He’s called himself Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, and Black Elvis.
Nineties hip-hop legend Kool Keith Thornton is known for going by different names, and now, on what he claims will be his last album ever, he calls himself the King of New York — but this time it’s no pen name, he says — and he’s going to prove it to an audience at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg on June 14.
“I am the King of New York,” the Bronx-born 48-year-old rapper said. “I walk around New York, I rap around New York, I write about New York.”
The King’s music video shows the sides of the city he says most people don’t film: strip clubs, chop shops, and Flatbush Avenue Extension.
“I show New York from a rat’s point of view,” Keith said. “I show the outskirts, I keep it raw.”
Keeping it raw is what hip-hop is all about, according to Keith, who redefined the genre in the late eighties with his crew, the Ultramagnetic MCs, and pushed its boundaries even further in his 18 albums as a solo artist — and it’s what modern rappers fail to do, he says.
“We got too many cartoon characters these days, these guys walking around with Donald Duck on their shirts, and skinny jeans, and green glasses,” Keith complained, though without naming any names. “Cartoon characters don’t deserve to be mentioned.”
Not only does the self-proclaimed inventor of “horrorcore” — a style of rap based around bizarre B-movie themes — say rappers are not serious enough, he critiques contemporary hip-hop as being derivative, redundant, and juvenile.
“The songs are all chorus, just a repeated lyric all the time. Like ‘hamburger, hamburger, hamburger.’ That sh– is like first grade,” he said.
That’s why the emcee is taking a break from rapping about remote-controlled alligators and being born on Jupiter, and instead mounting an attack on the state of hip hop on his latest release, “Love and Danger.”
On “Vacation Spot,” he accuses rappers of acting like giant monkeys and calls rap “dog doo,” on “Supremacy,” he depicts industry executives as manipulative racist white men, and on the final track, “Goodbye Rap,” he ridicules new rappers and deejays and says, “I quit rap — I threw hip-hop in the garbage.”
Keith says he’s dead serious about ending his almost three-decade long career as an emcee.
“I’ll make beats, but I’m not going to record any more,” Keith said, citing the lack of competition needed to keep himself creative. He added that he’s not sure if he’ll ever tour again — meaning that his appearance at Brooklyn Bowl on June 14 could be one of the last chances to ever catch him live in Brooklyn. Even though he references the Brooklyn Bridge and Junior’s Restaurant on the song, “New York,” and tells the listener “you can call me BK,” Keith says he hasn’t much performed in New York’s most populous borough.
Still, he says he’s looking forward to taking the stage at the Williamsburg venue.
“It should be good, they got the bowling alley and everything,” Keith said.
Kool Keith at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave., between North 11th and North 12th Streets in Williamsburg. (718) 963–3369. www.brooklynbowl.com] June 14, 6 pm. $12.