By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The Automator's signature sound is one reason why the ghost of Dr. Octagona similarly sci-fi-bent, Automator-produced piece about an MC from the year 3000haunts Deltron's lower registers. The other reason is that Octagon's ghost hangs over a lot of hip-hop records these days, even the ones Kool Keith himself raps on. Keith's body of work as an Ultramagnetic MC helped spawn a living, breathing surrealist paradigm for hip-hop, and Dr. Octagon made it OK for Royal Trux fans to buy rap records. But Keith's antiwackness stance has hardened, and his recent records (like this summer's scabrous Matthew) sound contagiously disappointed, the deep-leftfield rants of a guy who doesn't think much of today's hip-hop but hates the idea of obscurity more.
On the Analog Brothers' Pimp to Eat, Keith kinda-sorta gets his satiric groove back. Born as a throwaway gag in the liner notes to '98's Dr. Dooom (Keith as "Robbie Analog," mocking RZA's own concept clunker Bobby Digital in Stereo), Pimp to Eat's overall vibeblack borscht-belt fantasists slayin' em at a wack-MC Friar's roaststill feels desultory, though, mainly because playas got funnier this year, stealing much of playa-hate's thunder. Keith is in top formno other mind could have spawned the hair-hygiene ode "Permsbaldheadsafrosdreads"but the form itself is weak. Improbably, though, new collaborator Ice-T (analog alias: "Ice Oscillator") makes the save, coming back weird-hard with all the presence his last album seemed to be saving for the Law & Order cameras.
The last time I saw Ice, he was politicking at a digital-music convention, promoting his Internet record label by signing autographs next to his own champagne fountain (!), like he'd yet to be informed that there was a dotcom crunch going on. Pimp to Eat feels the same way, like a promise that there'll be mackin' in the future, even after the money runs out. Squeaky-voiced and foul-fuckin'-mouthed as a motherfucker, Ice nails the smallness behind big pimpin', from object-fetishism (Oldsmobile gets props as "the epitome of the automotive industry," 'hos get treated like bitches) to fussy vanity ("I sleep soft on a pillow, in order not to fuck up my 'do"). He's a fallen leading man getting back in touch with his chops in a character role.
The beats are Moogy junk from G-funk's trunk, moving less like gleaming space Cadillacs and more like the rides some Dungeon Family member describes on OutKast's Stankonia, held together by chrome and rubber bands. Pimpin' itself is now an unreliable vehicle they have to push uphill; even the Brothers' playa handles"Keith Korg," "Silver Synth," etc.evoke lowlife in the so-called space age. Sometimes astral traveling is manifest destiny, after all. But sometimes (per Flavor Flav) it's more like going to see Captain Kirk like a jerk 'cause you're out of work.