Is it too early make a nomination for Rap Album of the Year? Maybe, but …
Kool Keith is an enigma, seemingly by design. Keith has rapped for 32 years, and has rapping credits as six different names (most notoriously as Dr. Octagon). His sheer longevity to have 32 years worth of things to say should be admired, regardless of the hit-or-miss quality of his discography. But he’s back yet again with Feature Magnetic.
The intro track serves as a warning to “cheesecake rappers,” and readies the audience for madness, a “journey (we’ve) never taken before.” Unfortunately, the product we get throughout Feature Magnetic isn’t quite as unforgettable as we’re warned. What arrives is a traditional East Coast rap album, anchored by gritty boom-bap beats reminiscent of New York during its heyday as the Mecca of hip-hop. The problem with the album is that we’ve heard it all before.
Ultimately, the album’s shortcomings might be a product of the genre’s evolution through the years since Keith’s 1984 introduction. I can actually imagine Feature Magnetic fitting right in with the mid-’90s iterations of the art form, and maybe being celebrated in that era. But in 2016, we expect more from our emcees, politically and sonically. The blatant homophobia and misogyny present on Feature Magnetic wouldn’t appear so overtly or crudely on, for instance, a Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole project.
However, the album is not entirely a graveyard of recycled rap ideas. I’ll welcome a mention of Voltron on pretty much any rap album, and an MF DOOM feature is bound to perk up the ears of any hip-hop head. The track “Super Hero” represents a high point for the listener as Keith raps about superheroes alongside notorious rap villain MF DOOM. Keith and his features also hit a note within the modern political landscape on tracks “Peer Pressure” and “Tired” as they rap about the struggles of children and the lack of progress made for the youth of today in impoverished parts of the country.
As a whole, Feature Magnetic is a bit boring and a bit forgettable. It doesn’t build off of East Coast tradition; it merely mimics it.»
– Tyler Sanford