Let Kool Keith's Dr. Octagon Cure What Ails You
Dr. Octagon is Kool Keith's most brilliant persona. According to hip-hop lore, the good doc is a freaky medical maverick from Jupiter who practices a kooky brand of futuristic gynecology while presiding over "the Church of the Operating Room." Accepting all major forms of health insurance, Octagon tends to unsuspecting patients suffering from ailments like moosebumps, constricted vehicular canals, and bees around the rectum. Octagon's non-AMA-certified procedures first touched down on Earth back in 1996 and were assisted by producer Dan the Automator, who hooked up his megasonic bass and nuclear LinnDrums to create a freakish cinematic backdrop that Keith describes as "very Mozart-ish." Vicious cuts and scratches came courtesy of the legendary turntablist DJ Qbert.
Off the back of a deluxe reissue of Dr. Octagonecologyst via the Get On Down label (which also includes five previously unreleased tracks and remixes), I called up 1-800-PP5-1-DooDoo and spoke to the inimitable Kool Keith about how he'd go about curing some of the off-kilter conditions he rapped about on the project.
Noisey: What sort of medical credentials does Dr. Octagon have?
Kool Keith: When Octagon was back on Jupiter, he specialized in a blend of cannibalism, laceration, organs, and body parts. He's a bizarre doctor who's into wild stuff and figuring out new ways to use them. That's what he's about.
The album references lots of strange medical conditions. What do something like moosebumps look like?
They kinda blow up on your skin, just like big bumps when it gets cold. You ever skin a chicken? It's like those bumps on the chicken skin.
How would you cure a case of the moosebumps?
You scrape 'em, you scrape 'em. Calamine lotion really works for moosebumps too. It's a form of continuous pimples.
Speaking of pimples, how would you describe chimpanzee acne?
I had a differentiation that it's like regular human acne on steroids. It's bigger bumps and bigger boils all over your face.
What sort of things trigger chimpanzee acne?
Spoiled eggplant will definitely cause them to pop up. That's something you always want to avoid, spoiled eggplant.
On "I Got To Tell You," Dr. Octagon brags about being able to perform rectal rebuilding.
Yeah, he did a lot of leftfield doctor operations. Rectal rebuilding is me talking about the incisions—it's like a lot of surgeons are just redoing the whole butt area these days, your butt tubes and everything. Now they have all kinds of operations and probably have other names for it, but it was just about rebuilding your butt hole up. You use the proper anesthesia, so it's a side thought. The album had a lot of operations that doctors would probably never normally talk about.
How long does rectal rebuilding take?
It's probably a 24-hour movement.
Does it hurt?
The patient is always asleep under anesthesia so it doesn't hurt.
Talking of that area of the body, how did Octagon come across a case of bees buzzing around the rectum?
I was always into all kinds of wild stuff nobody would think about. That album was based on just going into medical parts that people feel uncomfortable talking about, you know? That's what I did, I took it in that form.
One scene on the album mentions a female patient whose "vehicular canal is somewhat constricted." How would Octagon treat that condition?
Lubrication of some sort is key. Me and [guest rapper] Sir Menelik were basically lyrical doctors so that part right there is we had to go into that operation in a whole different way with prongs and all kinds of stuff. It was like a gynecologist mixed with a twist to it: It's sometimes a gynecologist and sometimes incisions and lacerations. The Octagon album covers a lot of parts of the body.
What about cirrhosis of the eyeball?
That's like with the liver when you're drinking it dry, so the eyes don't have no wetness to them and no moisture any more. They're dried eyeballs—the glands that make the eyeballs wet are no longer working.
What's the cure?
Keep water in your eyes and wet your eyeballs every hour.
Throughout his career, has Dr. Octagon been in charge of many operations that went horribly wrong?
Not really... I mean, sometimes, but not like [Jack] Kevorkian, never near Kevorkian. Octagon is just a doctor doing everything different. It's similar to The Human Centipede mostly, like a lyrical Centipede. Have you seen that movie?
No, I haven't.
They were unlicensed doctors basically. Octagon is like a wild lyrical unlicensed doctor.
Dr. Octagon first appeared over 20 years ago. Where's the future of medicine going?
Medicine is going in all different types of directions. Everybody's making songs about all kinds of different medicines. It's becoming a craze now like pills and all kinds of different cough syrups is cool in hip-hop. People be like, [raps] "I take a painkiller, I take a painkiller." Songs are now coinciding with medication, like everybody's making records with medication and mixing this with my soda: "I'm dropping aspirins in my Hennessy! I'm putting Alka-Seltzer in my scotch!" Everybody's making something up and it's becoming a big craze of what medication mixes with normal daily nightlife drinks: Vodka can go with Claritin and may cause a certain high and we're drinking that allergy medicine. Everybody's trying to coincide medicine with music and it's not good—it's making kids fall out at festivals and stuff like that. It's cool for the music but when people start trying to do it live then it's not cool to go out and start experimenting, like, "Oh, my favorite artist said it's cool to mix scotch with Alka-Seltzer." But that might not work, you see?
Phillip Mlynar is a writer in NYC. He considers himself the world's foremost expert on rappers' cats. His work has appeared in Deadspin, NYLON, RBMA and Catster. You can find him on Twitter.