Around 1987, they were already the ‘baddest crew’ in the New York Hip-Hop club circuit: Kool Keith, Ced Gee, Moe Love, and T.R. Love, better known as The Ultra Magnetic MC’s. No music videos, no CDs, not even LPs, but a half dozen 12-inch singles that, as later would be revealed, formed one of the key foundations of the new-school rap scene. Alongside BDP’s ‘Criminal Minded’ (co-produced by Ced Gee), Eric B & Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full,’ and PE’s ‘Yo! Bum Rush the Show,’ their debut album ‘Critical Beatdown’ is among the unparalleled East Coast Hip-Hop classics of the 1980s. After that, the rap pioneers from The Bronx went silent for five years.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever heard his lyrics that this had to do with the treatment of Kool Keith’s mental state in one of the New York institutions. Just like the other existentialists-cum laude, from the likes of Van Gogh, Nietzsche, etc., his thoughts display a balance between unmatched brilliance and utter madness. But it probably even had much more to do with that wicked music industry.

Wikipedia: ”However, he later said that the idea that he was institutionalized came from a flippant remark made during an interview, and he never expected the story to become so well known.”

The expression is purely abstract, sometimes reminiscent of Lucebert for Dutch scholars, but it is a style in itself. Together with the real hardcore sounds of Hip-Hop scientist-producer Ced Gee, the supporting raps of T.R. Love, and the cuts and scratches of DJ Moe Love on the 1 & 2, they become high art from another galaxy, peace 2 cpt. Kirk. Having evolved into a genuine cult phenomenon, they returned in ’92 with the LP ‘Funk Your Head Up,’ an underrated album with plenty of loops and samples, of which only the remix hit ‘Poppa Large’ manages to break through – the accompanying music video shows Kool Keith in a straitjacket. So far, we have two albums with two distinct sounds under the banner of two different record labels, and now in ’93? Album, sound, and record label number three; completely different and still uniquely Ultra; excellent.

Drum loops and funk samples are largely abandoned by the Ultra band themselves; yes, together with four other gentlemen, they now create their own sounds. In response to the prevailing trend of using heavy-funk loops and having nothing else to say except ‘I’m funky,’ which gives Hip-Hop a monotonous image, Keith clarifies the new style in the second track ‘Checkin My Style’ as follows: ‘I don’t need Bootsy Collins, Chic, Zapp, Anthrax, and others. On four other tracks Godfather Don takes charge of production with a somewhat more dark sound on it.

The statements are generally strongly opposed to the infiltration of other music styles that seem to take over everything that works commercially in Hip-Hop and then exploit it without ethics. Just like in Amerikkka, where this seems to be happening in all other areas, by the way. In the track ‘Saga of Dandy, The Devil & Day.’ They throw the subject of ‘Black Baseball’ in the listener’s face, once again a sad story regarding human rights in the US. They also take aim at rappers who rely on trendy gimmicks, fake gangsters, and affirm that Star Trek is still the best science fiction series in the world.

In summary, this album seems to be an internal complaint aimed at (at least) 50% of today’s Hip-Hop crews and, not to forget, the candy rappers from the R&B genre. The lost sons are urged to be positive, creative, and original. Why? Because the Ultra Magnetic MC’s are the forefathers (or rather, overgreatgrandfathers) of this music and therefore deserve respect.

“Don’t make it difficult, don’t be scared, bring it down to earth and be an obedient horseman. Buy it, including the first two albums, because they are dope.”


Published in Dutch in Holland Nieuws 1993


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