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[Global Enlightenment Part 1] Kool Keith: Global Enlightenment Part 1
Label: Music Video Distributors

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

The back cover of Kool Keith's "Global Enlightenment Part 1" reads more like an FBI dossier than a music DVD. "Kool Keith - aka Rhythm X, aka Dr. Octagon, aka Dr. Dooom, aka Mr. Gerbik, aka Black Elvis - is one of hip-hop's most intriguing and diverse talents." Ironically if they hadn't stopped the list of hip-hop aliases at five they would have run out of room on the sheet to print any information about the DVD itself. His list of accolades could easily be longer. Besides being a pioneer in rap style and flow since his 1980's days with the Ultramagnetic MC's, his voyeuristic and scientific raps in the 1990's, and the many different rap groups in which he's invariably the star in the 21st century, he's arguably just plain WEIRD. The very fact it's impossible to get a read on whether he's truly nuts or just crazy like a fox is part of what inspires such rabid cultlike devotion to his music and message alike. At times his wisdom about the negative degradation and desecration of hip-hop put him on par with Chuck D and KRS-One, and at times you'd think they never should have let him out of the Bellevue mental hospital in the first place. There aren't any other rappers in the industry with such a zest for fecophilia and beastiality in their lyrics, and that's probably a good thing. The one thing that simply can't be argued either way is his unparalleled creativity. A Keith project can either be really good or horrifically bad, but it's never boring.

With that in mind let's take a look at exactly how Keith intends to "Enlighten" both casual viewers and his hardcore fanbase with this release. First the technical details - the encoding is region zero, the format is NTSC, the audio mix is 5.1 surround, and the total running time is 35 minutes. That's not very long for a hip-hop DVD release, but at a suggested retail price of $9.95 or less this is more of a "budget" title as opposed to a full fledged presentation. This becomes even more abundantly clear when you reach the main menu of the disc. There's nothing fancy about it whatsoever - it's just a still photo of Keith wearing a striped shirt, tie and sports hat turned to the side - the same as on the DVD's front cover. There's no background music, no animation, and the menu never refreshes itself at any time. There are only three selections on the menu and they are all top level, meaning no sub-menus or bonus content hidden away elsewhere. The choices from top to bottom are as follows: 98 Yr Old Fridgerator, Always on Tour, and TV Interviews.

The first music of any kind you hear on this disc is after selecting the top menu option, which gives you a Halloween-esque piano theme along with some poorly rendered computer animated graphics of a refridgerator. After this brief introduction we see Kool Keith seated in some cafe or dive eatery, and he's expounding upon the value of seltzer water. If you're waiting for the punchline at the end of the joke, join the club. For all intents and purposes Keith seems to be dead serious about the subject, going so far as to say that if he keeps Dr. Brown or Hawaiian Punch around people steal it but that since nobody likes seltzer water it saves him a lot of money. Now the logical question would be simply, "Is Keith that hard up for cash?" One wouldn't think so given his cult status in rap and decades worth of recorded material, plus the fact he is constantly in demand for his time as a guest artist or performer. Then again there were rumors in the 1990's that Keith blew every dollar he made on his "Sex Style" album on pornography and high power cameras (photo and video). Ultimately this segment is just as mysterious and unfathomable as Keith himself, which undoubtedly is exactly how he likes things to be. Give credit where it's due, Keith seems very down to earth and conversational about this subject, which keeps your attention despite how mundane it could otherwise be. In stream-of-conciousness fashion he segues from this topic into his own personal sugar conspiracy theory, which then just as easily flows into a discussion of what old people keep in their fridge to deter people looking for snacks. The occasional cutaways to these items sitting on the shelf in a fridge do punctuate what he's saying nicely, and the sound of other people in this cafe/diner does add ambience that wouldn't be found in an interview done in a studio or office. One ends up with the feeling Vincent's character must have had sitting across the table from Jules in Pulp Fiction, listening to him talk about any subject like it was the most profound thing in the world at that moment.

Moving on to the "Always on Tour" part of this DVD, we are presented with what is described as "a Kool Keith video." It does start out with some of Keith's music playing in the background, but once you're beyond the introduction it's more like "Keith's Reality Show." Come to think of it, that would be a more interesting premise for a TV show than most "reality" television made today. We catch up with Keith in a Popeye's chicken, ordering his favorite foods from the menu as he appears to flip through a fat wad of cash, although we don't get enough of a close-up to see if it's ones or twenties. Keith sits down at a table next to some woman - could be a random patron, could be the producer of his video, we don't know and we aren't introduced. He holds up a corn cob and proudly eats it, saying he does it to remind himself how corny all the other rappers are in the industry. With that statement and the words "Popeye's makes you rhyme better," he's either so far gone he believes whatever comes out of his mouth at any given moment, or someone offered him a fat check to come endorse Popeye's and it's all one big joke. Keith walks out of Popeye's onto the street as "Trying to Talk to You" from "The Lost Masters" plays in the background, and then heads into the Manhattan Mall. After buying one pair of shorts at the mall, it's back out to the street and to the music, until Keith comes upon a street musician playing for change and asks to hear one of his songs. We follow Keith as he walks around, reminiscing about how Manhattan used to be before it got overly commercial. Keith also lets us in on his own "walkabout" theory when confronting the question of when he's going on tour. To him walking is not only therapeutic, it keeps him ALWAYS on tour, hence the title of this chapter. Keith more or less interviews himself for this portion of the DVD, posing questions about hip-hop and himself as he wears a red themed outfit, then answering them in his striped shirt and tie. One thing above all else he says here makes perfect sense - he criticizes rappers who ride around in SUV's saying "I'm from the streets, I am the streets" and responds "No you mean you ride THROUGH the streets." There's definitely a truth to Keith's "Always on Tour" walkabout, one that's not always as easy to discern in his music. This segeues into what appears to be Kool Keith doing a photo shoot with some hoochie he invited to a hotel and hanging out with some of his friends afterwards, then interviewing himself with one more question to which he answers that he'll never ever stop making records.

The third and unquestionably least worthwhile segment of this DVD is the "TV Interviews" chapter. The quality of the video footage from these independent hip-hop video shows is rather suspect, especially compared to the other chapters of the DVD itself. Keith's thoughts during one of these interviews are definitely uncensored and frankly quite distasteful as he describes other rappers in the music industry as "monkeys" and "house niggaz." While he may have been trying to make a point about the lack of creativity in a business that's controlled by the elite who don't understand the cultural roots of hip-hop, it's actually a point made in much more profound and less derogatory way when he's simply walking around in New York talking about what rap music means to him. On the whole this DVD does not get strong marks in presentation or volume of content, and because it's really hard to discern what Keith's true intent is people who aren't die hard fans would probably be turned off by this release. There are no easy to digest pre-packaged cliches here of a DVD with hip-hop videos from the artist on the cover, or concert footage, or mixtures of those two together interspersed with "behind the scenes" shit. Simply put this DVD, like Keith himself, operates on a level all it's own. At the low purchase price this DVD retails for it should at least attract a lot of Keith's own fanbase, while those who are curious but not hardcore going back to his Ultramagnetic days would be advised to rent but might not regret owning this release. It is entertaining in it's own esoteric way, which is something you can't say about every hip-hop related DVD that comes out these days.

Content: 6.5 of 10 Layout: 2.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 12, 2005
source: www.RapReviews.com

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