Kool Keith & Kutmasta Kurt Interview

Kool Keith and Kutmaster Kurt have been dialed into hip-hop hijinks for years and years now, treating the world to a series of concept-oriented recordings using a series of wild personnas. These are the guys who, in one way or another, brought the world brilliant moments by Dr. Dooom, Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis, The Ultramagnetic MCs, and more. Now, with their current release, they've once again morphed, into the Diesel Truckers. Keith and Kurt were both in L.A. doing some promo work for the new release, and betterPropaganda was able to schedule a phone interview through their publicist. The phone call started by getting Kurt online, which was easy enough, but once we tried to track down Keith our call turned into a reality show comedy perfectly suitable for one of those hilarious spoken word/answering machine/telephone call styled interludes done so well on hip-hop albums. First, we got stuck in the Motel 6 Hollywood voice mail system, alternating between automated instructions and the phone ringing endlessly; Keith wasn't there! Kurt was able to conference Keith in on Keith's cellphone, but Keith was running around Los Angeles doing who knows what, and the interview had several long pauses while Keith was simultaneously engaging in conversations with other folks he was with. Was he ordering fast food? Was it Chinese? Despite the chaotic situation, we were able to have a good conversation, and found both Keith and Kurt in their comfort zone with their music, themselves and their careers.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Kool Keith and Kutmaster Kurt

BP: So you guys have a brand new thing called Diesel Truckers. I was wondering if you could share the concept behind that for everybody.

Keith: This is a record me and Kurt collaborated on. In which we did the first album, was when we did Dr. Dooom, it's kind of like a spin-off of that album, but it's just a collaboration of me and Kurt together doing songs. It's kind of always like Kurt does his albums, I do mine, but we get together and do like we did ...kinda like Dr. Dooom before.

BP: This album seems like you guys are kind of in your classical element, I mean you've done a lot of conceptual things, like Dr. Octagon and Black Elvis and all these things. Do you feel this is close to a natural version of you guys?

Keith: Yeah, I think we've just matured a little bit. Which is cool, it's our growing process.

BP: Because you guys as a team have been pretty capable of pushing hip-hop into new frontiers. Would you say that's an accurate way to describe yourselves?

Kurt: I think we're definitely people who are looked to by other people in the industry, so that would be an accurate description I think, you know... We have a lot of fans who are very successful musicians who are probably semi-influenced by the things we're doing.

BP: I know the Dr. Octagon stuff was very well-loved.

Kurt: Uh-huh.

BP: I have a question. If you guys are able to like be influential, and come up with all these new sounds and stuff, where do you guys stop yourself? Where would you guys not go into pushing yourself into something new and out there?

Keith: I don't think we have any limits. I think there's probably no boundaries.

Kurt: For me, it's just you want to make something that you like, and that you know people will be into. So you're not going to just start looping someone farting on a record and think that that's cool, you know.

BP: But you guys actually could pull that off, I think, don't you think? (laughter)

Keith: What, like a rock record?

BP: (laughter) Is that how you would describe rock music, is looped farting?

Keith: I don't think we have boundaries. I think, which is pretty good, my whole career has been basically flexible. So I think people expect that. Something more than us trying to do something different.

Kurt: Okay, that will be the next beat I give you Keith.

Keith: hehehe.

BP: So, um, you know this is an election year, and a lot of hip-hop is getting all super political, and I've heard- you know- track after track after track from all these artists that have like the former President Bush- you know- saying "New World Order" over and over again. But you guys don't seem to go there, why is that?

Keith: We're not political. We make records. We don't really care about political...

BP: Do you think hip-hop is a good vehicle for political discussion?

Keith: No, I think it is, and it isn't. But again, like you said, people use it... and rappers is political too, it has it's own... you have your Dolores Tucker, people involved, you have the Parental Advisory, you have all types of things and coalitions against rap.

BP: So you're used to coming up against degrees of censorship then?

Keith: Well, we don't care, we just make records.

BP: Does it matter to you if you wouldn't be able to get on the radio or the TV because of an opinion you had, or a lyric you had, I mean, doesn't that rub you the wrong way?

Keith: What you mean, just the sexual thing?

BP: Well, I think they're letting a lot of sexual stuff on the TV now, and the radio, what do you guys think?

Keith: Kurt, what do you think about it?

Kurt: I think it's solely whoever has the most money gets on TV, it doesn't matter what the content is.

BP: Alright.

Kurt: People always look the other way depending on how much cash flow is coming in their direction. So, when people try to use that as an excuse to not support or play your stuff on TV or on the radio, then that's not really a valid excuse that they use. Even in videos, they'll say "you're showing too much of this or whatever," but there's a huge double standard with that. I'd say as far as politics and music go, I think there's a place for that for different groups, I just don't think that the stuff we've done has ever necessarily been that way, so it wouldn't really be natural for us to start now, you know?

BP: You guys really like making beats about the ladies, isn't that right?

Keith: We do kinda both, yeah.

BP: I have a question for you guys, like what are your favorite strip clubs? I'd like to know...

Keith: I like ghetto ...clubs. I don't know about Kurt too much. I don't like the ones that are too professional, and it's a suit and tie, I like the old hole in the walls basically know, a guy in there waiting to pat you down, you go in, it's like, the girls aren't all boob-jobbed up and not all just lookin too perfected and playboyish...

Kurt: What's that place we went to Keith?

Keith: Hehehe. I went to Outer Edge. I go to places more like Harry's Triangle. Just places that are more basically... Rolex in Florida, just more places that are more kind of a little sleazy and down to earth.

BP: You're pretty outspoken as not being a bling bling guy that's all into the imported champagne and all that stuff and the big fancy cars, isn't that right?

Keith: Nah, I never was into the fancy stuff. I have jewelry and different things and stuff, but I never was a person who'd just show off what I had. I mean, I had all those big chains and rings and diamonds since I started rapping since '86. I'm basically used to it. I think a lot of the new rappers, they're just getting their first taste of the music industry, and getting their first time to get chicks, jewelry, the lavish VIP life. Once you've done that already, it becomes more like "wow, I've done that," so it's like more relaxed right now for me.

BP: So you guys seem to be in a great position, where you're just like comfortable with who you guys are, you're comfortable with your music, you're putting out some great work, you're pleased with how it's all going?

Kurt: ...It's an interesting position to be in. In one regard, you feel like you're maybe not reaching your full potential with things like I've said before, with like being independent and knowing that your music is high quality, but not necessarily having the full...(unintelligible) there can be some mellowness and frustration in that arena. Also, when like when we come up with an idea, and image, a visual image, a musical style or sound, and then artists who are in a position to run with it, are taking that and using that. It's a compliment in a way, because then you know that you had a good idea. But when you're not receiving the credit or the money for that, it's also kind of a disrespectful thing. Instead of the artists stealing your concept and then maybe even calling you and even including you in the project, saying "hey man, I'm a fan of yours, I want to do some work with you too," you know. There are a few groups who have called, but in general, most groups...(unintelligible). Other than those two things, I think what you're saying is pretty accurate as far as- you know- having an idealistic career where we can- you know- put out any style of music that we want and sell records.

BP: Awesome. Hey, I was wondering if you guys could turn us on to some crucial beats right now you think people should be listening to? What are you guys being turned on with right now?

Keith: I listen to a lot of world music now, like something that's in different places in like Africa. I've been more turned on with other countries and stuff.

BP: Have you guys played shows around the world at all?

Keith: Other countries?

BP: Outside of the U.S.?

Kurt: Of course. Europe and Australia.

Keith: Other countries.

BP: You haven't made it over to Africa?

Kurt: He played in Africa, a long time ago.

Keith: I've been obsessed with other music and stuff. I listen to everything just about. Rap is so diverse now. You've never know what's coming out. I was noticing down in Puerto Rico, they have their own rappers and stuff. Like, me living in New York is kind of open now, we have different regions now, there's rappers who are big in the Latin world, so it's like you're starting to hear other groups and rappers that are big stars in their own region, like Puerto Rico has big stars. They have that guy Tego down there, his records get played in all different sections of the Bronx, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights...

BP: Do you guys collect mp3s?

Keith: I think Kurt would like that.

Kurt: Do I collect them? No.

BP: No?

Kurt: Not really, no.

Keith: mp3?

Kurt: Not really, no. I prefer to have physcial music.

BP: You're like into vinyl probably too, huh?

Kurt: Yeah, I have a lot of vinyl. And if I can't find something on vinyl, then I'll buy the CD. Or, if I need the CD for some other purpose, then I'll buy the CD. I think mp3s have helped the music industry and also hurt it. So I just stay away from them in general.

BP: How many records you got?

Kurt: Probably about 6,000.

BP: Where do you store all those?

Kurt: In my apartment. (laughter)

Keith: hehehe

BP: That's a lot of records in there.

Kurt: It's a cave.

BP: Are you guys going to tour with this album, Diesel Truckers?

Keith: We should, I think we'll probably do a little tour.

Kurt: I know there's interest, it's just a matter of...

Keith: A radio station tour.

BP: Right on. So what else are you guys gonna do throughout the rest of the year? What other kind of projects you got going on?

Keith: Kurt's workin on Motion's album.

Kurt: What are you doing Keith?

Keith: ...I rhymed a lot on a lot of songs, so I think I'll take a break and just write more for the winter.

BP: Right on you guys. I wish you a lot of success for this one.

Keith: Well, we'll proabably be at the Grammy Awards.

Kurt: We're going to accept our Grammies for this one finally.

Keith: We're going to perform at the Grammies.

BP: Right on. What are you guys going to wear for that?

Keith: We just gonna wear like two tuxedos.

Kurt: I'm gonna wear a tuxedo but I'm gonna grow my beard out.

BP: Like ZZ Top?

Kurt: Like Rick Rubin.

BP: Like Rick Rubin. Right on you guys, hey thanks for all your time.

Keith: Thanks...

Kurt: Thanks man.

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