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Kool Keith & Kutmaster Kurt: Diesel Truckers

Tim Stelloh

Kool Keith & Kutmaster Kurt

Diesel Truckers

Label: Dmaft
US Release Date: 2004-08-10
UK Release Date: Available as import

Here's a hypothetical road trip: first) get a hold of a decent size vehicle, preferably one that's as massive and encumbered as possible; second) shoot for a coastal endpoint, but plan on spending an exorbitant amount of time in "THE MIDDLE"; third) stop at as many Flying J's as possible, showering and/or sleeping at each; fourth) purchase a CB and talk incessantly about "alligators", "bird dogs", "chicken coops", and "bobtails"; fifth) buy enough amphetamines to replace your soon-to-be dwindling supply of No-Doze; sixth) abide by a strict Mickey D's, Hardees, and Wendy's diet; seventh) protest the insanely high gas prices by becoming an honorary Teamster and clogging up the Beltway with truckers from all quadrants of the land.

Kool Keith should have had a list like this. It would have been a start to cutting a concept record that uses trucking as its arch metaphor. As it is, Diesel Truckers shifts between austerity, filler, and metaphor; between an epic diss ("M.A.N.E and "I Drop Money"), trucking ("Diesel Truckers Theme", "Can I Buy You a Drink?", and "Diesel Truckin'"), chicks ("I Love You Nancy") and how much of a badass MC Keith is ("The Legendary"). It's a clever gimmick that never knows what the hell it is, and ultimately doesn't go anywhere because it relies on the same one-dimensional stylistics (that don't, in and of themselves, equal enough to call "content") as indie rock's recent obsession with mesh caps, big-ass belt buckles, and other ornaments of white-trashdom.

Likewise, Kutmaster Kurt's production holds up in its harder moments -- when it's timbre equals that of an 18-wheeler -- but it's too damn sci-fi to qualify the concept.

Minus the ambiguous theme, Truckers still has some great moments. Keith is one of the only rappers who can get away with calling himself Bobby Orr (of Boston Bruins fame), imitating a Juvenile-style flow ("M.A.N.E"), and dissing Andre 3000 in a rambling monologue at the end of a cut that sounds like electro-metal ("In your mind, you think you're incredible. But Benny, I wore the Black Elvis wig. Now you wear it. I took off the wig off. You just puttin' it on. I'm very impressed Benjamin. You're just movin' into LA. Are you a stalker? Or do you want to put down the pride you hide and do a track together?").

Also to Keith's credit, Truckers is a step in a different psychological direction. The ex-Ultramagnetic MC is infamous for his multiplicity of personas (Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom, Black Elvis, as well as Kool Keith), but this record is nowhere near the porn shops and prostitutes he so amorously, ironically, and obsessively recanted on Sex Style and Spankmaster, the two records he's most infamous for under the Kool Keith moniker. Truckers is closer to Matthew, the much less hyped, mildly inspiring Kool Keith release that was stripped of personas and on which the He-Man of alter egos appeared vaguely vulnerable.

Despite Keith's forays into new hip-hop territory, Diesel Truckers is nevertheless frustrating. It's a great idea, but it feels half-assed. To cut a record called Diesel Truckers, you'd need an ass-kicking overdrive of filth, grit, and loneliness. Keith and Kurt might have the cab, but they ain't got the cargo.

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