Kool Keith/Rob Swift | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kool Keith/Rob Swift


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Now that Garth Brooks has tried out for the San Diego Padres and released a single as the fictional pop star Chris Gaines, Kool Keith is starting to look almost sane. But the notorious hip-hop oddball has added a few new alter egos to his repertoire since he last performed in Chicago--back when all he had was Big Willie Smith, the kinky, foulmouthed auteur of Sex Style, and Dr. Octagon, the deranged outer-space gynecologist of Dr. Octagonecologyst. Earlier this year he introduced Dr. Dooom with First Come, First Served (Funky Ass), a creepy parody of gangsta rap with some cannibalism thrown in for good measure, and now on Black Elvis/Lost in Space (Ruffhouse/Columbia) he dons a plastic pompadour to blow the whistle on dopey hip-hop cliches. On the album's "Intro" he demands to know, "Why are you making those mean faces in your videos with the fish-lens effects? Why?...Why do you pull up in valet parking with your Benz that is rented, fronting on a cellular phone that doesn't work? Why?" It gets less lucid--and more entertaining--from there. Even his most hilarious gibberish ("Planes leave the train station / Evacuate quick / Mechanical legs, mechanical legs") is offset by some nice electronic funk, including a collaboration with former Zapp leader Roger Troutman, in one of the last recordings before his death, on "Master of the Game." But reports of recent concerts don't sound promising--Keith's performing with the usual dull DAT and DJ, and apparently he's been forgetting his words. Opening act Rob Swift, one-fourth of the New York turntablist crew X-ecutioners, doesn't have any words to forget, but he can make the decks speak as profoundly as just about any MC. On his second album, The Ablist (Asphodel), he uses beats and vocal samples to sculpt self-contained mininarratives ("What Would You Do?"), lays down backing tracks for Organized Konfusion's Pharoahe Monch ("Turntablist Anthem"), scratches along with the live band Dujeous? ("Modern Day Music"), duets with electric pianist Sy/Nare ("Two Turntables and a Keyboard"), and even gets abstract ("Something Different"). It's not perfect--the phoned-in rap by Gangis Kahn, for example, is a drag--but overall Swift displays both a staggering range and staggeringly good taste. Pseudophilosophical windbag DJ Spooky also performs. Wednesday, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Scott Schaeffer/John Carluccio.

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