Kool Keith Love & Danger Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The maverick rapper’s latest has lyrical lunacy to spare.

Adam Kennedy 2012

Possibly hip hop's last true maverick – and certainly the oldest on the block – New York City-raised veteran Kool Keith has sliced through the past 15 years (plus) of rap without second-glancing trends. The Prodigy-sampled, erstwhile Ultramagnetic MCs member's 13th solo studio album doesn't change that either, defying advancing age (late 40s, as far as anybody knows) with lyrical lunacy to spare.

Given a penchant for assuming supervillain alter egos and spitting filthy sex rap rhymes in roughly equal measure, Love & Danger sums up his impact rather accurately. He's at it again here, making otherworldly claims as often as he comes on hot and heavy with the urgency of Afrika Bambaataa popping a Viagra.

To say Keith (real name Keith Thornton) has a way with words is tantamount to suggesting Michelangelo could put a lick of paint on ceilings: Love & Danger takes on verbal Picasso forms with the reliable regularity that has made him a cult figure.

The contemporary scene-referencing chat of New York ramps up the ante after a slow start, noting “Jay-Z said I was king” before audaciously announcing – with a touch of chronological confusion – that “they say I'm the new Kanye West”.

The time travelling continues on Vacation Spot with talk of “the original Tom Jones”. However many pairs of underwear were thrown at him over the years, though, to our knowledge the perma-tanned Welsh crooner never boasted of ladies with backsides that “stretch out to Singapore”, as Keith does on The Game Is Free.

It's not all deliberately stylised chauvinism: I Never Hurt You possesses an almost tender chorus. And the standalone finest moment, saved until last, continues in nuanced directions. Goodbye Rap does absurdly reminisce about “wearing ostrich”. Yet in rounding on downloaders, vinyl-shy DJs and various elements Keith laments are ruining rap, over downbeat mournful keystrokes, it's perhaps the only true glance into his heart on display.

Given that Kool Keith's world habitually eschews reality, mind, it's probably wise to assume this isn't an actual farewell note; a fact for which hip hop itself should be thankful.

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