In 2001, just after moving to New Orleans, I watched legendary perverted New York rapper Kool Keith pack the big room at New Orleans’ House of Blues with a mostly white audience that included Trent Reznor a few feet to my right. Keith wore a cap, and threw out porn magazines, and little baggies full of chicken wings and juice boxes. I didn’t meet him.
Eleven years later, just days after Mardi Gras 2012, Kool Keith played a last minute 2am New Orleans show at the tiny Dragon’s Den on Frenchmen Street, on his way out to a bigger performance at the 5th Annual Arizona Pornstar Ball industry function. He rapped over his own songs with vocal backing tracks, a pet peeve of myself and many rap purists (I could imagine Black Elvis dissing other MCs for rapping over their own vocal tracks) but Keith made the show entertaining.
In the 150-capacity Dragon’s Den, 125 or so mostly white kids lost their minds to career-spanning Kool Keith hits from Dr. Octagon, Sex Style, Black Elvis, even cuts from Critical Beatdown by his 80s group, Ultramagnetic MCs. Backing tracks or no, fans of the slightly touched Freudian rapper treasured this rare intimate throwdown.
The next morning, Keith met me for a breakfast interview. I barely got “Hello” out, before Keith said, “I want to get some waffles.”
“Keith wants waffles,” his handlers repeated.
“You know where we can get some waffles?” Keith asked me.
“Yes, of course,” I assured. “I can make waffles happen.”
“With whipped cream?”
“Definitely, that’s a French Quarter specialty.”
“And like, some strawberries sprinkled on top?”
“Something like that. Let’s go.”
As I led Keith past Checkpoint Charlie to the Magnolia Grill by the river, we talked about New Orleans. We floated theories about why Lil Wayne probably moved away from New Orleans, and agreed he musta feared getting shot. Keith, a much professed fan of the Black female form, had never heard of New Orleans bounce music. “Oh man, some of that would make 2 Live Crew blush,” I told him. “You would love it.” I told Keith all about bounce, with emphasis on the popular trans rappers Big Freedia, Katey Red, and Sissy Nobby. When Keith promised to research bounce dancing on You Tube, I suspected I may’ve changed his life.
At our open air table beside the French Market, Keith settled for French toast, with whipped cream but no strawberries. He was fine with this. The multiple-personality-disorder MC acted mostly down to Earth while discussing with me his very intimate concerts, his inverted sense of humor, and his gig the next day: “I am going to perform at a porn convention tomorrow in Phoenix,” Keith said. “I’m into porn a lot, I collect a lot of movies. I became a porn icon by, I put it in my music with the lyrics and the skits on Sex Style, and it just built up a whole persona like, ‘This guy has this pornographic art mixed into his whole music career.’ It’s like, wow. Luke Skywalker was more ‘Pump that pussy,’ but people know me as a sexual rapper. Luke is more like a chant artist: ‘Pump that ass, pump that pussy.’”
“That’s how New Orleans bounce music is, with the chanting,” I pointed out.
“Yeah but me, I was more like lyrical porn. I’d say, ‘I’m fucking this chick in the butt, blah blah…’ Then there was a lot of groups that came after that rapped like that. But I was a nasty lyricist, a nasty kinda artsy writer. People was like, ‘You like gross shit.’ You might write a song, a normal rapper, going, ‘Baby shake your titties, baby, baby, shake your titties.’ But I was more like, I write a song, taking about it in a skillful way. That’s what made me more popular.”
“What are you expecting from this porn conference in Arizona?” I asked him. “Is it a freaky scene?”
“It’s kind of normal and down my alley,” he answered frankly. “It’s not like I’m someone who just got into porn. All my songs got porn in em. Ninety million people will write a song about ‘Let me cream you. Let me powder your cake. Let me love you, let me bring you flowers.’ Sometimes I might write a song, ‘I’m not taking you to dinner, I’m not paying for shit.’ I might write a song like, ‘Pay for your own shit.’ I might write a song called “Girl With the Boney Knees,”… Everybody’s programmed to write a song, ‘I love you, I care for you.’ Sometimes I might make a song called, “Baby Your Legs Look Fucked Up,” or “Stripper With the Fucked Up Knees.”… I might say a song, “The Bitch Has A Big Eye,” or “That’s An Ugly Bitch.”
I asked Keith, “As a New Yorker and porn aficionado, you must be disappointed at the way the city went from being a porn and peep show capital to whatever clean thing it is now.”
“They just moved em,” Keith assured me of the porn shops. “I know where they at. … It’s not on the route with the McDonalds tourist attractions next to… Hello Kitty. It’s on another block. They pushed it into the cut. Everything’s in the cut. There’s tons of them out on the road now too. It’s like buying jazz records.”
As a Floridian, I knew exactly what he meant: “They’re all out in the boondocks, right off of exits, in big barns.”
“Yeah,” Keith nodded, chewing, “like a horse.”
Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.