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Kool Keith @ Mad Planet

Dec. 13, 2012

Dec. 14, 2012
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Last year, the inclusion of rapper Kool Keith on Milwaukee’s winter concert calendar caused something of a stir. That was due in part to the fact that the rapper, born Keith Thornton, hadn’t played cream city in recent memory, and in part to his having one of hip-hop’s most original voices, an unpredictable fusion of ghetto intensity, Dali-esque surrealism and off-the-wall humor, but apart from all that, many showed up just to see what the eccentric MC would do, intrigued as much by his reputation as a suspected schizophrenic as his readily apparent skills on the mic. At that show, Thornton, who has a reputation for going AWOL and not turning up at his own gigs on time if at all, wowed the audience by simply being present and ready to perform, which he proceeded to do with uncharacteristic composure and professionalism.

One year on, the excitement, and certainly the unrealistic predictions of insane behavior, seem to have subsided quite a bit. The pre-show hype may have foretold the same sold out crowd and sense of mystery but the feeling in Mad Planet Thursday had little of the nervous energy or exaggerated expectations. Instead of wall to wall people, there was breathing room, but while not at capacity, the club was bustling with people who had just paid $18 to get in and showed no signs of regretting it. The diversity of demographics drawn in by last year’s appearance, a testament to former Ultramagnetic MC and Dr. Octagonecologyst auteur’s lasting appeal with old school hip hop heads, indie-rap beat nerds and weirdoes of every stripe (but a lot of the hippie stripe) alike, largely remained in force, in roughly the same ratio if not the same quantity.

This time around, Thornton was again onstage and ready to within a half hour or so of the posted set time, displaying a punctuality that seemed to catch the audience off guard. Clad in a relatively simple blue Polo and winter hat (no pharaoh headgear or rubber monster masks here), he cut a zigzagging path through his extensive and varied discography, including Black Elvis material and classic Dr. Octagon cuts like “Blue Flowers,” verbally hopping from alter-ego to alter-ego as necessary. These portions of the show, which also included some freestyles, began routinely enough (“Milwaukee in the building!”) but quickly took wonderfully strange left turns into the hallucinogenic and pornographic, which one could thankfully follow every word of thanks to the impeccable sound mixing. Some may have shown up expecting erratic behavior or outrageous costumes, but they got a veteran of 20-plus years doing his thing and doing it well, which is far better. Hopefully these quasi-annual visits become a regular thing.


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