Kool Keith may not be one of the more popular MCs in the rap game, but he's surely proven himself to be one of the most creative. Particularly given the genre's commercial tendencies, Keith's limitless ability to engage with weird, perverse, and at times downright shocking music makes him stand out and merit special notice. Of course, anyone familiar with his past work -- ranging from his old school days fronting the Ultramagnetic MCs to his celebrated Dr. Octagon collaboration -- knows that Keith is far from generic. Here, he joins forces with Detroit's Esham and Santos for Spankmaster, and heads even further toward insanity than his preceding trilogy of albums for Funky Ass foreshadowed. It's fairly safe to presume that Esham's psychotic reputation has inspired Keith to take his own music to unexplored extremes that challenge the boundaries of sleaze, antagonism, and eccentricity. In regard to the lo-fi yet impressive production, the Spankmaster himself actually crafted most of the 20 eclectic songs, with Esham and Santos taking the reins for the album's standout moments: "I Wanna Play," "Drugs," and "Spankmaster." The beats are nearly as untraditional as Keith's rhymes, culling their elements from a disparate concoction of sources, including quite a bit of live instrumentation. In the end, Spankmaster is no doubt an engaging listen, even if its budget quality level and lack of glitz and glimmer make it an album strictly for the underground. Recommended to the open-minded, particularly if you admire creativity, long for the uncanny, and secretly have a desire for perversity. Definitely not for the lighthearted.
by Jason Birchmeier