26. ^ 032c.com. "KOOL KEITH". Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "CD Baby". Retrieved 27 June 2012. 
  28. ^ "iTunes - Music - Magnetic Pimp Force Field by Kool Keith & Big Sche Eastwood". iTunes. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 

External links[edit]