Kool Keith

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Kool Keith
Kool Keith performing in 2011
Kool Keith performing in 2011
Background information
Birth nameKeith Matthew Thornton
Also known as
  • Dr. Octagon
  • Dr. Dooom
  • Black Elvis
  • Dr. Ultra
  • Crazy Lou
  • Poppa Large
  • Rhythm X
  • Keith Korg
  • Dicky Long Docking
  • Platinum Rich
  • Underwear Pissy
  • Number One Producer
Born (1963-10-07) October 7, 1963 (age 60)
New York City, U.S.
GenresHip hop
  • Rapper
  • producer
Years active1984–present
Member ofUltramagnetic MCs
WebsiteKool Keith on Twitter Edit this at Wikidata

Keith Matthew Thornton (born October 7, 1963), better known by his stage name Kool Keith, is an American rapper and record producer from The Bronx, New York City, 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 to be one of hip-hop's most eccentric and unusual personalities.[1]

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, First Come, First Served (as Dr. Dooom), and most recently Keith.[2]

After releasing only 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" on Give The Drummer Some by Ultramagnetic MC's.


Ultramagnetic MCs (1984–1993)[edit]

Thornton began his career with the group Ultramagnetic MCs under the pseudonym Kool Keith in 1984. Four years later, their release of the album Critical Beatdown was critically acclaimed and later became recognized as widely influential for its innovative production, complex rhymes, and chopped sampling. Just after its release, 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]

Ultramagnetic MCs would release two more albums (1992's Funk Your Head Up and 1993's The Four Horsemen) with little commercial success due to West Coast hip hop's changing landscape. They went on hiatus for years, leading Thorton to 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 the concept album 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. Dr. Octagonecologyst was considered a departure from old school hip hop to abstract hip hop, with surrealistic, horror, science-fiction, and sexual themes.[6] DreamWorks also issued an instrumental version of the album, titled Instrumentalyst (Octagon Beats).[3][4]

Further releases (1996–2001)[edit]

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. The following year, Thornton followed the release the sophomore album, Sex Style under the name Kool Keith. Being a dirty rap concept album, Thornton described it as "pornocore", filled with sexual metaphors to diss other rappers.[7] An instrumental version was also released.[8] This year, a collaborative album with Godfather Don titled Cenobites, was released as an LP.

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, under the major record labels Ruffhouse and Columbia. 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,[9] Despite standing out as Thornton's most commercially successful project to date, he was disappointed with the album's delays and promotional efforts, even though a promotional video was made for the lead single, "Livin' Astro", which aired on a few episodes of the MTV show Amp in early 2000. Its sequel, Black Elvis 2, was released in 2023.

On June 5, 2001, Thornton released the album Spankmaster on TVT and Gothom Records.[10] 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.[11] The album has yet to be on streaming.

Collaborations (2000–2004)[edit]

On July 25, 2000, Thornton released the album Matthew. It peaked at #47 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.[12] The following month, 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] The album was re-released by Mello Music Group on streaming, CD, and LP in 2016.[13] Masters of Illusion, a collaboration with KutMasta Kurt and Motion Man, followed a few months later.

Thornton, Marc Live and H-Bomb formed the group KHM, releasing the album Game on November 19, 2002. They later changed their name to "Clayborne Family" by the release of their second album two years later.[4] During the same year (2004) that Clayborne Family was released in, Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz (with Reverend Tom (Kool Keith) Al Bury-U (BIG NONAME), M-Balmer and The Funeral Director) and Diesel Truckers, another collaboration with KutMasta Kurt.

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

In 2002, Thornton began recording The Resurrection of Dr. Octagon with producer Fanatik J,[14][15] 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.[15]

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.[15] Some critics felt that it was not as good as its predecessor.[16][17] Thornton stated that he liked the album, but felt that it hurt his reputation as a musician.[15] In August, Thornton performed under the Dr. Octagon billing, but did not acknowledge the release of the OCD album.[18]

Further collaborations and solo albums (2006–present)[edit]

On April 25, 2006, Thornton released the album Nogatco Rd. under the name Mr. Nogatco, and Project Polaroid, a collaboration with TomC3.[4] The Return of Dr. Octagon, the sequel to Dr. Octagonecologyst, was released two months later, as well as a Dr. Dooom sequel titled Dr. Dooom 2 being released two years later.

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.[19] He has stated that he is considering retiring from music.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] Kool Keith's recent solo album Feature Magnetic was dropped on September 16, 2016 and it features MF DOOM, Slug from Atmosphere, Dirt Nasty and many others.[23] Artwork for the "Feature Magnetic" album was produced by Marc Santo.

In 2018, Keith collaborated once again with Dan the Automator and DJ Qbert for another Dr. Octagon album.[24][25] Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation was released on streaming services on April 6, 2018,[26] with the physical release scheduled for Record Store Day,[27] April 21, 2018. The Record Store Day release includes both vinyl and CD copies. Using his Deltron persona, Del the Funky Homosapien guests on "3030 Meets the Doc, Pt. 1". NPR offered a first look at the album on March 29, 2018.[28] Kool Keith appears on "Western" by the bluegrass-rap group Gangstagrass, performing as himself. Throughout five years, Thornton released Controller of Trap, Keith, Computer Technology, Saks 5th Ave, Space Goretex (with Thetan), Keith's Salon, Subatomic (with Del the Funky Homosapien), Serpent (with Real Bad Man), and Black Elvis 2.

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,[29] surreal,[30] and filled with non-sequiturs and profane humor.[31] For example, "Technical Difficulties," from the album Dr. Octagonecologyst, contains the following lyrics: "Intestines, investments, hide money in your stomach / Who can stop Pepto-Bismol? Only a Gremlin eatin' in Larry Parker like Gizmo." Thornton is also known for an explicit style focusing on sexual themes, which Thornton has referred to as "pornocore".[32][33] In a 2007 interview, Thornton claims to have "invented horrorcore".[34]

Alter egos[edit]

Kool Keith is known for his many alter egos. As of 2012, Kool Keith had at least 58 such alter egos: these include well-known aliases such as Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, and Black Elvis, which appeared on albums bearing their names; and the more obscure, such as firearms dealer "Crazy Lou" and "Exotron Geiger Counter One Plus Megatron," as he introduced himself in an appearance on Marley Marl's radio show In Control.[35] Some of Kool Keith's monikers have only existed on album artwork, such as "Mr. Green" and "Elvin Presley."[36]

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".[37]


Solo albums

Collaborative albums


  1. ^ Barshad, Amos. "Kool Keith Is Lost in His Own Space". Grantland. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Yoo, Noah (May 14, 2019). "Kool Keith Announces New Album KEITH". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  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 November 21, 2008.
  6. ^ Huey, Steve. "Dr. Octagonecologyst – Dr. Octagon". AllMusic. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  7. ^ Huey, Steve. "Sex Style". Allmusic. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  8. ^ ""Sex Style" Instrumentals". Funky Ass Records/Threshold Recordings. Spotify. 1996. Retrieved June 25, 2023.
  9. ^ "Charts and awards Black Elvis/Lost in Space". AllMusic. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  10. ^ All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap & Hip-hop. Backbeat Books. 2003. pp. 160–163. ISBN 0-87930-759-5.
  11. ^ "Charts and awards for Spankmaster". AllMusic. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  12. ^ "Charts and awards for Matthew". AllMusic. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  13. ^ C.M., Emmanuel (April 12, 2016). "Analog Brothers Featuring Kool Keith, Ice-T, Pimp Rex, Black Silver and Marc Live Are Reissuing 'Pimp to Eat' - XXL". XXL. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  14. ^ Goodman, Abbey (April 5, 2002). "All The Voices In Kool Keith's Head Working On New Albums". MTV News. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  15. ^ a b c d Downs, David (September 27, 2006). "Kool Keith CD Scam Exposed". East Bay Express. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  16. ^ Hernandez, Pedro 'DJ Complejo' (June 27, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". Rap Reviews. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  17. ^ Breihan, Tom (June 28, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2008.
  18. ^ Godfrey, Sarah (August 26, 2006). "Kool Keith's Bits & Pieces". The Washington Post. p. C08. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  19. ^ "Gathering of the Juggalos 2012 Lineup: Reunited Geto Boys, Danny Brown, George Clinton". Spin. July 16, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  20. ^ "Kool Keith Preps New Album, Ponders Retirement". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  21. ^ "Kool Keith / L'Orange: Time? Astonishing! Album Review – Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  22. ^ Coleman, Jonny (July 14, 2016). ""People Today Can't Party Because They Need a New Kneecap": A Q&A With Kool Keith". Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  23. ^ "Feature Magnetic, by Kool Keith". Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  24. ^ "Kool Keith, Dan The Automator, and DJ Qbert are reuniting as Dr. Octagon". The FADER. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  25. ^ "Kool Keith, Dan The Automator and Qbert reveal new Dr. Octagon album". FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music. February 15, 2018. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  26. ^ Berry, Peter (February 27, 2018). "DR. OCTAGON PLOT 'MOOSEBUMPS' ALBUM, DROP NEW SONG "OCTAGON OCTAGON"". xxlmag.com. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  27. ^ "Dr. Octagon – Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation Deluxe". recordstoreday.com. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  28. ^ Wang, Oliver (March 29, 2018). "Kool Keith And Dan The Automator Make Rap Weird Again As Dr. Octagon". npr.org. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  29. ^ Juon, Steve (September 1996). "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". RapReviews. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  30. ^ 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 978-0-275-99461-7.
  31. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review of Dr. Octagonecologyst". AllMusic. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  32. ^ Huey, Steve. "Review of Sex Style". AllMusic. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  33. ^ Frauenhofer, Michael (June 29, 2006). "Review of The Return of Dr. Octagon". PopMatters. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  34. ^ Kane; QED (July 19, 2007). "Kool Keith Interview". Original UK Hip Hop. Archived from the original on December 22, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2008.
  35. ^ Mlynar, Phillip (April 5, 2011). "Top 10 Greatest Kool Keith Aliases". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 28, 2023.
  36. ^ Batey, Angus (March 20, 2012). "20 Years On: Ultramagnetic MCs' Funk Your Head Up". The Quietus. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  37. ^ 032c.com. "KOOL KEITH". Retrieved July 21, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]