Filed under: Bronx Bombers,Guest Drops,In Search Of...,Interviews
Written by: Phillip Mlynar
Phillip ‘Dive Bar’ Mlynar caught-up with Kool Keith for the Village Voice back in June and asked after the whereabouts the ever-elusive Godfather Don:
Earlier this summer, Kool Keith was standing up at a dive bar in Midtown Manhattan nursing a glass of chardonnay in his hand. I was there to interview Keith, which turned out to be a process that largely involved listening to a bunch of lengthy speeches phrased in the rapper’s own kooky way. At one point Keith mentioned Godfather Don, and I managed to ask him what happened to the cult producer and rapper. Keith obliged with an answer that involved “night-time gangster jazz,” Chinese food, and a kennel of rappers.
Phillip: Where’s Godfather Don these days?
Kool Keith: Well Godfather Don went into church and stuff and starting going into the gospel stuff. Don plays rock. Not too many people know that ’cause Don raps good and had a lot of good beats. Me and him was cool ’cause we would hang out after he got off work and get some Chinese food. Don didn’t care what I say and I didn’t care what he say, like we ain’t never like make a record like, “We got to talk about wine for this whole album.” We’ll get a drink, get some Chinese food, go to Brooklyn. We was making records like that in Brooklyn all of the time, just staying sharp.
Don and Pete Rock had similar sounds, that similar type of jazz, but they both was different programmers; Don had that crazy jazz but Pete Rock had his own sound. Don had like that dope street jazz, that night-time gangster jazz, a lot of that type of stuff. He had a lot of good songs that I rapped on. The way we did it at Don’s was we had one of those sharp type mics with the little cord that rapped straight into the two-inch so it gave me a high-pitched sound. It wasn’t like with a wet mic, it was raw. It’s like Marley Marl had a mic at his house when I went to tape “Ego Trippin'” over there. Shan and them always used that mic. It’s like a cheap mic but you sound good. You know, [raps] “Hip-hop, it started out…” Kane and all of them used it; it was sharp and crisp. You can tell it was cheap but it was the mic to use for the moment. It wasn’t the $100,000 mic that Patti LaBelle sings on, it was a rap mic and it worked.
I brought Percee P over there. I used to see Percee a lot downtown. Percee used to always be downtown, standing by Fat Beats or standing by 42nd Street. I told Percee one time, “Percee, you can expand and go different places.” After a while he got signed by Peanut Butter Wolf and Stones Throw but me and Don kinda co-signed Percee ’cause we brought him into Brooklyn and after that Percee’s career took off.
Me and Don broke a lot of rappers. I broke a lot of rappers myself. I had H-Bomb and Marc Live. It’s like I had a kennel of dogs that turned on me. It’s like I had a kennel of pitbulls that bit me back when I went to feed them. We had a training camp for a lot of rappers. Then basically they’re in the streets. Sir Menelik… When I was Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagon was like the proven thing. I used to read magazines sitting at home and people said, “Well this is the new Kool Keith but it ain’t Doom.” Magazines was coming out they face saying something about me, like what I should be doing. You had a bunch of rappers out there trying to be scientific so I hurried up and did Octagon. I did a whole sweep like a broom on everybody and then my street credibility came back in peoples’ faces with me running with the whole rap underground. The Rupert Murdoch thing, Rawkus, and that started Talib Kweli and Mos Def and the Lyricist Lounge and Eastern Conference, so me and Menelik were like co-founders for that. A lot of labels always needed to get me on their tracks before they could launch a label. That’s what happened. We did that a lot, me and Don. We opened all the doors. We did the late-night shows and all these different rappers. We turned the light bulb on for all of that stuff.
Did Don ever mention something called Group War Committee to you?
Well Scaramanga came out. This is recently?
No, back in the late-’90s.
They did that. I talk to Menelik sometimes, but Menelik changed, he don’t want to rap anymore. I think he secretly does. That got weird also. They did tracks but they kept them under the radar. Like I said, I had a lot of dogs that breeded and went on their own venture. I had a training camp of rappers. It’s like Larry Holmes has a training camp. Some of my dogs got hit by a car, some of my dogs the ASPCA took ’em, some of them didn’t make it. I helped raise a kennel.
Where did you used to go and eat Chinese food with Don?
We used to get chinese food in Brooklyn, like the last stop on the 2 train in Flatbush. We’d go and record two or three songs at night, work until midnight, knock out songs, then get the food.
So what happened to Don?
I don’t know what Don did. I was talking to him. I think he’s around for me on a track… But we all go into a cold spell sometimes. I would never do it. I never go into a cold spell. It’s always with they woman or they girl and they lose their ethic. It could be depression. But it’s a different day. It’s good to go through the experiences of all of that.
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