Kool Keith: How An Angry Crowd Fueled “Black Elvis 2” Record

Kool Keith, one of Hip-Hop’s most elusive and enigmatic characters, has returned with Black Elvis 2, the follow-up to 1999’s original.

Kool Keith, one of Hip-Hop’s most elusive and enigmatic characters, has returned with Black Elvis 2, the follow-up to 1999’s original. Par for the course, the 16-track project dives into the mind of one of Kool Keith’s most famous alter egos, Black Elvis. (There are purportedly 58 of them, but even Kool Keith has lost count at this point.)

“When I first introduced Black Elvis, it was supposed to be like an urban rockstar,” Kool Keith tells AllHipHop. “We never really had a Black representative for rock. Run-DMC made ‘Walk This Way’ with Aerosmith, but they were still Hip-Hop. We never had like a real urban super rockstar, like a solo rockstar. They were a duo. The Elvis thing was supposed to be rock but urban rock, to let people know to be open-minded. You can make different music and still be rock.”

One of the album highlights, “Kindergarten Adults,” has an interesting origin story. As Kool Keith explained, he and fellow Ultramagnetic MC Ced Gee had a show they were supposed to perform together. But at the last minute, COVID-19 restrictions prevented Ced Gee from getting into the venue, so Kool Keith had to come up with a solo setlist—and fast.

“I had to write it in the parking lot,” he recalls. “And I put ‘Sex Style’ in it. I was just trying to make the minutes count. I ended up performing a couple records and when I started ‘Sex Style,’ people were shocked. I thought it was just grown ups in the crowd, but there were kids. There were some people who started trying to be funny and stop me. There was a crowd in the front that tried to make noise and boo. It was a little section trying to say something real funny. I didn’t know there were kids there, and I certainly didn’t mean to offend.”

With lyrics like, “I’m on some S###### s### you can’t get with/Pull your panties down on stage and watch you sweat quick” (and that’s the more mild ones), Kool Keith understands why they got worked up. Even so, he found the situation to be somewhat dramatic—especially in a climate when artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B and Latto continue to deliver sexually-charged singles at every turn.

“Those are just triple-X songs,” he notes. “But I get up there and do ‘Sex Style’ and they have a problem with it. It got to the point where I was just like, ‘OK.’ That’s what inspired me to make ‘Kindergarten Adults.’ They actin’ like children and wanting me to rhyme like a kindergartener like ‘cat, mat and bat’ rap.”

“Kindergarten Adults” begins with a fictional character complaining about the show before Kool Keith starts rapping over a simple boom bap beat in a similar cadence to classic Hip-Hop.

“Come on down,” he spits. “Party people get down to the dumbfound sound/Back in the day when everybody rhymed like this and they thought that was the s###/But I don’t do that style.”

The track puts Kool Keith’s sense of humor on display, but he also manages to apologize for any indiscretions, a true sign of growth. After all, Kool Keith has been making records since the 1980s and has evolved as both an artist and a human being. To celebrate the long-awaited release of Black Elvis 2Kool Keith will be anointed King Neptune for the 41st annual edition of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade on Saturday (June 17). Find the Black Elvis 2 album below and check back with AllHipHop soon for Part II of the Kool Keith interview.