Kool Keith: Red Light District
The legendary emcee talks about his VHS and DVD collection, different cities' varying porn selections, why porn stars are better than basketball wives, and urges women to embrace lingerie.
Exactly twenty-five years ago Ultramagnetic MC's released a 12" vinyl single called "Ego Trippin'" that changed Rap music forever. While Ced Gee integrated a production technique that helped set the standard since, emcee Kool Keith's unconventional style and coded language pioneered an approach to rapping that godfathered underground Hip Hop 10 years before the term even existed.
While HipHopDX's latest, in a series of memorable conversations with Keith ended up talking about Hip Hop, it began as a discussion on pornography. Listeners of Keith's many projects and aliases know that there's been one constant, besides the deft lyricism - sex. The Bronx, New Yorker has always found influence from the female form, and from horses entering the examination room during a Dr. Octagon check-up, to overt projects like 1997's Sex Style or 2009's Bikinis N' Thongs, Keith's mind is always into something.
As Keith provided HipHopDX will his "Top 10 Pornstars of All-Time," we had to jump on the phone with one of our favorite emcees to elaborate, and speak about the state of relationships, rappers and his vast VHS/DVD collection.
HipHopDX: Your list of 10 favorite porn stars brought back some throwbacks, man...
Kool Keith: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I like the original chicks.
DX: I read an interview where you revealed that a few of these starlets are friends of yours...
Kool Keith: A lot of guys fantasize about porno chicks; some of those girls used to be friends.
DX: That was just on the strength of you being out in L.A., and being an entertainer?
Kool Keith: I used to know Jeannie Pepper and all of 'em. I know 'em just through hangin' in L.A. They used to have parties that they'd invite me to. Matter of fact, some of them were my neighbors. When me and [Kutmasta] Kurt were stayin' in Beverly Hills, it was funny - JimmyZ used to come over and hang out, him and Ron Hightower. They'd come over to the house, and we'd be playin' Sega Genesis. [Laughs] It was wild. Then, I was around Hollywood. I couldn't believe that Champagne used to always hang out with us, and Menage Trois.
DX: Honestly, we've been talking to DJ Premier a lot lately. Premo's always said that he even goes to the expos and conventions in Las Vegas, and has been for years. These days, porn is popular in Rap videos. There was a time when it wasn't so mainstream. To what extent do you feel like a forefather in blending these worlds, along with Premier or an Ill Bill and Non-Phixion?
Kool Keith: They're like rappers too. They're going through underground struggle. [Porn stars] are more real than the chicks who jock the NBA players and stuff. I look at [porn stars] as straight-forward, raw kinda. They're being real, basically. The average chick is doing the same thing they're doing, but they're doing it behind closed doors. [Porn stars] are going on film and doing it. Then, the girls that's watchin' it on television are saying "[Porn stars] are disgusting and they're bad and they don't have a mind - totally dirty girls," as opposed to a chick that's wearing a nice skirt, goin' up to an NBA player, behind closed doors, to get $1,000. [Laughs] They're doing the same thing.
DX: A year ago, you told me that you're launching your own adult film production company, K.K. Films. You were looking for actresses. What's the status on that?
Kool Keith: I'm still doin' that. I'm still workin'. I still got plans to do a showcase. I still got everything ready. You've got to find the open type of girls, instead of everybody who's tryin' to be fake.
I like those girls because they still do what women do. They wear lingerie. They wear high-heels. They wear outfits. They get their eyes done. They get makeup. They come out with whatever color hair it needs to be, done - whether it's purple or whatever. [That is] opposed to some women, the majority, in a lot of major towns and cities, everybody's tryin' to either be a nurse or a business-woman. They're really not bein' women no more. Women are scared to go buy lingerie. People are scared to buy high-heeled shoes, which makes a lot of these guys' home-lives so boring. A lot of guys got boring girlfriends. I mean, you could have a wife that looks like Vanessa Williams, but she could be boring. She could be boring in the bedroom. She don't buy lingerie; she walks around with an old lady house-gown on. It looks good when you're on the cover of Ebony magazine as "the perfect family," but when you got a boring wife or a boring girlfriend that comes everyday with a nurse-scrub on and a bullshit wig on, it just takes you outta your element as a man. That increases [your desire] to go to a strip-club. You want to see them high-heeled shoes. You don't want to see every girl walkin' around with caveman Ugg boots on. [Laughs] That shit deters your stimulation.
A lot of things are getting more ethnic now. In a lot of the major cities, it's like a trend - like when afros was out, braids was out...the new trend now is everybody wants to be a nurse. Wear your scrubs to and from work to show people you're a nurse - that's like the new thing. To me, it's kinda dirty, wearin' your scrubs on the train or the bus. You're in the [hospital] later, touchin' people that could be my son, makin' 'em sick. And you wearin' a scrub in a dirty taxi cab? That's not sanitary. They should have people come to work and put on their scrubs. You got people outside of hospitals smokin' cigarettes, givin' people pounds and sittin' in dirty-ass restaurants with their scrubs on. Then you gonna operate on somebody's grandmother. You see what I'm sayin'? You more dirty than a porn star.
DX: I just read an article that was talking about how people get their pornography more on the Internet than the old days of stores. Where do you stand on all that?
Kool Keith: Me, I still stick to my real thing. I like to go buy the new releases. I like to dig up old DVDs. I like to dig up a lot of tapes. I still go Downtown and buy whatever's comin' out, brand new. I like that plastic around my brand new DVD. Me, I just went on a whole collection spree, just about last week. I collected all the black DVDs that I never did get. All the tapes - like Kira, Luscious Lewis, Vanilla Red - I went and got everything that was out that the black girls made. I bought a lot of stuff. I used to trade, but I started keepin' 'em. I found out some of those movies are like records. Some of them are discontinued.
Sometimes they have a fine girl that came out of nowhere that might have did one movie, and you don't see it no more. Sometimes that becomes a collectors' item also, 'cause you might be like, "Wow, what happened to that girl that came and did a movie with orange hair?" [Laughs]
DX: Where are they now...
Kool Keith: Those titles be gone forever. You gotta luck-up and start searchin'. When I'm on the road, I go to all types of porno shops. They have some by truck-stops. They have some big giant places too. The black movies are hard to find. In New York, you can get 'em a lot, but in major cities...when you get to Dallas, the market changes. You get out to Kentucky, they're more into the Jenna Jameson and the Vivid [Videos] work or Stephanie Swift. They're into their own ethnicity. When you wanna see something urban, it's hard to find. If you're in Wyoming and you see a Booty Talk 17, it's like "Wow!" If you don't have a movie for the night, you might as well grab it. But it'll be like 80 dollars. It's so rare.
Kool Keith: In New York, they're still down to the 20 dollars or seven dollars. Plus, New York is always up a month. They always have the most current [titles]. They're gonna have the current Brian Pumper or somethin'. But as far as other cities, they be a month behind. In New York, you might be checkin' out Booty Talk 88, and back in another city, they just getting Booty Talk 77. When I leave the States and stuff, and go on tour, I'll usually stay up on what's current.
DX: You're headlining a party in San Francisco in April for a new adult film production company. Tell me about that...
Kool Keith: Yeah, I'm supposed to do a show at this porn event. It's a porn showcase. That should be good. A guy has a new line comin' out. I'm gonna the party. I'm tryin' to get my own [film company] off too, so I'm tryin' to get with a West Coast [Productions] or Black Market [Films] or whatever. I'm a connoisseur of all the titles though. I got Black Market, Evasive Angel, Evil Empire, Vengeance, so many different companies. That's what it's about it.
DX: When you rock that show, will you pull a lot of cuts from Sex Style and Spankmaster and Bikinis N' Thongs?
Kool Keith: Yeah. Sex Style is one of my most visual, high-dimensional records, of "appearance-wise." Sexually-wise, it's straight porn. I bring my books out on stage. I wrote and recorded that album in the midst of all sexual visuals.
DX: Speaking of music, you've been quiet so far in 2011. Usually, you're a couple releases in. What are you up to?
Kool Keith: I've been writing a lot. I've been staying sharp on my vocals, staying up on my vocal gymnastics. I been writing some nice records. I've been workin' on some new tracks, I'm gonna give [HipHopDX] some stuff.
I think we're at an all-time low in lyrical professionalism. A lot of rappers got kinda laid-back with just makin' choruses and that's it. Everything's now is about choruses. This is the most laziest year to write something. It wasn't a good year for lyrics - the last two years. I haven't heard really impressive. Everybody's really sayin' the same stuff as each other, basically. Before, you had a little bit of variety. I've just been sittin' back and observin' what people have been doin'. I used to like to listen to a rapper and he'd say something [so] wild that you had to rewind it back, "What the fuck was that?"
DX: That's a great point. Every time we talk, I always ask you about an old record. One of my all-time favorite "What did he just say..." rewind-records is "You're Late" by The Cenobites. Stretch & Bobbito just had a reunion show recently too, which gives me all the more reason to ask you about this record, and what it means to you...
Kool Keith: [Laughs] With me and Godfather Don, we used to always have lyrical-gym-workouts. A lyrical-gym-workout is where you get around a lot of good emcees and you start sharpenin' up your own skills. You only stay around dope rappers with current cadences. Me and Don always had lyrical-gym-workout. I did lyrical-gym-workout when I was in L.A. with Black Silver and had everybody out there and worked on KHM. Me and Don used to meet everyday after he got off work, and we'd go straight to Brooklyn and get up with Sir Menelik. Then I brought Percee P over there. That's his career jumped straight off. I saw him in L.A. and it was always lyrical-gym-workout with us. A lot of crews don't have that. They don't have that circle of practice. Rap is practice. A lot of people don't think that, but Rap is like shootin' basketball hoops. Those are our practice records. If a lot of emcees really heard my practice records, before a performance, they would probably sit the fuck down.
Me, I buy every Rap [album]. I listen to a lot of rappers, from E-40 to Brotha Lynch Hung to Casual to Fiend in New Orleans to C-Murder to Silkk The Shocker to Esoteric to...I have a variety of listening. I love all types of styles, globally [and] around the United States. A lot [new] rappers, they just lock into one guy, and they actually become that guy.
DX: We began this conversation talking about pornography, and your list of "Kool Keith's 10 Favorite Porn" stars. We talked about rookie rappers now too. Who's your rookie starlet?
Kool Keith: [Laughs hysterically] What rookie...out right now...is impressin' me? Toni Sweets.
Book Kool Keith via email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org