Live Concert Photography: Dr. Octagon with Handsome Boy Modeling School at Brooklyn Bowl 4/5/18
Best known as a co-founder of the legendary hip-hop act Ultramagnetic MCs and for a lengthy and uncompromising solo career in which he has taken up a number of aliases and personas, collaborating with an array of emcees and producers, Kool Keith is arguably one of hip-hop’s most idiosyncratic and eccentric personalities and artists. And throughout his career, he has developed a reputation for continually perfecting and expanding upon an imitable flow, full of surreal and fantastical tangents, grimly violent and nightmarish imagery (that’s often pornographic), and wildly cartoonish pop cultural references — all while effortlessly and frequently switching perspectives, moods and points of view within the same song.
Over, the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about Kool Keith and his various solo releases, reissues and collaborations — including the revival of Dr. Octagon, his collaboration with Dan The Automator and DJ Qbert 20 years after the release of their critically applauded and revolutionary debut effort Dr. Octagonecologyst with the release of their sophomore album together, Moosebumps: an exploration into modern day horripilation. And from album singles “Octagon Octagon,” and “Flying Waterbed,” the material is both a return to form for the trio with Kool Keith reprising his lecherous and hopelessly incorrigible alter-ego Dr. Octagon, who has insane sexual exploits, performs odd surgeries with impossible, outlandish surrealism that’s at points absolutely hilarious, flat out weird and other times horrifying — but while possessing a frenzied urgency that could only come from marathon 24-hour recording sessions at Dan The Automator’s studio.
Earlier this month, the trio performed a comprehensive, album release show at Brooklyn Bowl with a backing band that featured guest spots from the members of Ultramagnetic MCs, Statik Selektah and others that at one point, featured Kool Keith popping and locking like an old school B Boy. Opening the night was the reunited Handsome Boy Modeling School, the famed collaboration between renowned producers Dan The Automator and Prince Paul.
Comprised of renowned producers Dan The Automator and Prince Paul, Handsome Boy Modeling School initially begun as a conceptual act that parodied and commented on vain, consumerist, materialistic and self-absorbed elitists — i.e., supermodels, old money and the like, frequently satirizing upper class snobbery and perceptions of beauty. Their debut album together 1999’s So . . . How’s Your Girl? was loosely based on “The Prettiest Week of My Life” episode of the Chris Elliott-starred sitcom Get a Life; in fact, the episode is also where the duo derived their name from, as it was the name of the school were Chris Elliott’s character enrolled to become a male model. Throughout the course of the album, Dan The Automator and Prince Paul assume the characters Nathaniel Merriweather and Chest Rockwell, respectfully — with the name Chest Rockwell a reference to a pseudonym used by a porn star in the 1997 major motion picture Boogie Nights and the name Nathaniel Merriweather purportedly a reference to Chris Elliot’s character in the 1994 comedy Cabin Boy. Unsurprisingly, So . . . How’s Your Girl? features a number of guest spots including JOVM mainstay Roisin Murphy, who was then a member of Moloko, Del the Funky Homosapien, J-Live, Sean Lennon, Cibo Matto‘s Miho Hatori, Beastie Boys‘ Mike D., and Don Novello as his famed comic character Father Guido Narducci. Their 2004 sophomore effort White People featured some of the collaborators, who appeared on their 1999 debut, along with a series of guest spots from new collaborators including RZA, Cat Power, Casual, Franz Ferdinand‘s Alex Kapranos, Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, Jack Johnson, The Mars Volta‘s Cedric Biller-Zavala, Mike Patton, El-P, Pharrell, John Oates, Deftones‘ Chino Moreno, Lord Finesse, Black Sheep and Tim Meadows. But by 2006, Prince Paul left the act claiming a series of business and creative conflicts between him and Dan The Automator; however, earlier this year, the duo announced a reunion with plans to release a new album in the near future. And while their live set only included a brief live performance, it featured a Handsome Boy Modeling Competition, guest spots from a number of folks within the Handsome Boy Modeling School orbit, including renowned DJ and producer Just Blaze that was absolutely hilarious.