“Critics… zip your lips. Stay quiet. Open your ears. Close your asshole.”

With apologies to Keith Thornton that’s not something I can do. I’ve given this man his flowers many times over — so many he could make a parade float. He’s undeniably a rap legend with an impressive career spanning five decades from the 1980’s to the present day. From influential albums that were widely imitated to subversive underground classics that redefined the genre, Keith has made history over and over again. That genius comes at a price. Like so many prolific auteurs he’s incapable of self-editing. For every banger that’s guarantee to stay in rotation there’s a mirror counterpart you’ll only listen to once and never again. It doesn’t matter whether you are a critic or a fan. You don’t listen to Kool Keith for consistency, you listen because he’s a completely unpredictable eccentric scientist of rap who makes albums like “World Area.

“I called Crunchy Black, I told him about these fly bitches who want money to show they ass crack.” That’s less a rap bar and more a confession. “Pet Her Like a Doggy” gets two favorable marks — I didn’t predict Keith doing a track with Three 6 Mafia style production, nor having an original member of the group on the song. If I’m being honest though (and why else would you be here) that production carries both “Pet Her” and Crunchy Black’s entire career. In a rap group that’s not always known for their prose he’s somewhere near the bottom, coming in well below the late Lord Infamous on my list. His name is an accurate description of his vocal tone and he slurs his way through every bar of this cameo. Pair this with Keith’s run-on sentences that completely ignore any sense of rhythm and it’s a fascinating audio train wreck. Not good, but fascinating. I’d definitely take an instrumental copy.

“They rusty — nobody sound polished and crisp.”

I’ll say this for songs like “Infinite” — he lives up to his “polished and crisp” declaration. The vocals are clear even if his points aren’t. For a rapper who has often self-produced pure abominations, his decision to work with Heat Rocks results in solid if occasionally unremarkable tracks. Trying to find information about him doesn’t work because all you get back is a podcast, but his signature seems to be Err laughing, as the sample recurs throughout the album. Tracks like “Robot Tick” featuring B.A.R.S. Murre have a backdrop that floats through outer space. It’s a genuine pleasure to listen to musically. The danger for Keith is that Murre’s demur delivery outshines Thornton’s desire to indulge his sexual and scatological fantasies, so if you don’t enjoy a man talking about jerking off you should move on.

Truth in advertising can be found on “Sticky Like Glue.” If you expected nearly three minutes of Keith rapping about his sexual conquests you were right, and if you expected his female co-star Canarie Red to play along you were also right. The problem is that this is a cliche wrapped in rote repetition for the rap legend. “Who’s Dripping” is also exactly what you’d expect from the title. If you suspected “Crazy Horse” was similar you’d be right, with the only twist being that he’s insulting rappers “with skinny pants on” while making women “clap ass in cars.” He’s exactly 15 years late to the “let’s insult skinny jeans rappers” trend. I’m sure he’d argue he’s right on time.

The end result on “World Area” is an incredibly mixed bag. In a career filled with both extreme highs and lows this album is neither one. Stripped of any vocals it would be a good showcase for Heat Rocks. With the addition of Keith Thornton it immediately becomes more interesting and more bizarre. Mr. Thornton not only lacks the ability to edit his prolific output but the sense to stop force feeding us his sexual proclivities over and over again. Sometimes he wants to direct a porno. Sometimes he wants to star in it. Sometimes he wants to defecate on women, sometimes he wants them to dump on him. In the first half of his career these tendencies were subsumed by genuinely mind-bending lyrics and a cocky attitude about how advanced his techniques were. Drop the -y and now it’s just cock. If you know what you’re in for it’s fine but it’s definitely not the Kool Keith album you’d start with.

Kool Keith :: World Area
6Overall Score