Some ten years ago, a post-Ultramagnetic Kool Keith joined with Dan The Automator, Kut Masta Kurt, and DJ Q-Bert, helping to birth the independent hip-hop movement with a record called Dr. Octagon. If fans thought Keith was strange in the early days, they hadn’t seen anything yet, as Dr. Octagon was perhaps the most off-the-wall hip-hop record ever released, with equal contributions of weirdness from each member of the “group”.
Although after everything was said and done, Keith and Automator parted ways, with legal threats suggesting that Dr. Octagon was the name of the group of artists that made the original product, not necessarily Keith himself. Rumor has it that the shit hit the fan when Sadat X was asked to replace Keith for a Lollapalooza performance. Keith decided to “kill” the Octagon character shortly thereafter with his Dr. Dooom album (a truly worthy, albeit slept on, follow-up). However after parting ways with producer Kut Masta Kurt, Keith followed up with a string of sub-par releases, none of them pleasing fans like the stuff he did with Automator and Kurt.
The Return of Dr. Octagon is not the first time the character has been attempted to be resuscitated. A few years ago, a mysterious release called Dr. Octagon 2 surfaced, but was cease-and-desisted before it could reach store shelves. A budding producer named Fanatic also worked on a Dr. Octagon follow-up project, but tons of legal red tape kept this release from ever seeing the light of day as well. Recently, Insomniac Records craftily assembled a team of producers for the Mr. Nagatco Nagacto Rd. project (which cheekily spells “Dr. Octagon” backwards), playfully dancing around the idea of aliasing the character, with decent results. OCD International’s Return of Dr. Octagon somehow works around the legal nightmare of releasing a sequel to the landmark album (or just says “fuck it”), teaming Keith with Aussie production trio One Watt Sun. Is this the sequel we’ve been waiting for, or perhaps just another attempt at reliving past glories?
On a positive note, it’s good to see Keith back in form. Let’s face it, he released a handful of bad (read: awful) self-produced solo records, not to mention strange offshoot group efforts, all of which disappointed fans. So The Return Of Dr. Octagon resurrects the strange Keith we all knew and loved before he got angry. So yes, with song titles like “Aliens” and “Trees”, you can pretty much gather that Keith is back in that weird mode Octagon fans fell in love with.
However, the truth of the matter is, there simply is no fucking with a classic, or even recreating one – just ask fans of Star Wars. One of the issues with this record is that the One Watt Sun team seems to hold themselves in the highest regard as producers, with over-the top production that seems to go off in its own direction, leaving Keith way behind (“Aliens”). On songs like “Al Green”, Keith’s vocals become just another instrument in the trio’s symphony, not really letting the star of the record – Keith – shine. The Princess Superstar solo cut “Eat It” is equally guilty of the same crime, acting as a depressing reminder of how good the original album was. Granted, while One Watt Sun’s production is not particularly bad by any means (especially in comparison to some of Keith’s past releases), it’s just that it may have been wiser for them to wait for their own solo record before flexing their masturbatory muscles with such over-produced beats.
While it may seem like this critic is coming down hard on The Return of Dr. Octagon, it’s only because it has a hell of a predecessor to live up to. This is the best Keith record were going to get – it does top many of his sub-par efforts from the last few years – but sequels rarely top the originals, especially when completely different parties are involved. ï»¿
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