- Personnel includes: Kool Keith, Sir Menelik (rap vocals); Phil Bright (guitar, bass); Andy Bright (guitar); Keith Thornton (bass); DJ Q-Bert (scratches); C Note, Miss G, Sweet 'P', Joe Des Cee, Whoolio E. Glacias (background vocals).
- Originally released on Bulk (902) in 1996.
- Personnel: Kool Keith (vocals); Andy Boy , Phil Bright (guitar); DJ Q-Bert (scratches).
- DJ: DJ Q-Bert.
- Audio Mixer: Automater.
- Recording information: Glue Factory.
- Illustrator: Pushead.
- It's hard to exaggerate the role that Kool Keith's debut solo album as Dr. Octagon played in revitalizing underground hip-hop. It certainly didn't bring the scene back to life single-handedly, but it attracted more attention than any non-mainstream rap album in quite a while, thanks to its inventive production and Keith's bizarre, free-associative rhymes. Dr. Octagon represented the first truly new, genuine alternative to commercial hip-hop since the Native Tongues' heyday. It appealed strongly to alternative audiences who'd grown up with rap music, but simply hadn't related to it since the rise of gangsta. Moreover, it predated seminal releases by Company Flow, Black Star, and the Jurassic 5, helping those groups get the attention they deserved, and reinvented Keith as a leader of the new subterranean movement. As if that weren't enough, the album launched the career of Dan the Automator, one of the new underground's brightest producers, and shed some light on the burgeoning turntablist revival via the scratching fireworks of DJ Q-Bert. The Automator's futuristic, horror-soundtrack production seemed to bridge the gap between hip-hop and the more electronic-oriented trip-hop (which has since narrowed even more), and it's creepily effective support for Keith's crazed alter ego. Dr. Octagon is an incompetent, time-traveling, possibly extraterrestrial surgeon who pretends to be a female gynecologist and molests his patients and nurses. The concept makes for some undeniably juvenile (and, arguably, hilarious) moments, but the real focus is Keith's astounding wordplay; it often seems based on sound alone, not literal meaning, and even his skit dialogue is full of non sequiturs. Keith has since lost his taste for the album, tiring of hearing it compared favorably to his subsequent work, and complaining that the only new audience he gained was white. However, it's the best musical backing he's ever had (especially the brilliant singles "Earth People" and "Blue Flowers"), and even if he's since explored some of these themes ad nauseum, Dr. Octagon remains as startling and original as the day it was released. ~ Steve Huey
Rolling Stone (6/12/97, p.113) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...Occupying the heretofore-undefined area where hip-hop meets hallucinatory sci-fi and porn....a 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING for the age of hardware and cynicism..."
Spin (9/99, p.162) - Ranked #86 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s."
Spin (8/96, p.103) - Very Good - "...Dr. Octagon is a welcome return to the irrational, destabilized essence and no-rules vibe of early hip-hop."
Alternative Press (10/96, p.83) - 4 (out of 5) - "...deep, dubby bass lines, spooky melodic riffs and consistently heavy beats..."
JazzTimes (10/96, p.81) - "...one of the freshest, most relentlessly zany releases to come out of hip-hop in a long while....Keith's oddball excursions reach near-cinematic levels."
The Source (3/96, p.102) - 3.5 Mics (out of 5) - "...DR. OCTAGON brings visions of humor, filth and most of the ill aspects that one conjures up while on acid....a quality album with the proper ingredients....you must keep your mind and ears on point at all times..."
Melody Maker (5/25/96, p.50) - Bloody Essential - "...While commercial American hip hop is slithering into an insipid mire of soulless, identikit swingbeat, Dr. Octagon has made an album swathed in character....Get yer prescription fixed."
Rap Pages (3/96, p.34) - 8 (out of 10) - "...Dr. Octagon...dares to venture where no man has gone before, and manages to get into that universe all real men love to go into....Then there's scratching..."
New York Times (Publisher) (7/16/96, p.C13) - "...definitely among the most progressive rap projects to be released in the past year....DR. OCTAGON sounds at first like an American answer to the trip-hop musician Tricky....But DR. OCTAGON actually exists in an orbit of its own..."
NME (Magazine) (5/25/96, p.53) - 7 (out of 10) - "...`Nineteen strong doses of pure, undiluted hip-hop'...steeped in the kind of abstract atmospheres the finest Wax tracks boast....he rides the grooves with all the flow and assured attitude of the seasoned pro he is..."