If there’s a secret to time travel, Kool Keith owns the patent. Even a flying DeLorean seems too conventional for the Bronx legend. He’d more logically orbit throughout the galaxy in a gleaming chrome spaceship, teaching the stars and aliens new forms of originality. He is too weird to live, too rare to die, too uniquely ultra-magnetic to be accurately mimicked.
Released on Mello Music Group, Time? Astonishing! is the latest dimensional warp from hip-hop’s premiere astral traveler. His union with MMG producer L’ Orange finds him exploring uncharted terrain: choppy volcanic rock planets, ice glacier moons, new surgical procedures, and fresh rappers to toss into the ether. The scalpel remains eternally sharp.
The themes aren’t dissimilar from his past opuses as Dr. Octagon and Black Elvis. But L’ Orange’s production appropriately coaxes the most appealingly baffling gonzo vision from Keith since his days collaborating with Dan “The Automator” Nakamura. This isn’t the noir-rap of L’Orange’s previous work, but something atmospheric, ethereal, and absurd.
Yet there’s a sense of tradition within the playfulness. The beats glow with radioactive grit. Hard enough to knock from your car speakers, cinematic and plutonium-propelled enough to transport you to strange terra firma. Buck Rodgers movie serials meet boom-bap. And along for the odyssey are a cast of the best underground MC’s of the last decade: Blu, Open Mike Eagle, Mr. Lif, J-Live, and more.
But the star is Keith Thornton, offering more ammunition for his spot as the most creative rapper of all-time, offering more amazing adventures in the future. While other veterans often look back, Keith always knew that space ships don’t come equipped with rear view mirrors.
Every thought is a different action. He’s easing into new zones, encountering polygonic time travelers, surrounded by enemies, blasting them with radioactive wave forms. L’Orange is the gunner on the flank, lacing the legend with synthesizers set to stun, great wheeling humid organs, and sad exotic jazz riffs. These are space symphonies and occult odysseys, fuel for wanderers, wonderers, and all the a-likes.
Welcome to the new world, even more sinister and suspenseful than the last one. We live in astonishing times: abstract, absurd, and indelibly Kool.
The album is about a man in the early 20th century who is a bored explorer and finds technology to go into the future – but he does so without any sense of adventure. He travels through time as if he is traveling to Tuscaloosa. He is then hospitalized as insane and then goes into suspended animation (a metaphor for his subconscious while sedated in the hospital). The adventure begins only after the album is finished, the record is all the thoughts and introspection before things really begin. Absurdist.