Kool Keith

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(Redirected from Dr. Octagon)

Keith Matthew Thornton, better known as Kool Keith, is an American rap artist and record producer.




Dr. Octagon publicity photo:  Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Kool Keith.
Dr. Octagon publicity photo: Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Kool Keith.

An original member of New York new school pioneers the Ultramagnetic MCs, Kool Keith is best known as a somewhat controversial solo rapper. Keith's signature style of stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow, and his ability to drop complex freestyle vocals with apparent ease, earns him a perennial nod from the underground hip-hop community. Bizarre, disjointed, even delusional or disassociated themes, concepts, and references tend to season the average Kool Keith track or album. Nearly all of his albums incorporate a satirical dislike for more commercialized strains of hip-hop, which he finds to be devoid of any heart. Similarly, nearly all of his works lambast major labels and overhyped MCs.

Kool Keith's early career and lyrics with the Ultramagnetic MCs often made use of his growing reputation as a somewhat unstable character, and onetime patient of Bellevue, a psychiatric hospital, where he was treated for depression. With Ultramagnetic, Keith's abstract style developed, maturing in songs like "Poppa Large." After Ultramagnetic broke up, Kool Keith expanded his resume, experimenting with new styles, including his self-described "pornocore," known for pornographic imagery and brutal, abstract lyrics. Sex Style, released in 1997, was the showcase for this style.

Teaming up with Dan "the Automator" Nakamura under the name Dr. Octagon, Keith again reinvented his image, recording the self-titled Dr. Octagon album (later reissued under the title Dr. Octagonecologyst) which was released by the English trip hop label Mo' Wax. Octagonecologyst received critical acclaim, though mainly from atypical sources outside the mainstream hip-hop community. The critical success of the album helped to open the accessibility of the underground hip hop scene to an appreciative audience. For the Automator, this album laid the foundation for a burgeoning career and accolades as a producer; for Kool Keith, the success of Octagonecologyst seemed to put him in danger of being typecast as a "space and Mars" rapper. Increasing Keith's frustration with the Octagon crew, an instrumental version of the album, Instrumentalyst, which showcased the production, became a rising success with most of the credit given to the Automator and other collaborators, even though Keith is credited on the LP with more roles than just lyrics. The result was Kool Keith's complete rejection and abandonment of the Octagon character, who was literally killed off in the introduction to Keith's next album, Dr. Dooom. Perhaps as a jab at Instrumentalyst's success, Keith has released instrumental versions of many post-Octagon albums.

While Octagonecologyst was many Kool Keith fans' first taste of his style, still others discovered him on The Prodigy's 1997 album The Fat of the Land. Long time fans, the Prodigy invited Kool Keith to supply the lyrics on "Diesel Power" after they used a sample from Ultramagnetic that became the lyrics and title for their (soon-to-be) hit "Smack My Bitch Up."

Missing image
Kool Keith as Black Elvis.

Released simultaneously with the independent Dr. Dooom was major-label effort of Black Elvis/Lost in Space, which, ironically, saw Keith rapping about "space and Mars." While Dr. Dooom was produced with the very cut-down, minimalist beats and production work of Kutmaster Kurt, Black Elvis featured much more complex lyrical styling and deeper, multi-layered tracks developed by a host of collaborators and Keith himself. The dichotomy lead to something of a division between Keith's long-time fans: many regard the minimalist work with Kutmaster Kurt (e.g. Sex Style, Dr. Dooom, and the later Matthew) to be the authentic Kool Keith, while others, longing for a return to the deeper and more complex work on Octagonecologyst and Black Elvis were disappointed with what they considered to be mediocre, or even shoddy work by Kurt.

Keith returned to his commercialism-critical bitterness in 2000's Matthew, including the widely-cited anti-label rant "Test Press", lambasting mainstream rap record labels as being "white" and damning them for performing devious, duplicitous tricks with acts, artistic decisions, and profits. Subsequent collaborations have included Masters of Illusion, the Analog Brothers, and his current effort (as of 2004) with Thee Undatakerz, who have collaborated with members of the Wu Tang Clan to produce the soundtrack to Blade: Trinity. Keith is also a well-known favorite of Princess Superstar, and has collaborated with her on several tracks.


  • Kool Keith is often credited with playing bass on his tracks in album liner notes (among other roles), and was pictured with bass in hand on the back of the Black Elvis album.
  • Though originally from New York, Keith has lived and worked in California since the mid-1990s.
  • Keith states in an interview that he was never at a mental institution.


With Ultramagnetic MCs

  • Critical Beatdown (1988)
  • Funk Your Head Up (1992)
  • The Four Horsemen (1993)
  • Brooklyn to Brixton (live) (1996)
  • The Basement Tapes (1984-1990)

With Ultra (Kool Keith and Tim Dog)

As Dr. Octagon

  • Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996) originally titled Dr. Octagon
  • The Instrumentalyst: Octagon Beats (1996)

As Dr. Dooom

  • First Come, First Served (1999)
  • First Come, First Served (Instrumental) (2000)

With Analog Brothers

As Kool Keith

With Kutmasta Kurt

  • Diesel Truckers (2004)
  • Diesel Truckers: Instrumental (2004)

With Masters of Illusion (Kool Keith and Motion Man)

  • Masters of Illusion (2000)
  • Instrumentals (2001)

With Thee Undatakerz

  • Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz (2004)

External links


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