Kool Keith in High Definition
Label: Funky Ass/Threshold/2b1 Multimedia, Inc.
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
The only thing more incomprehensible than a Kool Keith album
is a Kool Keith DVD, and that's definitely how Keith
Thornton likes it. The man is as much of an enigma now as he was over 20 years ago when he first
started busting raps with the Ultramagnetic MC's, and there's no chance anybody's going to figure
out what shit he's on any time soon. Before delving into any of his projects you must prepare
yourself for all possibilities - he can either flip on the dopest shit you ever heard or flip out
to the degree you think he's headed straight for the funny farm. With that in mind the seal was
split on "Kool Keith in High Definition," but it must be noted this DVD is anything BUT
HD. Sure the title and the box art can note that it was FILMED in HD all they
like but it's still burned onto a regular old-fashioned run of the mill disc - this is not Blu-ray or
HD-DVD in any way. To put it another way if you're watching a show like NBC's "Heroes" on a regular
television it doesn't matter that it's being broadcast in HD - your TV is not capable of displaying
a high definition picture so you're not seeing one. Standard DVD's are not HD - you can buy a
DVD player capable of "upconverting" to a pseudo-HD display but in all respects you're still not
seeing a true HD picture in width or quality. One more point - DVD's can typically
hold 4.7 GB of of data while HD formats hold 15 to 25. You do the math. It's not totally
false advertising if this was filmed in HD and transferred to DVD but it is misleading.
Unfortunately this DVD takes a turn for the worse right away after being put in your player. Much
like the "Global Enlightenment" DVD, this presentation opens with a static non-changing menu with
no background music. The menu design would be a joke except that it's not funny in any way. Not
only is the picture exactly the same as the cover, the chapter selections are slapped over it in
a hard to read green computer font further obscured by the white areas of the photo itself.
"Play Movie" leads to footage of Keith walking the street on his way to whatever venue he's
performing in, and then inexplicably we cut away to a hotel room with what appears to be 4-5
hoodrats hanging out with Keith while he irons his clothes. Eventually someone from his crew
bothers to explain they're in San Francisco getting ready for the show. It's rather sad that
with a dozen rappers and hoochies combined that this is so damn BORING. Normally
I'd criticize how shamelessly exploitative and tasteless "Girls Gone Wild" videos are but I'll
be damned if this crew doesn't need a few bottles of liquor and a few thousand dollars to spend.
Kutmasta Kurt cutting a promo in spanish is probably the highlight of this video's first ten
minutes and that's really saying something. Since the video was promised to be 55 minutes long
I really thought the majority of it would be concert footage but instead after the car pulls off
we get footage of Keith walking to the venue AGAIN. This is ridiculous.
Things finally pick up with Keith's crew doing their own version of a Too $hort freaky tale
complete with the requisite booming bass and Kurt scratching in "BEITCH" samples. Instead of
sticking with this entertaining performance we switch to "behind the scenes" where Keith walks in
and sits on a couch in his private dressing room. Some white dudes come in with a bunch of
contracts for him to sign, and then hand him a big stack of cash. COULD THIS GET ANY
MORE CORNY. First of all there's nothing exciting about watching Kool Keith sign
contracts, and second of all if they weren't filming this scene I'm sure there's almost no
chance they'd personally hand Keith a big bundle of cash. Promoters will give you a check for
half in advance, or a percentage of the gate (and many shady promoters will cheat on both),
but for obvious reasons you're just not handing out large amounts of money in a chaotic backstage
environment. That goes for hip-hop, rock, country, or ANY genre of music - there's just too
many groupies, hangers-on, and scheming fans with backstage passes. Meanwhile we still
haven't seen Keith perform for one second of this DVD billed as his, although Motion Man
is on stage performing Pablito's Way. The video takes on an added level of absurdity when
the cameras for "Kool Keith in High Definition" film ANOTHER FILM CREW FILMING HIM
for some local video show. There are even people with handheld digital cameras filming them
filming him filming them, while the whole time unnecessary people are screaming at Keith
trying to get his attention. Keith seems like he couldn't care less about all the chaos
going on around him.
Finally Kool Keith starts rapping the opening verse of the "Funky" twelve inch version remix
but we're already 20 minutes into the inane insanity at this point. At least things are improved
here as Keith performs a medley of his hip-hop classics ranging from "Ease Back" and "Ego Trippin'"
to more obscure but equally dope songs like "Two Brothers with Checks (San Francisco, Harvey)."
If they had dropped the utterly worthless opening part of this presentation and cut straight to
Keith hitting the stage this DVD would be ten thousand times better. The crowd is obviously
highly receptive to Keith's rap, waving their hands from side to side, and Kurt is playing with
his vocals during the performance - adding echo and modulation where he feels like it to Keith's
clear approval. Even when Keith switches up to some of his more scattershot modern day raps
with his unimpressive self-produced beats, they still come off that much better just from being
performed in front of a live and enthusiastic crowd. Nonetheless it's something of a relief
when they switch up to "Blue Flowers." Even though Keith may at times claim to be sick of Dr.
Octagon and that "Dr. Octagon is dead" it's obvious from the reaction this track gets that he
could probably tour until he's old and gray off the strenth of Doc Ock and his Ultra classics.
What's bizarre is he starts rapping "Blue Flowers" AGAIN to a Kutmasta Kurt remix.
I'm not sure I'd do a set list for a concert like that, but it doesn't seem to hurt the San
Fran crowd as they still cheer loudly after it's over. "Girl Let Me Touch You" follows as the
cameraman gets close-ups of adoring female fans in the front row.
Next the girls from backsage earlier get on stage as Keith performs the chorus to the "Lost
Masters" track "Freaks" over and over again - JUST the chorus. The only girl
who actually "gets naked" at his exhortation is the lone white girl, who takes off her top.
From there he moves into the first half of "Livin' Astro" from the "Black Elvis" album. You can say one thing
about Kool Keith - with the depth of his catalogue the amount of choices for songs he can
perform is almost limitless. The girls come back for a song I don't immediately recognize
called "G Spot" but that could be from a Motion Man albumor Kool Keith side project, but at
least it's a natural lead in for the more familiar "Sex Style." At this point there are so
many drunk hoochies dancing on stage it's hard to see Keith at times, and some are openly
throwing the P towards Keith as though he'd stop performing and bone them on stage. It's a relief
when Keith takes control of the situation back by throwing on the hardcore hip-hop classic remix
to "Poppa Large" as the girls disappear - there's no overt sexuality to be found in the
braggadocious bravado. It's amazing that Keith would just to follow up one of his best songs
with one of his WORST but that's exactly what he does, jumping straight to
"I Don't Believe You." At this point I'm wishing for some selective editing, but I suppose for
history's sake it's at least fair that this appears to be his ENTIRE performance
from start to finish - warts and all. Nonetheless when they decide to perform "G Spot" again
I've had all I can take and start fast-forwarding to the end. When the song ends so does his set.
Actual time on stage - approximately 44 minutes. I wonder just how big that wad of cash was
and whether those two white dudes thought Keith was going to do a longer set for it.
By this point everybody's said "thank you - goodnight" and gone home. Back on the main
menu there's a feature called "Mezzanine HD" which lets you skip directly to the songs during
the movie you want to hear, no matter how short or long they are. "Maritime 3Chip" seems to
be a different performance with many of the same songs, although when I picked "2 Brothers
With Checks" at random Keith was sporting a sports jersey, a pair of shades and his Black Elvis
wig. It's actually a better look but the video quality is obviously not up to the par of the
main feature - it definitely wasn't filmed in HD. Other options including choosing either
Stero or 5.1 Surround Sound, a seperate menu for two interviews including a dope one with the legendary
Davey D - and I specify "seperate menu" because this isn't a bonus interview, it's the same
interview originally tacked on to the end of the concert. The selection for "Posters" rudely
informs you that you must be connected to the internet to view the feature and then has a
URL that wouldn't even work - HHTP instead of HTTP. It's little things like
this, unnecessary typos and shittily designed DVD menus, that suggest a highly rushed and
poorly conceived DVD instead of a "High Definition" product. For what it's worth this
is the best Kool Keith DVD I've seen yet, off the strength of his short but strong live set,
but this is still one for the hardcore fans only.
Content: 7.5 of 10
Layout: 3 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: July 31, 2007