Dr. Octagon
Dr. Octagonecologyst


3.5
great

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
February 22nd, 2013 | 37 replies | 5,022 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist


#97: Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagonecologyst (1996)

Discussing influence in art can sometimes feel like being in one of those extraordinarily complicated time-travel movies, shifting blades of grass around or stepping on ants and seeing what effect they’ll have on the future. It’s a little bit mind-bending to measure one album’s historical importance against another’s, because who knows which artists may have been affected by which albums and how those artists responded to those albums and how those responses may have affected yet more artists?

All of which still doesn’t deter me from asking: just what would hip-hop look like without Dr. Octagonecologyst? Of the four albums I’ve reviewed as part of this project thus far, this one strikes me as easily the most important. “Weird” rap existed before 1996, but never so vividly envisioned; rapper Kool Keith’s full-bore alter ego shtick can almost certainly take credit for the brilliant Madvillainy (2004), and traces of Dan the Automator’s creepy, industrial-ish beats can be found in the work of El-P throughout the past decade. Lines can probably be drawn as far as Odd Future (especially EARL [2010]) and Death Grips, but the trend is clear: Kool Keith, with this album, gave rappers permission to be genuinely strange, to forge their own path in what seemed an increasingly homogeneous hip-hop landscape.

That’s the good news; here’s the downer paragraph: Dr. Octagonecologyst, brilliantly bizarre and shocking though it remains, is nonetheless a little long and sometimes homogeneous itself. This is excusable in the face of just how new-sounding the thing was at the time, and the album actually sustains its potency for a surprising chunk of its 20-track duration (I conk out around “halfsharkalligatorhalfman”). But there’s nonetheless a sense of diminishing returns that permeates the whole act: first proper song “3000” is hilarious and deeply engaging (“You think it’s good / won’t go platinum / or even turn wood”), as is “No Awareness,” (Sir Melenik name-drops drosophila!) but around halfway through I start to get a little tired. The Dr. Octagon alter ego is promising but also lends itself to redundancy: Kool Keith invites a patient into his office and either fucks or kills them, the end. What results can be oddly titillating but, as on the self-explanatory “Wild and Crazy,” sometimes slithers into its unintended opposite, just sorta “there,” monotonous in its weirdness.

That might just be an issue of context, as the essence of Kool Keith’s act has been replicated so many times and in so many different ways that even this, the endlessly inventive flashpoint of a million wannabe horrorcore projects, can’t help but feel a little redundant. However true that may be, the album’s cumulative effect is incontrovertible: this is the sound of an immensely talented rapper (seriously, listen to “No Awareness”) exploring genuinely new ground with a producer who seems to know exactly what his partner's up to. Regardless of how receptive you are to the ground being explored, that--and this--is something special.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



15002 Comments


this is once again me flailing around, trying to reconcile how much i like this album personally--a
good amount, not too much--with Objective Standards or whatever. i'll get better at this whole thing!!
very good album, the first few songs are brilliant. sorry for an abundance of lame 3.5s

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



49977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good eats

Digging: Armchairpolitician - Seven Segment Decoder

MeatSalad
February 22nd 2013



14425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yum

Digging: Mr. Bungle - California

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



49977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This went up to 93 in the charts

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



15002 Comments


yeah i figured this shit would get effed the eff up so i just jotted em down as if irst saw them

otherwise i would be revieweing some weird euro rap shit thats like at 97 right now

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



49977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Albums with less than 300 ratings probably shouldn't count

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



49977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn what a chart, triple tower of 4, 4.5 and 5

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



15002 Comments


i should probly give this a 4 idk already feel bad about giving blowout comb a 3.5

foxblood
February 22nd 2013



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album has grown off me slightly over the years after having heard it a million times, but still a classic for sure

fromtheinside
February 22nd 2013



17937 Comments


really dig this

Digging: Coroner - No More Color

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



18244 Comments


kool keith 4 lyfe

Digging: Syndrone - Salmataxia

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2013



10043 Comments


Sweet review, man. I always love reading these reviews, and I hope you continue them.

I'm a little curious about one part, though, because it's a topic that really interests me. Could you elaborate on what you mean here?

"It’s a little bit mind-bending to measure one album’s historical importance against another’s, because who knows which artists may have been affected by which albums and how those artists responded to those albums and how those responses may have affected yet more artists?"

I'm just wondering if you're experiencing the same thing I am when I try to go back to the "roots" of a genre, and I want to make sure I understand you correctly. Are you saying it's tough to find a good starting point, especially when simultaneous things are happening within the scene?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2013



15002 Comments


i guess my point is i'm reticent about saying "dr. octagonecologyst is the most important/influential album i have yet reviewed" because you can never -really- tell what would happen were you to remove one album from hip-hop's history. who knows how much would change?

like, heltah skeltah's nocturnal doesn't strike me immediately as an especially influential album but maybe this guy once listened to it and that guy showed it to, like, lil wayne or some shit and lil wayne took inspiration from it and a bunch of people then second-hand took that influence from lil wayne and so forth

so even though the visibility of an album's influence can sometimes be quantified it's often hard to measure the unseen aspects of an album's influence and thus it can feel weird to be like "x is more influential than y" even though that's what i went ahead and did in my review anyways

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2013



10043 Comments


Ah, I gotcha. I avoid such statements, because of what you mentioned. And not that there's anything wrong with them, it's
just tricky.

From what list are you working these reviews? If it's a "most influential" list, then the inclusion of the subject would make
way more sense to me.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2013



15002 Comments


it's the top hip hop albums on RYM which has since shifted as expected haha this album is #93 as of
like today. the list itself is sorta arbitrary, i just wanted something to work off for this general
idea
http://rateyourmusic.com/customchart?
page=1&chart_type=top&type=album&year=alltime&genre_include=1&include_child_genres=1&genres=hip+hop&in
clude_child_genres_chk=1&include=both&origin_countries=&limit=none&countries=

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2013



10043 Comments


Yeah, that's definitely tricky terrain. I didn't think RYM would see that much fluctuation, though, especially in such a small time period.

How are you going about listening to these albums? Are you already familiar with a decent amount of them?

DirEnRefused
February 23rd 2013



2160 Comments


you are probably the most talented active reviewer.

Gyromania
February 23rd 2013



15461 Comments


nice, alex - you presented your criticisms with airtight logic and i like the whole butterfly-effect angle you used in the opening. the idea that one artist's sound might be completely different if it weren't for _____ album is something i've often thought of myself.

i agree that in its entirety this can be a kind of monotonous listen at a certain point, and i won't lie, it took me a long time to really get into this. like you, i stick around for the songs like no awareness, but i love the overall atmosphere of the record and, if you can make it through to the latter half without losing interest (maybe start in the middle one of these times?), there are some incredibly good songs that i think a lot of people tend to skip over.

fromtheinside
February 24th 2013



17937 Comments


congrats on staff mayne really good review

PorkchopExpress
February 24th 2013



387 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album rules so hard. Good review, and congrats on making staff.



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