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by Justin Strauss
20 April, 2006@12:00 am
0 comments

    The producers of the recent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film adaptation got it all wrong. Mos Def may have the acting chops, but when it comes to suspension of disbelief, there could be no better Prefect Ford than Kool Keith. The veteran artist, formerly of Ultramagnetic MC’s, is on full display with Nogatco Rd. as not only the craziest street urchin you might ever encounter, but as the most infuriatingly self-obsessed street poet you might ever pay to see. Keith, rather than focusing on laying down focused, accessible, or even creatively complete tracks, somehow believes that anyone gives a shit about his conspiracy theories or behind-the-scenes snippets of studio giggling. The distinction of this new outing, produced in full by Insomniac chief Iz-Real, is the blunt force with which Keith conveys one simple truth: this is as penetrable as he gets. The entire album plays like a diary reading at a coffee shop for pretentious hip-hoppers, but unlike his work as, say, Dr. Octagon, forty-five minutes donated to his time might actually provide some clarity into the mind of a groundbreaker who happens to have some funny wiring.

      On “Night Flyer,” Nogatco introduces our setting as a Disney-fied Central Florida; with its swampy surroundings and quaint, retro-futuristic Epcot globe centerpiece, it should be the perfect setting for an emcee whose press photo is himself performing an alien autopsy. Delivering apparent chest-thumping lines like “I’m more space than you,” Nogatco, the character drifts through the first half of the disc, through the mid-tempo piano pluck of “Celestial,” and onto the utterly monotonous drawl of “Alpha Omega” and “Big Adventure.” It isn’t until the blip-hop paranoia of “Different” that Keith finds his groove, but from here on Nogatco Rd. is a galactic hitcher’s joy ride. “Capture (Back to Me)” dips into a low grumble of space coasting, and the finale of “Live Dissection” brings along Sole and an entertainingly lively Sage Francis for a cram session of political reference and conspiracy tag lines.

     There is nothing on Nogatco Rd. that can’t be pulled from any number of independent hip hop releases by vaguely notorious artists - metallic production and faux-activist musings - but what distinguishes this outing, besides the novelty value of a bonus track containing Keith’s scientific report on his personal discovery of aliens, is Keith’s hypnotic ability to capture his audience with his ramblings and not let go. Whether the listener chooses to buy into it and walk around in his space shoes, or passively bear witness to the spectacle, there is active participation required in this release, and there is some amount of brilliance to it.

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