We look to Bronx-hailing, rap legend and UltraMagnetic MC’s founding member, Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon, for our dose of eye-catching style iconicity this week. Like many of his raps, Kool Keith’s fashion choices were bizarre and outlandish in his heyday. Self-coined the Black Elvis, if there was anything you were bound to miss, it was surely not his hair.
“Nobody burn me / Style get complex, why you concerned B?” – Master Of The Game
His nonchalance seeped through his ensembles making him an icon, as he was always ready to step out in exactly the type of wild combo he felt. A key staple of Kool Keith’s is undoubtedly his numerous sports jerseys and Lacoste polos. Allegedly one of the first in rap to rock these sports jerseys, this item was probably one of the more consistent aspects of his style.
“Your honey’s fly, but she wants me, I’m all that” – Young Ladies
Passionate about his Elvis-coiffed wig especially, Keith was one to don a myriad of characterful hair stylings. Coupled with blonde bobs and comical shaggy black manes, Dr Octagon also favoured an array of arresting headwear. When he was selecting a matching snapback or New Era fitted, Keith could be seen in Russian fur hats, dog-ear caps, bucket hats, flat caps and even the odd sailor’s gear.
“I throw my skully on, big robe like Marvin Gaye” – Livin’ Astro
“Peoples spot confusion / Rolling high with caps pulled over down my eye / Since I been out, y’all can’t see” – Plastic World
Having released his Magnetic Pimp Force Field collaborative album with Memphis producer Mr. Sche earlier this year – his 15th full-length solo project since 1996 – it’s easy to see how far the inventiveness and ingenuity of the First Come, First Served MC continues to extend.
“With diamonds sparklin around my rhymes / Black Levi suits, skully caps and boots / Wigs with Grecian Formula Got us warnin ya” – Wreck
Undeniably an eccentric personality, and even considered by some critics a ‘rap weirdo’, the horror-core originator, Keith Thornton’s blasé, preeminent in his lyrical musings about spaceships, aliens, NY and women; was delightfully present in his ensembles. Famed too, for wearing capes and embellished scarves, it’s not too hard to see his style influence as a definitive precursor for many of Hip Hop’s crazier stars today.
“Let me put my cape on, my rubber and my mask up Not no horror-core shit, this is porno-core I’m in the club naked man, I’m the fucking pro” – Sex Style
The King of rap personas, Poppa Large, aka Mc Shopaholic, was also demonstrably influenced by comic illustrations as well as certain stylings stemming from the 70s era – Keith in tiny leopard shorts is a must see!
“I got my silk underwear for the atmosphere” – Sex Style
Going on to form super rap group, LUV NY, alongside members Roc Marciano, OC & AG, Kurious and Dave Dar, it’s apparent that Keith’s ability to reinvent himself stems from his uncurtailed creativity and flows directly into his style impressions both on and off stage.
“When I dress, yes, put em all to the test / Rock a suede vest, pink jewels on my chest” – Master Of The Game
Kool Keith’s shades were just as sizable as his personality. Colourful and comical, he was sure to put a pair on every now and then.‘I got my shades on, big rock star, compared to Elvis’ – Livin’ Astro
“No circus here, just horses and a unicorn / Tuxedos and taxis, we roll with leather maxis” – Wreck
“Every morning I wake up, lookin in the mirror I am, the original Black Elvis / That’s right when you see me, with my wig to the side / Wearin my short leather jacket / Marilyn Monroe on my back / I’m livin’ that life / I’m for real with this” – Livin’ Astro
Unafraid to stand out and even critique rap fashion staples, Black Elvis managed to toe the line between authentic rap god, adept to bragadoccio, sexually explicit revel and quirky, against the grain fashions. While he may not have been the most apparent trendsetter, these qualities certify Kool Keith as an unforgettable style icon.
“Army fatigues are weak, is for the minor leagues” – Plastic World
Currently touring the UK with his Ultramagnetic crew, Kool Keith continues to do what he does best; confidently kick incredibly vivid raps in quite illustrious of ways.
“He’s just all around. He’s into women. He likes music. He’s a voyager. He walks a lot.”
Words by Laura Arowolo.
Previously: Cher Horowitz.