Kool Keith

“I make so much music that sometimes I need [different channels] to make music and do other stuff that I want to do,” says Kool Keith, the rapper who also goes by Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom and Mr. Nogatco, among many others.

“I had to extend projects and do other things," he says, "so I needed to use other names to spread some of my work out -- like George Clinton was Parliament, then he had Funkadelic and Brides of Funkenstein. Roger Troutman was with Roger, then Zapp. It’s the same type of thing. I needed room to do other stuff because I got heavily creative.”

For his latest album “Love And Danger,” he is, simply, Kool Keith. He has said the album marks his exit from rap, but he looks at the work in other ways, too.

“It’s a growing moment in my music,” he explains. “People have to grow. It’s like when you look at Kris Kross. They were making records when they were young, but times change and you grow up. I think a lot of people expected to see me stuck in time, but I never was stuck in time. It’s horrible to be stuck in time. I never allowed myself to be stuck in time. I think I just grew."

Growing up in the Bronx, Keith was inspired by the funk band Slave and did not immediately gravitate toward rap. He started off as a dancer, writing rhymes by himself and not letting any of his friends know that he was developing a distinctive rap style.

When he heard the work of lyrically adroit groups such as the Cold Crush Brothers and the Treacherous 3, Keith was hooked. “I wanted to get into the vocabulary of it,” he says. “That’s when I wanted to start rapping.”

A fan of such otherworldly cartoons, comics and television programs as “The Jetsons,” “Batman” and “Star Trek,” Keith, who was a member of the Ultramagnetic MCs, found that incorporating such themes into his music enabled him to escape the deplorable conditions in the Bronx.

“We lived an urban life, but we were kids that wanted to be the opposite of what we saw,” he says. “We didn’t want to come out like, ‘I’m a gangster this and a gangster that,’ because we lived a project life. We were coming into pissy elevators at night. We were like, ‘Okay. We know we live in the ghetto, the projects and it’s grimy and gritty, but we don’t have to be that way.’ We can be like ghetto scientists. We didn’t try hard to be hard.”

For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter @SorenBaker and check out his author page on Amazon.com.

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