20 Questions: Kool Keith

Where does one begin to summarize Kool Keith’s extraordinary career?

Do we start with his landmark work with the Ultramagnetic MCs? Do we mention KHM/The Clayborne Family? The Analog Brothers? What about his albums released under his own name Kool Keith? What about those released by Dr. Octagon? How about Dr. Dooom? Perhaps we can even mention the guest verses he’s done in recent years with everyone from Princess Superstar to Common Grackle?

Ultimately, Keith’s career is one of the most unique in all of rap music, with enough material to deconstruct and analyze several times over. Few people can mix the intelligent and the juvenile as easily as Keith can, which is evidenced no better than on his latest album, Love & Danger. While it does push forth some of the more mature lyrical tropes that have defined his recent work, the aesthetic recalls his classic albums from back in the day, making it a disc that pleases fans old and new alike. To help celebrate the release, Keith sat down to answer PopMatters‘ 20 Questions, here revealing why he’d build an even taller Empire State Building, have dinner with Queen Elizabeth, and why “other rappers talking crap is my brain food”…

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I never read books.

2. The fictional character most like you?

The original Batman, Adam West, because he’s incognito. He never really gave us his identity. He was always low-key.

3. The greatest album, ever?

There are no greatest albums ever. There are a lot of great albums out there. Sex Style, Ultramagnetic, Matthew, those are a few of the greatest albums.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek, because of Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk. They were very strategic with the Enterprise.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Other rappers talking crap is my brain food. I feed off of it and I write above it.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Making music. Getting into my goals, traveling the world, seeing every city and state that I’d never thought I’d see.

7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?

Making original music and rapping over samples with a distinctive voice.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

James Brown is probably first. He’s a huge inspiration for us. He’s like my uncle in spirit. His work ethics were great and professional and energetic.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The Empire State Building because I would have made it taller. I would have added 100 more floors. The skyline would have been up in the clouds. Planes would have to drop people off on the roof. I would put in 800 floors.

10. Your hidden talents . . . ?

I can match colors and do fashion. I could put together leather shorts with a color and make it happen, make it pop. Put high top space boots with blue hair.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

My own. Don’t rush, but when you rush, rush at the right time. It helps me think about making the first mistake before I make the second one.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

The best thing I bought was a wallet to use to hold my money. I used to keep cash in my pocket and would lose bills all the time.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?

I feel best in Levi’s because they’re comfortable. But I also like to wear a suit sometimes.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Queen Elizabeth because she’s a nice lady who’d be interesting to talk to.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I’d time travel to the year 2041 because I want to see what the sneakers will look like. I want 2041 sneakers.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

I’d do a spa vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?

Clothes is essential to life. We need ’em.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I prefer cities. I’d like to be in downtown Chicago.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Cut out the taxes, control the census of the country, New York is overcrowded but keep a balance in the US. If everyone moved to New York then Milwaukee is going to be empty.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Music all the time. 24/7. I’m making a bunch of records right now. I’m a record-a-holic.