13 December, 2007@2:04 am
Kool Keith and Kut Masta Kurt were instrumental in the creation of indie hip-hop’s big bang during the late 1990′s. Through releases on the Funky Ass Records label (with the innovative use of the 12inch label), such as Sex Style and the Big Willie Smith EP, as well as the Dr. Octagon record for Mo’ Wax. But while many of these albums are easily obtainable through your standard means of music consumption, there is a whole host of newly discovered recordings from the era that, until now, had never been released.
Enter Sex Style: Unreleased Archives. Now usually, these types of projects are pretty bad – case in point are some of the post-breakup Ultramagnetic MC’s releases from Next Plateau, which compiled several volumes of redundancy. Or, on the other hand, we get the posthumous releases from dead artists that have been remixed to death, to the point where the artist’s original integrity has been completely foresaken (*cough* 2Pac *cough*). So needless to say, we approached this album with some reservations. But the difference here is that Keith was in his A-Game. His legacy may have been built during the Ultramagnetic MC’s era, but it wasn’t until both Sex Style and Dr. Octagon were released was he truly defined as a solo artist, recording some of his best material ever – and this album is a lost chapter in that legend.
Hard to believe though, isn’t it? Sure, we’ve been burnt by bad Kool Keith solo releases many times, such as lousy sequels to Dr. Octagon, (Dr. Octagon 2 or Return Of Dr. Octagon, take your pick). In fact, the only thing we ever got close to another Octagon record was Dr. Dooom, which ironically started off with the Octagon character being assassinated. But the key element here was Kut Masta Kurt. Sure, Keith has always been weird and funny, but the only post-Ultra producers that could channel this sense of humor into good (and listenable) music were Kut Masta Kurt and Dan The Automator.
This starts the age-old debate – which beatsmith really produced Dr. Octagon? The jacket reads Automator, but Kurt swears he was the man behind the classic release. In retrospect, the sound of the beats of the original Octagon LP is clearly Kurt, but the skits involving horses in the hospital and “1-800-PP5-1-Doo-Doo” is unmistakably Dan. Sex Style Unreleased Archive lends some credibility to this argument, as some of the production here sounds like it would have fit right in on the Dr. Octagon LP. Case in point is the long-lost vinyl only b-side, “Prepare”, which starts the “new” album off, as Keith warns that he may “come with no underwear”.
It doesn’t end there either, the classic sound of both the original Sex Style and Dr. Octagon LP’s alike emanates from each track on the record, as Kurt’s hard-hitting boom bap and ominous samples animate the eerie sound Keith’s lyrics need to be complete. Songs like “Rubba Love” and “From The Back” have that creepy, perverse vibe in both Keith’s lyrics and Kurt’s beats that made this such a crucial team up. Take “Big Eyes”, for instance, where Keith starts a verse with “As I masturbate, every time about 8 / the last time / I masturbated through the earthquake.” It’s laugh out loud moments like these – and the album is filled with them – which were seemingly lost after the two stopped recording together.
Which leads us to the next question. Is this a sign of things to come? Sex Style Unreleased Archives does have a few faults – such as the very dated “Why U Frontin” (featuring Slimm), not to mention a series of repetitive hooks that plague much of the release. Nevertheless, listening to these recordings ten years after the release of the original Sex Style make it clearly evident how much better Keith’s music was when he and Kurt worked together. Had this album been released as Sex Style 2 in 1998, it would have easily been held in the same regard as its predecessor. Hopefully it won’t be long before the duo re-teams for a new full-length release. – Pizzo
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