After single-handedly redefining "warped" as the mind and mouth behind the Bronx-based Ultramagnetic MCs, "Kool" Keith Thornton -- aka Rhythm X, aka Dr. Octagon, aka Dr. Dooom, aka Mr. Gerbik -- headed for the outer reaches of the stratosphere with a variety of solo projects. A one-time psychiatric patient at Bellevue, Keith's lyrical thematics remained as free-flowing here as they ever were with the NY trio, connecting up complex meters with fierce, layers-deep metaphors and veiled criticisms of those who "water down the sound that comes from the ghetto." His own debut single, "Earth People" by Dr. Octagon, was quietly released in late 1995 on the San Francisco-based Bulk Recordings, and the track spread like wildfire through the hip-hop underground, as did the subsequent self-titled full-length released the following year. Featuring internationally renowned DJ Q-Bert (also of the Invisible Skratch Picklz) on turntables, as well as the Automator and DJ Shadow behind the boards, Dr. Octagon's left-field fusion of sound collage, fierce turntable work, and bizarre, impressionistic rapping found audiences in the most unlikely of places, from hardcore hip-hop heads to jaded rock critics. Although a somewhat sophomoric preoccupation with body parts and scatology tended to dominate the album, Keith's complex weave of associations and shifting references is quite often amazing in its intricacy. The record found its way to the UK-based abstract hip-hop imprint Mo'Wax (for whom Shadow also records) in mid-1996, and was licensed by the label for European release (Mo'Wax also released a DJ-friendly instrumental version of the album titled, appropriately, The Instrumentalyst [Octagon Beats]).
The widespread popularity of the album eventually landed Keith at Geffen splinter DreamWorks in 1997; the label gave Dr. Octagon (retitled Dr. Octagonecolygist) its third release mid-year, adding a number of bonus cuts. In early 1999, however, Keith's alter-ego Dr. Dooom unfortunately "killed off" Dr. Octagon on the opening track of First Come, First Served (released on Thornton's own Funky Ass label). Kool Keith signed to Ruffhouse/MCA for his second album under that alias, 1999's Black Elvis/Lost in Space. Records released as Kool Keith followed in 2000 (Matthew) and 2001 (Spankmaster), while the 2002 collaboration Gene appeared as KHM (Kool Keith plus H-Bomb and Marc Live). His next project was a four-rapper group named Thee Undatakerz with Keith taking on a new persona, Reverand Tom. Kool Keith Presents Thee Undatakerz hit the streets in May of 2004. Keeping busy, Keith released Diesel Truckers in August of the same year with old friend/producer Kutmasta Kurt. ~ Sean Cooper, All Music Guide
From his modest South Philadelphia recording space, emcee/producer/multi-instrumentalist Lushlife has been quietly crafting some of the most inventive and well-regarded hip-hop records of the last several years. On his latest release, a limited-edition cassette/digital offering called, No More Golden Days, Lush explores increasingly eccentric sonic territory, still effortlessly engaging listeners with his undeniable pop sensibilities and classic east coast flow. Clearly the work of an artist interested in conveying feeling through sound, No More Golden Days ebbs-and-flows like a classic DJ blend tape. Lushlife deftly moves from the same hip-hop instrumentals you’ll hear on Top 40 radio, to narcotic arrangements of mid-‘80s synth-pop jams. He recontextualizes modern indie records with an undeniable swagger, and then spits thoroughly over his own jaw-dropping productions.
And while this mixtape isn’t bloated with guests, each featured artist does bring fresh energy to the program. At one moment, Heems of Das Racist trades sixteens with Lush on a mystic-sounding Gang Gang Dance edit, and in the next, former Titus Andronicus member, Andrew Cedermark is crooning away on a Lushlife rerub of OMD’s The Romance of the Telescope. It’s obvious that every millisecond of No More Golden Days is carefully executed to emote precisely what Lushlife wants you to feel. “I guess at its core, Golden Days is built on a sense of Impressionism,” he reflects. “I wanted to make the listener feel certain complex feelings, but also somehow sidestep the direct musical routes for eliciting those feelings. Like, for example, I don’t want to directly remind you of your favorite Rakim or Beach Boys record. I just want to try and use everything at my disposal to give you a little bit of the feeling you got, the first time you ever heard those records.”
Whether he’s flipping tween-pop starlet Katy Perry into a blissed-out whip-banger, or rapping on blown-out Clams Casino instrumentals, Lushlife is seemingly pushing the listener toward some gauzy, autumn night in his mind, with each successive track on this mixtape. So ultimately, No More Golden Days is not simply a work of post-millenial genre-hopping. Instead, its strength can be found in Lushlife’s unique ability to make Dilla, Katy Perry, Slowdive, and Drake feel like they’re part of one strangely, but perfectly-connected lineage.