When Eminem released his highly anticipated collaboration with Rihanna earlier this week, fans didn’t know what to expect. With its infectious vocal delivery from RiRi, reflective rhymes from Em and an undeniable hook from newcomer Jon Bellion, “The Monster” has quickly been catching on. Though the track feels designed for chart-topping dominance, it also finds Eminem shouting out one of his fellow hip-hop icons: Kool Keith.
XXL dissected “The Monster” and found the reference may have gone over people’s heads. Keith, who is a founding member of the 1980s rap group Ultramagnetic MCs, remains a cult figure in hip-hop, mainly because he’s an eccentric MC with many different personas and a distinctive voice. Last night, we got on the phone with the underground sensation to talk about Em’s honorable mention, wanting to produce records for Rick Ross and Jay Z, and his forthcoming album.—Eric Diep
“Eminem is one of the most outstanding rappers besides myself. Definitely one of the most out of all the rap world. For him to shout you out, that’s good.”
XXL: What have you been up to?
Kool Keith: I have been producing now. You know, number one producer. Top in the country [Laughs]. Nah, but I’m the number one producer. I’ve been making beats and stuff. That’s another thing—I am making beats for artists. I’ve been programming and stuff a lot. I still write lyrics and put the vocals down. I just been so into the technical side of my music and I am making beats. I am programming. I am definitely making distinctive stuff. Like all the stuff that’s out now, I’m not trying to sample. I might sample every once in a while, but I like making brand new stuff. There’s nothing wrong with making something brand new. I think I am one of the top producers out there. I want to give Jay Z the tracks that he needs. I want to produce tracks for Rick Ross. I want to produce tracks for a lot of artists.
Is this your new focus now?
Yeah, I’m working on beats. I still rap with the lyrical. My rap is still un-duplicable. I still rap. I still got the distinctive voice. I still write really good and updated. I stay with the times of whatever everybody is doing. I’m always current. I write a lot. I’m glad that I am never caught up in that stigma of the rap ages and stuff like that. I’m Dr. Oct. I don’t like those genres of the golden age. The ‘70s rap. I don’t try to get into that genre separation. I’m just a future person.
Eminem’s new single “The Monster” just came out. Have you heard it?
Nah, I haven’t heard it yet. That’s different. Is it wild? That’s cool.
He’s putting out an album and he just dropped his new single with Rihanna called “The Monster.” Crazy enough, he shouted you out.
Oh, that’s good. Eminem is one of the most outstanding rappers besides myself. Definitely one of the most out of all the rap world. For him to shout you out, that’s good. That’s a real good thing. It’s like picking a needle out the haystack out of a billion rappers. That’s a real good thing. That’s an honorable mention.
Let me read the lyric to you. He said, “Going as cuckoo and kooky as Kool Keith/ But I’m actually weirder than you think.”
I don’t take the phrase like a diss. I take it as he had a moment of his life to think about me for a couple of seconds. That’s really good. All the rappers know me in general. For him, all the rappers look up to him. That’s the thing in general. One day we’ll get on the track. Hopefully, he calls me to do that song and we get a song. Trade some vocals and stuff like that. I’m glad. That goes to show that I am still current. You don’t have a box to put me in. I’m not labeled from the guys that are back in time and the rappers that can’t keep up with the current moment. That’s a very good compliment.
What do you think of Em paying homage to legendary rappers?
I never wanted to be a legend. I was always wanted to be just a superstar, a superstar person. I always wanted to be immortal—a never ending superstar. A legend, you know, some of the other rappers like to be called legends. A lot of people like legend or pioneer. I don’t use those words. When you are cooking in the kitchen, those are certain things I don’t want in my kitchen. That’s a certain pot and pan. I don’t like use those utensils in my kitchen—legend and pioneer. A lot of rappers out right now they look very old. I think they are pioneers. They may come on the radio every day, but when you see them in videos, they look old. They definitely look old. I’m still a young guy. I gotta maintain my youth and being young. Me being 18 years old, I’m just starting, you know?
Are you a fan of Eminem?
Of course, who isn’t a fan of Eminem? I heard all the D12 stuff and all that stuff he had in the past and everything. Of course, The Marshall Mathers album. Since the evolvement from Dr. Dre and stuff like that. He’s one of the persons with a lyrical cadence that is definitely worthy. Fantastic wordplay. The music is another thing, but I am talking about the overall syllable and vocal phonetic of his wordplay is still good. It’s amazing. He’s like me. I think me and him are the only persons that did a lot of patterns. Being a rapper is good, but it’s the different patterns of rhyme cadences that a lot of rappers don’t have. I did a lot of patterns and he did a lot of patterns. Jay Z maybe third in patterns. Other than that, you hear a lot of rappers rap the same cadence and use the same subject matter through their vocals all the time. They only rhyme a certain way.
In the lyric, he says he can get weirder. You are known as the oddball in hip-hop with all your different personas and alias. Do you think he can top you?
Maybe he is competitive sometimes, which is good. I think it’s good that he’s competitive. Some people need competitive innovation. Innovation is good. I mean, I got different things I do so I feel it stuck with something. I can go on and move to different things and rap. I don’t have to stick to one subject. I’m working on my album now. I don’t know what it’s going to be called.
I don’t think a lot of rappers can get weirder than me. I start writing about the toilet seat. The bathroom. Anything. I think people know that I am not scared to say what I want to say to go on record. I write very dimensional. I write for the people. I write stuff people want to say, but they are scared to say it. A lot of rappers have a confined lyrical structure. They just write about, just a little bit of stuff they want to write about, just enough to get over the radar. I think I am a little above the radar. I got different styles. I can be gross. I can be over gross. I can be superior overboard gross. I think that’s what a lot of rappers feel that I am weird about. So much of my subject matter sometimes can get on the red meter. Basically, overkill red meter.
How far along are you on your album?
I am almost finished. I got to link it all together. I might call my album…I might name my album Atomic. That’s what it might become. The name of my album might become Atomic. I am going to call it Atomic. Atomic Vomit! Atomic Vomit! You know, it’s like I am throwing all these rappers up. I’m throwing all these wack dudes. I’m throwing all them up.