KOOL KEITH performing as part of the WARPED TOUR 2001 at Skydome (1 Blue Jays), Saturday (August 11). $29.50-$34.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
the sight of rapper kool keithon the Warped Tour's punk-heavy bill is a bit unusual. The abstract rhymer isn't an obvious fit between, say, Dropkick Murphys and Less than Jake. But, then, Kool Keith's often outrageous rants -- which can cover anything from next-door cannibalism to the freebasing habits of pop celebs -- wouldn't really make for any smoother a transition from Sugar Jones to Nelly at the Destiny's Child soiree. He's far too twisted, too nasty and too real for that crowd.
Besides, Kool Keith enjoys the challenge of winning over an audience, particularly one that isn't aware of his hiphop history with the Ultramagnetic MCs and his notorious past as the Black Elvis, Dr. Octagon, Robbie Digital, Mr. Gerbick, Matthew or Dr. Dooom. Kool Keith thrives on surprise.
"The Warped Tour is a unique situation," offers the elusive Kool Keith, suddenly adopting a professorial tone after answering my four previous calls to his cellphone with munching noises.
"It gives me the opportunity to observe different types of people and see what kind of sound umm... ovulations they respond to so I can learn how to control that response.
"I've got 30 minutes onstage to get to people, and that takes a certain amount of persuasion. I have to use all my mental abilities, because the people coming to these shows are a lot tougher than my regular audience.
"I'd say between 90 and 95 per cent of the response has been positive. There are always a few people in every crowd who just don't understand what I'm doing."
What Kool Keith has been up to lately is his new booty-chasing concept, as documented on his hard-bumpin' new Spankmaster (OverCore/TVT) album.
Like many of the characters he invents for each new rhyme style, the Spankmaster is drawn from the dark recesses of his brain -- although Kool Keith admits he found some inspiration on a recent trip to Detroit.
"I went to a lot of strip clubs," explains Kool Keith of his covert research activities, momentarily putting me on hold to try unsuccessfully to cash a cheque on New York's 59th Street. "Umm that's how the Spankmaster thing came up.
"I've had an idea to do an indoor stripper thing for a while, but I didn't have a chance to get into it on my Sex Style album. It required a certain kind of beat programming and bass sound -- the kind of mean bass lines that nobody uses any more.
"Hiphop today is too jolly and cartoonish. They use all these silly kiddie sounds to go along with their soft lyrics. It doesn't have a lot of soul. I'm not impressed by any hiphop I've heard lately. I think the music's stagnating."
Naturally, peeler-positive Kool Keith would be the last to criticize NBA stars like Patrick Ewing on moral grounds for their choice of off-court entertainment or whom they choose to associate with. But even our Spankmaster feels it's necessary to draw the line someplace.
"That whole thing with Patrick Ewing was wild," he snorts. "I guess it shows that NBA players hang out just like regular people do. That's cool. Those guys have a right to do whatever they want on their own time, as long as they aren't making records.
"They might be stars on the court, but when they pick up a microphone they just sound funny to me. OK, so Shaq is one of 8 million MCs in the world. I haven't seen any skills."