Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon

kool_keith

Even in a genre where having multiple aliases is practically a job requirement, few hip-hop artists have cycled through characters as frenetically as Kool Keith. Over the course of his 30-odd-year (emphasis on “odd”) career, he’s rapped under the names Black Elvis, Big Willie Smith, Dr. Dooom, Keith Korg, Poppa Large, Mr. Nogatco and (my personal favorite) Underwear Pissy, to name but a few. But his weirdest and most beloved alter ego is the one under which he recorded his now-classic debut solo album, Dr. Octagonecologyst, in 1996: Dr. Octagon.

Produced by Dan the Automator, who would go on to work with everyone from DJ Shadow to Gorillaz to Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom project, and featuring turntable wizardry by DJ Qbert of Invisibl Skratch Piklz fame, Dr. Octagonecologyst sounded like nothing else happening in hip-hop at the time. Over trippy sci-fi beats that were as likely to sample Kraftwerk or Bartok as Whodini or Kurtis Blow, Keith rapped seemingly stream-of-consciousness nonsense that, upon closer examination, revealed the mythology of his Dr. Octagon persona: a shapeshifting alien surgeon and gynecologist from Jupiter, with green and silver skin, sent to Earth to perform medical experiments on humans and bang the occasional nurse. It’s surreal, filthy, funny and as dense with pseudo-scientific jargon as a William Gibson novel.

Ever restless, Keith killed off Dr. Octagon just a few years after Dr. Octagonecologyst with a new, harsher character, a deranged serial killer named Dr. Dooom who murders Doc Ock in the first 40 seconds of his “debut” album, First Come, First Served.  Keith stepped back into the Octagon, so to speak, with the The Return of Dr. Octagon in 2006, but Dan the Automator and Qbert weren’t involved and the good Doctor, unhappy with both the production and his label at the time, disassociated himself with the album before it was even released.

But this week, the dynamic trio behind Dr. Octagon reunite to bring us Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripulation, the first proper Octagon album in 22 years. Are they as unhinged as ever? Damn right they are.

A little more about Kool Keith, for those not familiar: Born Keith Thornton in the Bronx in 1963, he came up in hip-hop’s formative years as part of Ultramagnetic MCs, whose 1988 album Critical Beatdown is one of those records you probably know even if you think you don’t. Even in those early days, he was always considered slightly unhinged — so much so that when he once joked during an interview about spending time in a mental hospital, everyone assumed he was serious. In addition to being a dizzyingly nimble rapper, he’s also a gifted producer and multi-instrumentalist — and of course he does all that under yet another pseudonym, Number One Producer. He allegedly once said that because of all his otherworldly alter egos, “I don’t even feel like I’m a human being any more.”

Speaking of those alter egos, it’s worth noting that Dr. Octagon is hardly Kool Keith’s only outlet for weirdness. He’s also explored sci-fi themes under his own name (for example, on Black Elvis/Lost in Space, his only major label album), dabbled in cannibalism and necrophilia with his horrorcore group Thee Undertakerz, and indulged in some serious scat play as Underwear Pissy — remember him? (“Leave a bag of horse shit on your dresser” has to be one of the greatest, most random threats in all of hip-hop.)

Moosebumps is streaming over at NPR (we’re sure Ira Glass and Terry Gross are big fans) and available for pre-order (or purchase, depending on when you’re reading this) here. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with an amazing video from Keith’s last solo album, 2016’s Feature Magnetic. This track, “Super Hero,” features another brilliantly weird rapper called MF Doom, one of many MCs Keith has influenced over the years (a list that also includes Eminem, Busdriver, Del the Funky Homosapien, Atmosphere and even Insane Clown Posse — and yes, Keith has played the Gathering of the Juggalos).

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A federal judge just threw out Insane Clown Posse’s lawsuit against the FBI

Insane Clown Posse

Sorry, Juggalos: According to a federal judge, the cops can still classify you as a gang.

The Associated Press released a story today confirming that Detroit federal Judge Robert Cleland tossed Insane Clown Posse‘s lawsuit against the FBI in which they sought to nullify a 2011 report listing ICP fans as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” According to the AP, Judge Cleland deemed that the report can’t be retracted because “the government isn’t responsible for acts by local police agencies that use the 2011 report.” Which presumably means that ICP’s only move now would be to literally sue every state and local police department in the country that has any history of targeting Juggalos. Which is probably, unfortunately, most of them.

In response to the judge’s decision, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope issued the following statement via their Facebook page:

Juggalos, our legal team and our partners at the ACLU of Michigan are appealing this completely wack decision to dismiss our case. THIS IS NOT OVER! AT ALL! Rest assured that we’re still fighting for YOU and our entire Juggalo family. Read this press release from the ACLU and you’ll see that we still have a very strong case … and we ain’t stoppin’ SHIT! STAY STRONG, FAMILY! We ain’t goin’ down! WHOOP WHOOP!

The ACLU press release they reference is way less fun to quote, but says, in effect, that they’ll appeal the judge’s dismissal of the case.

As we’ve said before and will say again: Regardless of your personal feelings about Juggalos, this is clearly an important case for civil liberties and First Amendment rights. By claiming that the criminal actions of a few Juggalos make the entire fan base guilty by association, the FBI opened the door for any law enforcement agency to arbitrarily classify any social group as a criminal gang based on the actions of just a few of its members. It’s not a great leap to imagine that if this case goes unresolved, some dipshit state or local police department could cite it as precedent for targeting ravers next. Or metalheads. Or freakin’ Bronies. It’s just a slippery slope into Crazytown to assume that a tattoo of your favorite band’s logo is the equivalent of, say, an Aryan Brotherhood swastika.

So stay strong, Juggalos! Justice is on your side.

Let’s roll a fatty and watch Insane Clown Posse’s infomercial for the 2014 Gathering of the Juggalos

Insane Clown Posse weed

How have we not reported anything yet about the 2014 edition of Insane Clown Posse‘s annual Gathering of the Juggalos? What the fuck is wrong with us? You’d think we’ve been high for the last six months or something. Oh, wait…

Anyway, the 15th annual GOTJ has a brand-new location this year: the awesomely named Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio. Tickets are still on sale and it all goes down July 23-27, so you people still have a month to buy us a pair. C’mon, please? After all we’ve done for you? Fine, we’ll just follow the whole thing on Twitter again.

I could bore you all with a bunch of words about how it’s gonna be interesting as fuck, what with all the awesome rappers and bands playing and all the hot Juggalettes who might sit on your head if you pass out. But reading? Fuck that. Let’s watch a 23-minute infomercial instead.

I don’t know about, but I need to relax after all that excitement. So let’s play this post out with a soothing death ballad from Psychopathic Records artist and GOTJ performer Boondox. Pour one out!

ICP + ACLU vs. FBI = WTF?

Insane Clown Posse

From the We Couldn’t Make This Shit Up If We Tried Dept.: Remember how, way back in 2012, we told you that Insane Clown Posse were thinking about suing the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department over classifying the rap duo’s fans, the Juggalos, as a criminal street gang? Well, it took ’em awhile, but damn if Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope ain’t gone ahead and done it. Federal government, you’re about to get sprayed in the face with the sweet, sweet Faygo of justice, bitch!

All kidding aside, this is actually a pretty serious case. Whatever you may think of ICP and their ridiculous clown makeup and ultra-violent lyrics, trying to characterize their entire fan base as a “loosely organized hybrid gang” sets a dangerous precedent for fans of any kind of underground or extreme music. Can you imagine if clubs started enforcing a “no horns” policy at metal shows, because throwing horns was classified as a gang sign? Or if you got fired from your job because you came in sporting one of those gang-affiliated DEVO tattoos?

Those hypotheticals, according to the lawsuit, are already becoming reality for some Juggalos. One of the plaintiffs in the case says he wasn’t allowed to enlist in the Army because of his Juggalo tattoos; another is already serving in the military and says he is “in imminent danger of suffering discipline or an involuntary discharge” because of his tatts. Others claim they’ve been stopped and harrassed by police for having ICP bumper stickers or clothing. Violent J and Shaggy themselves claim that the gang label has cut their merch sales in half and made it harder for them to book shows.

Have Juggalos committed violent crimes? Sure. Did they commit them because of their Juggalo affiliation or ICP’s music? Maybe in some cases, but the feds have yet to prove anything of the sort. In 2012, ICP filed a complaint in response to the FBI’s gang classification, seeking more information on how Juggalos got labeled a gang. In response, the feds basically just sent them a stack of newspaper articles documenting ICP fans getting arrested for various offenses. Based on that kind of rock-solid police work, you could classify all dudes with mustaches as criminals. Or all hoodie wearers. Or all black people. Come to think of it, those last two examples are kind of true already.

You might think a couple of horrorcore rappers in clown paint have zero chance against Uncle Sam, but odds are this case will get a full hearing. ICP have enlisted the American Civil Liberties Union to file the suit on their behalf. “It is a quintessential civil liberties case challenging government abuse,” the legal director of ACLU Michigan told the Associated Press. Two whoops for civil liberties!

More on this story as it develops.

Renowned hip-hop magazine GQ calls Insane Clown Posse the worst rappers of all time. All time!

Insane Clown Posse

Hey, we get it: Insane Clown Posse aren’t for everyone. Even on this blog, where we frequently praise the Faygo-spewing horrorcore duo in a mostly unironic way, we’ve called them out for being misogynistic morons on at least one occasion. But the worst rappers of all time? Please. They aren’t even the worst rappers from Detroit.

Nevertheless, GQ magazine (that great arbiter of all things hip-hop) and writer Rob Tannenbaum (who co-authored an awesome book called I Want My MTV and whose work we normally admire) saw fit to put ICP at the top of their “definitive list” of “The 25 Worst Rappers of All Time.” Now I probably shouldn’t be casting stones here; Jake and I are both struggling music writers and have put our names to various listicles of which we’re not especially proud. That being said, this GQ list is so far beneath the talents of Mr. Tannenbaum that we’re actually a little concerned for his spiritual well-being. Never mind putting ICP at number one; when you have to pad such a list with the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Green and Brian fucking Wilson (?!?!), now you’re just dicking around.

Recording artists are supposed to just laugh off this sort of nonsense—especially routinely hated-on acts like ICP, who are pretty much the Nickelback of hip-hop. But they’re not taking this one lying down. “GQ magazine should stick to what they know,” Violent J recently told TMZ. “Dressing preppy metrosexuals.” Oh, snap! How’s that feel, GQ? You just got made lunchmeat in an ICP/TMZ smackdown sandwich.

Ultimately, this little brouhaha was probably best summed up by a fan on ICP’s Facebook page: “I would be offended as a JuGGaLo, if ICP was ranked anything but worst rap group ever by a preppy dude fashion magazine.” Well said, JuGGaLo. Well said.

In other ICP news: Their new show Insane Clown Posse Theater debuts Wednesday, July 24th on Fuse TV. Hardest-workin’ hip-hop clowns in show biz, people! I’ll make Jake post a review/recap just as soon as I can pry the bong from his Cheeto-stained fingers.

Weird Guest Post: Insane Clown Posse vs. Vagina News

Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope

It’s another first here at TWBITW—our first-ever guest post. The author is Rebecca Metz, creator of Vagina News, a blog that discusses women’s issues and vaginas in the news. (How often are vaginas in the news? More often that you might realize, especially because when they are, everyone tends to scrupulously avoid saying the word “vagina.”) She also happens to be my wife, so y’all be nice to her, K?

Rebecca has a keen eye for misogynistic horseshit, so we decided to ask for her insights into the latest video from Insane Clown Posse, “Hate Her to Death.” But first, let’s watch and judge for ourselves, shall we?

Now, let’s get Rebecca’s take:

I didn’t know a lot about Insane Clown Posse. I knew they were bald guys in clown makeup who didn’t understand how magnets worked. I knew their fans were called Juggalos, and Juggalos sometimes look like Goths, but they’re not the same thing, because I once saw a guy ask a couple of Goths if they were Juggalos, and the Goths had never heard of Juggalos. And that’s what I knew about Insane Clown Posse.

Then I watched the video for “Hate Her to Death.”

So there’s this cheerleader the Insane Clown Posse guys like. A lot. She’s funny and caring and pretty and bendy and they like to draw pictures of her radiating a Jesus-like aura. (In the video, ICP are represented by a sad loner. We know he’s a sad loner because he’s wearing the sad loner uniform—a black hoodie—and he’s an artist, the official hobby of sad loners. Sad loners are all one pretty cheerleader away from the next great graphic novel.)

Anyway, the problem is that she “don’t belong to” our clowny heroes. She may or may not belong to one of several hipster bullies—but she definitely KNOWS them, because they show her the cheerleader-as-Jesus drawing. But instead of leaping into the sad loner’s arms upon seeing herself as Jesus, she goes to the gym and stretches, because she’s dumb or selfish or something.

And while the sad loner could just tell her he thinks she’s incredible/unforgettable/breathtaking/earthshaking and see what happens, come ON. She should KNOW that from the picture, right? What does he have to do, come out and say his feelings in WORDS? LAME.

So since he’s being bullied by hipsters and the cheerleader doesn’t love him (which is stupid of her, everyone knows sad loners make the best boyfriends) and he doesn’t seem to have friends or parents or a therapist to talk to, the cheerleader clearly has to die. It’s so sad. For him.

Well, first she has to watch her bully-hipster-maybe-boyfriend die, because that kind of thing makes cheerleaders feel terrible, and eliciting terrible feelings is Step One in Hating Someone to Death. But ICP are super sensitive to concerns about school violence, so they avoid the sorts of weapons people are always freaking out about, and kill the hipster by first choking him with a magic spell and then stabbing him with a pen. Everybody loves magic and pens!

ICP also understand that, while the cheerleader totally deserves to be the object of the sad loner’s rage because she’s happy and he’s not, killing pretty girls is among people’s least favorite kinds of killing, so you have to be real subtle about it. What to do, what to do… AHA! Crumple up the cheerleader-as-Jesus picture in an act of murder-foreshadowing! (They make sure to say “I fucking hate her to death” a bunch of times at the end so we’ll know what the crumpled picture means. It’s like poetry. Video poetry. Voetry.)

Thanks to “Hate Her to Death”, I know a lot more about Insane Clown Posse. I know they lack basic communication skills, don’t know how to process unpleasant emotions, and support violence against women as a means of expressing anger—but in an über-creative way that makes it awesome instead of representative of a serious cultural problem. I know they like to hang out in badly-lit libraries. And… that’s it. Am I a Juggalo now?

Fuck Presidents’ Day. Feb. 17th is Juggalo Day.

ICP-12

Washington and Lincoln are cool and all, but they’ve also been dead for like a hundred years. And why celebrate a bunch of dead white dudes when you can celebrate the living, breathing people who put on clown makeup and crank horrorcore hip-hop with hidden Christian messages?

Yes, Sunday, Feb. 17th is the 2nd Annual Juggalo Day, a holiday to celebrate the awesomeness that is Insane Clown Posse‘s batshit fan base. Technically, Presidents’ Day is the next day, but after partying like a Juggalo, you’re gonna sleep through that shit like someone put Roofies in your Faygo.

According to ICP’s newsletter, the Hatchet Herald, ICP themselves are gonna celebrate Juggalo Day by performing their classic 1995 album Riddle Box in its entirety at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit. If you can’t get to Detroit, we recommend celebrating Juggalo Day with a few bong rips and blasting Riddle Box loud enough to get evicted. If you do get kicked out, you can always blame it on the FBI.

In other ICP news, the 2013 Gathering of the Juggalos has been confirmed for Aug. 7-11 (numbers dear to every Juggalo’s heart) in Cave-in-Rock, Illinois. Maybe Andy and I will finally go this year, but probably not. We’re old.

Let’s play this post out with one of the most popular tracks from Riddle Box, “Chicken Huntin’.” We hear Abe Lincoln knew what to do with a drunken hillbilly, too.