Kool Keith has been an enigma ever since he appeared on the Hip Hop scene as part of the Ultramagnetic MCs crew more than 35 years ago, debuting in 1988 with the innovative classic Critical Beatdown. Always out of the mainstream spotlight, his signature style is a stream-of-consciousness lyrical flow with complex vocals usually peppered with bizarre, disjointed, even delusional or disassociated themes, concepts, and references – skills that earn him a perennial nod from the underground Hip Hop community. Quality control has never been his main concern, but among his almost endless stream of albums, EPs, bootlegs, mixtapes, and collaborations there are enough classics to consider Kool Keith a bonafide Hip Hop icon, one who gives meaning to the word longevity.
Serpent is one of the better Kool Keith albums in recent years – arguably his best since the underappreciated Feature Magnetic (2016). Kool Keith has always needed a producer he could vibe with to bring out the best in him, and as the likes of Ced Gee, Dan The Automator, and Kutmaster Kurt did for him in the past, Real Bad Man hits the right notes with his production on Serpent. Real Bad Man’s profile is rising since his recent work for the likes of Pink Siifu and especially Boldy James, and the sinister beats he crafted for Kool Keith here once more prove he is a producer to watch.
So – the instrumentals are dope throughout and Kool Keith sounds inspired and is clearly having fun – plus there are features from Atmosphere’s Slug, Ice-T (with appearances on two tracks, but not with an actual verse), ZelooperZ, Cool Calm Pete, and Edan to add some extra spice to an album that comfortably fits in the top quarter of Kool Keith’s vast catalog. 8/10