“Rappers be trying to act hard and shit
These niggaz can’t spit
Your girl come in the vocal booth and suck my dick”
Given how mellow the production Ray West gave Kool Keith for “Tank Top” is, Mr. Thornton’s anger seems disproportionate juxtaposed with the track. He doesn’t relent for a minute as the song goes on. “Call you collect from Alaska/Heard your girl’s six months/How’s your wife with my baby?/All these whack ass niggaz need to join the Navy.” I’m not sure what Keith was feeling on the day he went in the booth to spit these bars, but he was about as far removed from chill as you could possibly be. It turns out to be a good example of the vibe you’ll get from “A Couple of Slices” on the whole. West provides some super laid back mellow grooves, and Keith gets aggro as fuck — that is when he’s not busy getting busy as fuck.
“Who can stop John Shaft? a/k/a the black cop on the block
Your girl open the door with a mask
I crack a bottle of goose, investigate the ass”
“AKA John Shaft” is more like what I’ve come to expect from 21st century Kool Keith — free form lyrics that just barely resemble bars and are focused on his sexual fantasies. Ray West is a much better match for Keith here, providing just enough funk for it to have the feel of a blaxploitation flick. If they could have kept that vibe going for “I Know a Girl” it would have been fun to listen to, but Keith starts crooning at the beginning and then spits even more nonsense than usual. “So close to the NBA I sleep with my basketball.” “Young girls don’t like to take a shower/They say the water make ’em feel like a coward.” “They won’t say this, remember Mr. Whipple? From don’t squeeze the Charmin.” Seriously Keith… what the fuck?
If you’ve stopped the train on any of Kool Keith’s tracks over the years you already know he’s far from a typical rapper. That’s part of the charm but it’s also incredibly hard to listen to at times. If he said “rock on London, rock over Chicago” at the end of every song he’d be rap’s Wesley Willis (RIP). You wonder at what point you’re listening to an unconventional auteur and at what point someone with eccentric tendencies is being exploited. The key fact to consider though is that Keith has always been the one exploiting himself. He plays to the expectations of his audience to be a weirdo, and if he gets tired of their expectations, he invents a new alter ego and packages himself as someone different. Underneath the many names it’s always Kool Keith fucking with the listeners just because he can. “Boss Hog/not the fog/I can sell pissy underwear where? eBay/rappers gone tomorrow/I’m here to stay.” Facts.
The main reason to listen to “A Couple of Slices” isn’t Kool Keith. If you’re familiar he does exactly what you’d expect him to do, and if you’re not you’d be completely lost trying to follow the outbursts of anger, sexual fetishes, and completely random references. You should listen to this album just to see how Ray West tries to tame what can’t be tamed. Often you’d rather listen to an instrumental without Keith’s raps just because they are so incredibly mismatched — the quiet storm of “You I Want,” the reggae riddims of “Don’t Let Em Lie,” the softly strummed “Running the Field” featuring Cormega. The Mega Don is a better match for Ray West than Keith is, and this is his own project, so that’s pretty telling.
The good news is that strictly off the strength of West’s production “A Couple of Slices” is above average compared to a lot of Keith’s solo discography, particularly the self-produced albums. Even if it doesn’t make sense to pair them together on songs like “Pointy Shoes,” the songs are easy enough to listen to. Less crooning from a man who could give the late Biz Markie a run for his money in being off key would’ve been even better, but with a Kool Keith project you take what you can get. Go in with the expectations he’s purposefully fucking with you through his raps and you can enjoy being trolled.