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
“See, rap is a high. But if you don’t come down, it can fuck with you. You never slept. From sniffing cocaine, from that life of champagne coke days. Staying up late. Bags under your eyes. Smoking weed. Taking Ecstasy. Different shit. I felt times when my heart was gonna bust, and I just stopped. I just altogether changed my life and stopped fucking around.
“A lot of these kids I work with just need patience,” he says, speaking of kids like Sam, whom Keith is grooming to be a rapper while Sam serves as an assistant. “They’re entering the gates of hell. It’s a roller coaster. Goes up and down, and people think it’s gonna be a straight line. It’s a mean-ass roller coaster, but you gotta wait in line for it like the Cyclone at the park. These guys . . . take their record away, these guys wouldn’t have any self-esteem left.”
We pass a billboard for Disney’s new film, 102 Dalmatians, and Keith riffs, “They even got dogs up there now. ‘Oh, there go the 102 Dalmatians! Give me one of the dogs’ autographs! Oh, give me the one with the spots!’ Which one? All of them got spots.
“One thing I have is personality and humor, so I make the day go by just talking to people, vibing. I can’t walk around serious all day with a doo-rag on my head and looking at people mean. I think that shit is for kids. ’Cause I grew up in the projects. I seen people get shot. I used to hold guns for people that did stickups and robberies. After a while, I didn’t really care for all that shit.
“Now I’m more laid-back. I enjoy being a citizen more than being a star. It’s like baseball. I can play nine innings, not 24 hours. Other people’s pressure is to pull me back into the business, but I can’t do that. My obsession with materialistic things is at a medium level. Sometimes I go to the ghetto-fabulous spots, but sometimes I’m ready to just watch a movie and eat some oatmeal cookies. I buy sneakers for myself. I take my kids to the mall. I don’t even watch cartoons no more, because to me the animation is looking at them now. I see myself when I was young, as a little kid, like on the back of the Matthew cover. At the time I was smartly animated. I see my kids in that same format, like characters of me in the past. It’s cool, though, you know. I mean, I definitely love looking at that reflection.”
Perhaps Keith is too advanced for the ’hood, too much the hip-hop futurist, but he might also be too down-home and insensitive for the scientists, too much Golden Bird and Slauson Swap Meet and triple-X.
“You know what’s a good thing?” he says. “That there are people all over the United States who know who Kool Keith is. That’s a big thing to be happy about, coming from the Bronx, knowing that you circulated something cross-country. I basically remain a legendary rapper.
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