I'll admit – I didn't listen to much hip-hop growing up. Sure, NWA, Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest were important to my young ears, but once I hit middle school and discovered rock 'n' roll my tastes changed. That is until I heard Dr. Octagonecologyst. Suddenly I'd stumbled upon the alternative to all the thug rap that my friends were listening to. This was weird. It wasn't obsessed with bling, bitches and killing people who questioned your authority (though it touched on these subjects in its own warped way). And, most importantly, it had a sense of humor. With Dr. Octagonecologyst, Dr. Octagon, aka Kool Keith, revealed himself as a David Lynch of rap; relishing in absurdity without losing sight of a single, brilliant image.
In 1996, seemingly out of nowhere, Dr. Octagon was born - half shark-alligator, half man. He created a hospital that specialized in otherworldly surgeries ("we specialize in any kind of rectal rebuilding, relocated saliva glands, and of course, moose bumps") and warped sex therapy ("girl let me touch you there, I wanna feel you.") He was from another planet (Jupiter) before Outkast put out ATLiens. The beats (by then unknown Dan the Automator) - part sci-fi, part horror movie - and DJ Q-Bert's deft scratching abilities perfectly matched Kool Keith's beyond-left-field lyrics.
There are stand out tracks (e.g. "3000" and "Blue Flowers") on Dr. Octagonecologyst, but this is a true long player. Furthermore, unlike most rap albums where the interludes grow stale after one listen, on Dr. Octagonecologyst they complete the image. With samples from obscure porno films and hilarious ER-like sketches that introduce tools like "scissors, hammer, flame" and proclaim "ok, getting ready to stab - jam it in!" the overall insanity of it is endlessly listenable.
In short, Dr. Octagonecologyst introduced an oddly compelling alternative to mainstream rap. And, even though the album didn't have a serious message, its willingness to push limits paved the way for other non-traditional rap groups to do their thing (Outkast, Gorillaz, etc.). Most importantly, it showcased a young team of future hip-hop pioneers getting everything right. Dr. Octagonecologyst is a classic and will sound fresh for decades to come.