By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
Key Tracks: “Octagon Octagon”, “Power of the World (S Curls)”, “3030 Meets the Doc – Pt. 1”
Our favorite time-traveling extraterrestrial gynecologist is back. It’s been a dozen years since Kool Keith has made music under the Dr. Octagon persona, coming off a rather disappointing sequel in The Return of Dr. Octagon back in 2006. The record not only lacked the charm that made 1996’s Dr. Octagonecologyst, one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade, but it also left behind the production talents of Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and turntablist DJ Qbert. This time, the trio is back, giving listeners the proper sequel they deserve.
22 years later, Dr. Octagon is still the same person. Keith’s interpretation of the character has always translated with his experimental songwriting. His unconventional, grotesque delivery of lyrics and non-sequiturs doesn’t change with the release of Moosebumps, as proven in the album’s opening track. “Octagon Octagon” paints a world where the Octagon brand name is attached everything, from “Octagon rice with octagon beans with octagon shrimp” to “Octagon condoms with octagon tampons for women,” or in “Operation Zero”, which has lines like “Master charge hold the condom with the iPod / Brain massage through my prostate, oh my God.”
Legendary hip-hop producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura brings his talents to the album, crafting funky, bass-heavy beats, orchestral rhythms and the perfect amount of weirdness in synth sounds that feeds off Dr. Octagonecologyst over two decades later. The creepy cadence of violins in “Operation Zero” match that of “Blue Flowers”, while the thumping bass in “Power of the World (S Curls)” gives off a “3000” vibe. “3030 Meets the Doc – Pt. 1” is the highlight of Moosebumps, featuring a Del the Funky Homosapien collaboration performing under the Deltron 3030 persona (who Nakumara has also worked with). The seamless verses from both rappers are matched by The Automator’s sci-fi infused instrumental, featuring a simple yet catchy dissonant piano rhythm to support the two powerhouses.
Nakumara does experiment with sounds in a few tracks. At one end of the spectrum, “Flying Waterbed”, Dr. Octagon’s version of a “love song”, has a dreamy soundscape with a soft guitar riff accompanied by brass and orchestra, while the other end has the producer go for a heavy metal setup in the song “Karma Sutra”, which rides on a generic distorted guitar riff for the entire song. Both tracks feel a little too out of place, especially for a group who has spent 20+ years crafting and mastering their own sound.
DJ Qbert’s scratching on Moosebumps remains solid throughout the entire LP, with every song dedicating one to two minutes to solos. “Bear Witness IV”, serving as an intermission track, is a four and a half-minute instrumental piece with Qbert going all out on turntables, a worthy sequel to Dr. Octagonecologyst’s “Bear Witness”.
Despite a few forgettable tracks and a rather lackluster conclusion, the concept is still there. It’s an album that will cater more toward the original fans of the group, who will listen to this with a feeling of nostalgia, whereas many new listeners may struggle to find the appeal. Regardless, Moosebumps earns its spot in the Dr. Octagon saga.