Kool Keith + Kutmasta Kurt

Kool Keith comes in many forms and many incarnations, but his style is distinctly his own. Just as there's no mistaking his smooth lyrical delivery and searing hip-hop prose with its underlying edgy beats, there's no denying the incredible force of power that is Kool Keith. Whether as a founding member of the legendary Ultramagnetic MCs, or in the guises of his renegade rap personas that include Black Elvis, Dr. Octagon and Dr. Dooom, Keith has established himself as an innovative lyricist whose raps stretch the envelope to the limit while exciting and entertaining the listener. Kool Keith, nee Keith Thornton, first emerged as part of the legendary New York crew, the Ultramagnetic MCs. At a time when rap was slowly making the transition from B-Boy braggadocio to a more aggressive, politicized stance, the group quickly established themselves as lyrical innovators with such classics albums as Critical Beatdown, Funk Your Head Up, and the Four Horsemen. Kool Keith launched a solo career and through his various releases he explored his many sides, from the playful to the downright carnal, releasing such independent records as Kool Keith's Sex Style and Dr. Dooom's First Come, First Served. In addition to his many rap outings, Keith proved he was not averse to cross-genre experimentation and even collaborated with the electronica outfit Hardkiss on "Abandon Ship" (Sharks & Mermaids mix) on the Astralwerks imprint; in fact, Kool Keith appears on the Prodigy album Fat Of The Land as the voice of "Smack My Bitch Up" and on the track "Diesel Power." On a recent commercial tip, Kool Keith appears as Dr. Ultra, the lead character in a series of nationally-broadcast television ads for Sprite. Looking back at his vast eclectic body of work, Keith says ..."I'm not about nostalgia, I'm not about looking back. If I made a hit, I moved on and never looked back.... the future is what I should be dwelling on right now."

One of the more underrated producers and DJs in the West Coast underground, KutMasta Kurt initially made his name working with Kool Keith, during which time he first donned his trademark Mexican wrestling mask. Kurt (b. Kurt Matlin) had been DJing in the Bay Area since the mid-'80s, getting his start as a teenager on a Santa Cruz community radio station. In 1988, he moved on to the Stanford University college station, and also mixed live at parties around the University of California-Santa Cruz campus. As his reputation grew, local MCs began to approach him about producing tracks, and he bought some basic studio equipment and taught himself to use it. After a few remixes and small independent releases, Kurt's friendship with the groundbreaking, underappreciated Ultramagnetic MC's paid off when, in 1994, ex-leader Kool Keith tapped Kurt to handle DJ and production duties for his new solo career. Kurt produced a couple of tracks on Keith's landmark Dr. Octagon album, but their first full project together was 1997's Sex Style, the first album released under Keith's own name. Kurt also helmed Keith's album as Dr. Dooom, 1999's First Come, First Served, and 2000's Matthew. By the time Matthew was released, Kurt had begun to build his own career apart from Keith. He provided remixes for the likes of the Beastie Boys, Planet Asia, Rasco, DJ Spooky, Luscious Jackson, Buffalo Daughter, and Blackalicious, among others. He also formed his own label, Threshold, and in 2000 released the full-length album KutMasta Kurt Presents: Masters of Illusion, a collaborative project that featured Kool Keith and underground MC Motion Man. His relationship with Keith was fraying, however, partly because of a false rumor that Keith was missing gigs because he'd been institutionalized. Keith eventually fired him, but Kurt's career stayed in good shape thanks to his production on Dilated Peoples' 2000 breakthrough single, Work the Angles. He soon we nt on to work with Hieroglyphics members Souls of Mischief and Pep Love. He produced Motion Man's well-received solo debut, Clearing the Field. Kurt was a busy man in 2004, releasing Diesel Truckers with his man Keith and his own, career-spanning compilation Redneck Games. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide

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