By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“The whole thought process behind that was entirely Keith’s,” says Larner. “One day he said to me, ‘Jeremy, you’re young, you’re starting to make a lot of money, you should start to become well-known. Look at Russell Simmons, he used to manage me. Look at Andre Harrell, he used to manage me.’ He’s like, ‘Yo, let’s do some shit, let’s do a billboard.’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? You must be out of your mind,’ and he kind of pressured me into doing it. There were actually two billboards, and they were up for nine months. And it worked. So many people saw it, and it was funny.”
But one wonders who got the joke. Oblivious commuters and pedestrians? Keith and his management team? Or just Keith?
GUESS WHAT? IT’S AN ORAL EXAM
“The basis of being a rapper is called frenetics,” Sam says to me at the Slauson Swap Meet while Keith is off searching for the perfect sneaker. “It’s being able to put words together in a rhythmic pattern, and it has a lot to do with math. Know how when you were a kid in school you would study haiku and they would tell you 5-7-5 or whatever it was . . . 5-5-7? That’s all poetry is. Besides the meaning and the soul, the actual physical content of it, the wordplay, is frenetics. And Keith’s a master.
“A lot of rappers do two-bar cadences, like ‘Yeah, what’s up, I’m here chillin’ on the map/I’m ’onna drop the shit, and I’m ’onna tell you the facts.’ Keith’ll come with an eight-bar cadence. He’ll do four lines, and then the last word in the fourth line will be the rhyming word with the next four lines. People are like, ‘Is he even rhyming?’ He’s like a Carerra: too fast for a regular car to keep up with.
“Today there are a lot of rappers. They stop, they stick to their one cadence. Like Jay-Z. He hit the ‘Jiggidy-jay. Jiggidy-aye. Jiggidy-why. I’m so craaaay-zeee,’ and then he never went any further. Or like Ja Rule: ‘Haaeeey whut you whaaaaant/Whut you really really whaant!/Huggh!’ These guys are yelling, and that’s all they can do.”
Keith does more, as on Dr. Octagon’s “3000,” in which he riffs on a theme, then drops it; rhymes inside rhymes as if alliteration and terminal syllable sounds were his only guide, then picks up where he once left off:
As space I’ve shown participator acts walk up clog up and mess up water down the sound . . . that comes from the ghetto.
In the middle, the core, you tour explore experience what is real you feel,
Changing ways commercial rap’s in the grave, stuff on disc that’s very wack that you saved.
You think it’s good won’t go platinum or even turn wood. Sell the cassette your homey’s tape deck is wet.
You my pet, my poodle chicken noodle’s on the rise. Open your eyes and see my life.
Rap moves on to the year 3000!
* * *
“I been to places,” says Keith.
“You got people in different ghettos that sit in the same place, and I was never that guy. When I was a kid, people just sat on the block and drank beers. I think I was the only one to break away and go to DeKalb, Coney Island. People used to say you stuck, but there’s no fence around the projects.
“With Ultramagnetic, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday we’d have some show at a skating rink. We were going to hole-in-the-wall places, spots that just been shot up the week before you got there, just real deep Vietnam spots. You had to perform for unhappy crowds and still rock — people with gold teeth, and everybody was looking mean and hard. We would go to the clubs, and it would be so tense because somebody would get their chains snatched right next to you and a razor blade to the neck. And we would go to the clubs and chill. Right? Hah! We’d go to Philly, go to After Midnight, go to the Latin Quarter, go up to Connecticut, go out to Newark, New Jersey. The limos would pick me up in the projects and take me to the show.
“I been to Miami standing next to the most beautiful models. I’ve been out in London, Germany, walking through the subway stations looking at exotic girls from Paris, to down South in the mall in Memphis. Even Texas. I envision it: One minute I’m at a truck stop, looking at real cowboys with spurs coming through. Next thing I’m going through a ghetto in Houston. And then you can be in an exquisite restaurant in Paris. I got to see the world, and looked at a lot of things. The déjà vu of change.
“Everyone now is just doing what I did in the ’80s. Some hustler comes in with alligators on and pays you really real, 20s all in brown paper, and they say, ‘Do what you want.’ Just being fly — a kid making seven grand a night and splitting it with a group, and riding in limos, and taking your money, your Coogis, your chicks, and chip in together and party and stuff. I’ve been through it. Those times . . . Just buying shit and leathers and jewelry. Every year I bought 10 rings for each finger. And the big plates on my neck, and the biggest pieces to the small pieces. From gold to all types of sorts of different elements of platinum to even just diamonds. I’m glad I got to see a long time ago what rappers lust after right now.
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