Album Review: Kool Keith, ‘Feature Magnetic’

Written by Angelo Gingerelli


In the 80’s Kool Keith pioneered the off-beat, abstract vocals and futuristic production that would influence the next generation of experimental rappers as a member of The Ultramagnetic MC’s. In the 90’s and early 2000’s he released a string of off-the-wall concept albums that range from perverted (Sex Style) to eccentric (Mathew) to outright brilliant (Dr. Octagon) and along the way became one of the first MC’s to embrace collaborating with electronica artists like Dan The Automator (Dr. Octagon) and The Prodigy (“Smack My B**ch Up” which is arguably his most well-known song).

For an artist with a prolific past, Keith has been pretty quiet this decade, only popping up on a handful of guest verses over the last few years. Feature Magnetic is Kool Keith’s return to full length projects and pairs the veteran MC with guests on every track, with only solo cut included as a bonus at the very end of the LP. This format works well and Keith is still an incredibly engaging MC (his voice, subject matter and wordplay are all compelling), and the guest verses actually work to elevate the overall project. Veteran MC’s like Bumpy Knuckles, Ed O.G., and Sadat X all prove that they still have something to say after decades on the mic and newer rappers like Necro, Slug of Atmosphere and Mac Mall (all vets in their own right) pay homage to Keith’s legacy and his influence on their careers. This is best displayed on “World Wide Lamper” where Dirty Nasty rhymes “I sock your mom in front of Papa John’s bumping Dr. Octagon with your Walkman on, don’t make me switch my pitch up or smack my b**ch up in a Cadillac pick-up truck (those don’t exist)”

The marquee pairing for most fans is clearly “Super Hero” with MF Doom, as two truly unique MC’s trade lyrics about comic books and finally deliver a fitting collaboration after the somewhat misleading duet on Atmosphere’s Fishing Blues from earlier this year.

The only real shortcoming of Feature Magnetic is the lack of off-the-wall lunacy and unorthodox song structure seen on other Kool Keith projects. All of the songs follow the same format of employing a boom bap beat with Keith rhyming first, a minimal chorus and then the guest MC delivering his verse. While this format will clearly appeal to purists it makes the project sound more like a mixtape than a full-fledged album, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but after going a few years without a Kool Keith project some fans might have been hoping for more.

The intro to “Feature Magnetic” starts with these words:
“In a world filled with cheesecake rappers, one man, Kook Keith, has assembled a phenomenal team to bring you madness” and over the next 14 tracks Keith and his friends pretty much deliver on that promise.

Best Songs: “Super Hero” with MF Doom, “Cold Freezer” with Bumpy Knuckles and “Tired” with Ed O.G.
Perfect For: The overnight shift at a college radio station
Rating: 7 out of 10

Also worth checking out…

Mac Miller – The Devine Feminine
Just about a year after arguably his best project (“GO:OD AM”) Mac is back with a collection of songs about women, love and sex. To say he’s come a long way from the teenager on “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” would be a huge understatement.

Travi$ Scott – Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
Houston’s king of turned-up party anthems is back with another round of rowdy, aggressive and innovative songs that build on the crossover appeal of last year’s breakthrough smash “Antidote” and prove why Scott is on track to be one of this decade’s biggest Hip-Hop stars.

Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at @Mr5thRound, at his website or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).