Kool Keith at Eve, April 2

Kool Keith
With Otto von Schirach, Juan Basshead, and others
Saturday, April 2, 2011

Better Than: Staying home and crying over the demise of LCD Soundsystem

The downtown/midtown Miami corridor found itself in a pleasant hip-hop time-warp last night, with Too $hort playing an unexpected set at Bardot while Kool Keith headlined Eve downtown. Too $hort, however, didn't enjoy a psychedelic opening act that included a dancer in a sparkly ninja costume -- but Keith did! 

Such was the bizarre, only-in-Miami grab-bag nature of the bill at Eve. The evening went down more like a local-pride, dubstep-heavy party with a dash of Kool Keith, rather than a Kool Keith Show per se, which was a smart move. By about 1 a.m. the place was packed with members of a kaleidoscope of nightlife micro-factions, who all came out to support their various tribes and, mostly, stick around for the late-night headliner.

This being both a hip-hop show and a local one, things started running behind from a relatively early point in the evening, and continued that way. Around midnight, when Otto von Schirach and company were originally supposed to perform, new act the YMF was knee-deep in a loose, live hip-hop set. No matter, though, because things were just getting warmed up. In the club's smaller, second room, where things were getting sweaty with dirty dubstep rinse-outs. (That said, surely we can lay "Pon De Floor" and all its remixes to rest?) 

Back in the main room, local up-and-coming MC Saheed got the crowd going with a set that included a confusing cast of guest stars. DJ Heron manned the decks and LMS made a brief, rousing appearance, but everyone else who came and went should have introduced themselves more clearly. Then, for another drastic change, this was followed by a DJ set by Romulo del Castillo, a.k.a. Soul Oddity, who kept to his IDM roots and played a set full of clicking, instrumental noises. 

Otto von Schirach's set finally started at about 1:30, and kicked off the highest-energy part of the night. As usual, he brought a cast of supporting freaks onstage with him. This included his usual sidekicks: Alligator Jesus,this time sporting an alligator head whose mouth actually lit up, and Peasants with Feathers, wearing a white jumpsuit and a feather-covered mask that was the stuff of nightmares. If you haven't seen Otto perform in a while, though, he's also got a new guy onstage, Sparkle Ninja, who appears exactly as that sounds -- a guy in a glittery ninja suit. 

Otto himself donned a superhero mask, tank top, and tight pants, and started off his set screeching through processed vocals, "Voy a Flamiiiiiiingo!" An ode to Flamingo Plaza, Hialeah's best thrift-shopping mini mall? Maybe, and the Spanglish continued with another song he introduced as "un poco para Chango." 

What followed was an eardrum-shattering track whose entire lyrics seemed to be, "Blanco, rojo, negro, [ear-piercing yell]!" It was then that Alligator Jesus pulled out a new trick, using some kind of air gun to inflate a massive balloon over the crowd. It appeared to be made of garbage bags connected end to end and covered with inflated latex gloves, and the crowd batted it around while the backing, dubstep-like track added to the bewildering quality of the performance.

That's another point if you haven't seen Otto in a while -- though he's always been about the bass, much of what he played last night was on the more dubstep side than on the booty side. He still played a few old favorites, though, like his cover of L'Trimm's "Cars That Go Boom." 

From there, Juan Basshead took over the decks with another reliable heavy dubstep set that got the crowd dancing for the first time in earnest. Alongside him, MC Jumanji got everyone further hyped. Though his style of MCing doesn't leave the tracks much room to breathe, he goes beyond the usual calls for rewinds and such, and showed some respectable lyrical prowess. The surprise highlight of the set though was the ending sequence, in which Basshead threw down some proper pulse-racing drum'n'bass.

From there, though, the change in energy to old-school-ish boom-bap hip-hop seemed almost like a valley, especially when Kool Keith's DJ had to ask the crowd for a pair of headphones. When Keith finally took the stage at about 2:45 a.m., though, it was welcome, and he looked sharp -- well, sharply strange -- in a sharkskin suit, sunglasses, and a sequined scarf tossed babushka-style over his head.

Opening with the '97 favorite "Don't Crush It," Keith mostly kept things moving, shouting out Miami a few times but going quickly from song to song for the first few selections. With barely any breathing room or any of the usual hip-hop crowd participation tricks, the songs started to run together a little bit, making the set feel like a sprint. It didn't help that either there was a weird echo effect on his vocals, or he was rapping along to complete vocal backing tracks. This gave everything a doubled, alien-like effect that made the performance less engaging.

Still, a few songs in, the self-proclaimed inventor of "horrorcore" and "pornocore" got smutty as Miami likes it, and started having more fun with the crowd. "I know Miami's a hot city," he said, but raise your hands if you're really wet!" From there he launched into the defining "pornocore" anthem, "Sex Style," which features such elevated lyrics as "Let my dog lick you, German shepherd want to bust off" and "I got my silk underwear for atmosphere/Piss in your face and urinate all in your hair." 

Maybe the world would have been better off without pornocore entirely. Still, with explicit lyrics now a de facto characteristic of much hip-hop, perhaps much of that can be traced back to Keith. It's entertaining to watch a performance by someone who helped create history, but for us females in the audience, digesting this turn of the show involved some serious cognitive dissonance.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: After Miami Music Week and Ultra, I may be partially deaf and now only respond to bass frequencies, sorry. 

The Crowd: People rocking merch for, a sponsor of the show; dudes rocking the underground hip-hop head wooden bead necklaces that were popular here 10 years ago; the requisite shirtless dreadlocked dude; Miami dubsteppers

Overheard in the Crowd: "Do you have a little Captain in you?" 

By the Way: Kool Keith's new album, The Legend of Tashan Dorrsett, comes out on indie label Junkadelic this Tuesday, April 25. 

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Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo