Who is the infamous, schizophrenic, sexed up, self proclaimed “God of Rap?” None other then Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon and founding member of Ultramagnetic MCs. I have tried twice to see him live – only to be disappointed by the cancellation of his performance. Yet, while in Berlin, I finally had the luck to see the man behind the myth!
Before the headliner, the crowd was hyped up for German rapper Retrogott – who might have even had more fans in the house then Kool Keith. He had good flow, and nice melodic production with soul. I lamented that I didn’t know what he was saying because it was well delivered and the crowd knew a lot of the lyrics. Even without comprehension the beats and vibe kept my head bobbing. I would say that my exposure to German hip hop before this was close to nothing but I was certainly impressed.
KutMasta Kurt took the stage with a classic “Funky Redneck” set to warm up the crowd for the sparkly head-wrapped Kool Keith. I was surprised that the crowd was somewhat reserved, happy to dance to the beats then get super hyped for the legend. Not what I am used to from hip hop shows in Toronto. Tracks from Dr. Octagon seemed to be the most widely known and appreciated – as well as ‘Freaks get Naked’, where I really hoped someone would throw some underwear on stage.
I couldn’t help but wonder about what gets lost in translation? Kool Keith is cryptic at the best of times – you could tell the anglophones because they got the details – and in my mind, Kool Keith is all about the fine detailed mastery of offbeat rhymes. Could it be that a lot of this was going over the heads of the audience? I barely understood a word Retrogott said, but I still enjoyed it – surely in a different way then his German fans. Despite the amazing trans lingual abilities of many Germans – I wondered if some of the finesse was lacking?
Kool Keith finished the show by practically begging women to come up on stage (strange, aren’t people usually clamouring to stand next to famous people?) and the spotlight was stolen by a random girl who really just wanted to crowd surf. A totally unexpected finale to the evening and unlike any hip hop show I have ever been to. Proust to Berlin!