No one could ever accuse Kool Keith of following any trends. So underground in his approach to hip hop, Kool Keith seems hell-bent on drilling down to the center of the earth with his beyond left-of-center themes and minimalist beats. Where his Dr. Octagon persona was a revelation when Dr. Octagonecologist came seemingly out of nowhere in 1996, his output ever since has often sadly followed a sort of law of diminishing returns. Admittedly a difficult album to follow up, Dr. Octagonecologist essentially covered all of Kool Keith’s sci-fi/horror/porn themes in one landmark release. Subsequent releases have seen him attempting to one up that album’s often shocking, though ultimately humorous, lyrical content to varying degrees of success.
Ultimately electing to kill off the Dr. Octagon persona (here recalled in “R.I.P. Dr. Octagon (Death Certificate Remix)”, ostensibly in an attempt to finally rid himself of the massive shadow cast by the good doctor, Kool Keith retained many of the thematic elements of his best release, focusing more on the esoteric and sexual while occasionally veering into sci-fi territory. And while Keith is an undoubtedly talented MC, the quality of his output has largely been on the decline in the years since Dr. Octagonecologist’s release (some might even argue since his time with Ultramagnetic MC’s and their landmark Critical Beatdown).
Absurdly prolific, he’s the underground hip hop equivalent of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, Keith has released nearly an album a year under his various personae since 1996, not to mention his myriad guest appearances and side projects. Given the sheer volume of material he’s amassed in the last two decades, it should come as little surprise that this latest collection is a three CD, three-hour ride through Keith’s filthiest sex raps. Featuring all three volumes of his sex rap mixtape series, Total Orgasm largely lives up to its name in terms of both content and intent.
While not everything here is graphically sexual or pornographic in nature, the majority of it is. Interspersing the scatological with the absurd, Keith’s sense of nightmarishly cartoonish storytelling and minimalist production helps save Total Orgasm from becoming a massive bore. At 56 tracks, it’s an exhausting listen and many of the jokes get old quickly (“Fat Pussy,” “Nice Nasty,” “I Want My Dick Sucked” and “Ass In My Face,” among a host of others), but Keith’s approach is so unique and unlike anyone else in the underground it can be hard to fault his attempts at pushing the levels of decency beyond socially acceptable levels (“G-Something” and “Dick In Her Ass” in particular are far more enjoyable than they have any right to be).
But intense provocation is Kool Keith’s stock-in-trade. Never one to shy away from the darkest, most extreme and often ridiculous wordplay, Keith’s approach can more often than not be as amusing as it is nauseating. And given the skeletal nature of the boom-bap production that underscores nearly all three hours here, the lyrics are front and center. Hypnotic and often unsettlingly intoxicating, he’s a master of the understated rap, coolly conversational while spouting some of the most wildly absurd and cringe-worthy rhymes.
On “Bobby Black” he samples Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and takes other MCs to task. And while the basic premise is fairly staid territory by this point, Keith’s lyrical approach and absurdist insults help reinvigorate the played out hip hop trope of calling out others for their perceived weaknesses. Where other’s attempts would sound tired or played out, Keith’s idiosyncrasies help to keep this track and others from sounding trite and, at worst, utterly inconsequential.
Far from an easy listen and often frustratingly esoteric with its absurdist non sequitors and gross-out humor, Total Orgasm is as much an endurance test as pornographic listening experience (complete with porn samples throughout). And while making it all the way through these three discs’ three hours may not be the rewarding experience intended, it’s nevertheless an often enjoyable, never dull ride. Occasionally provocative, always offensive and often laugh-out-loud funny, Total Orgasm is all the latter day Kool Keith you could ever want or need.