The Brooklyn-bred MC is best known for collaborating with local producer Dan Nakamura and turntablist QBert on Dr. Octagonecologyst. Besides assuming the persona of the sleazy Dr. Octagon, Keith has also reimagined himself as an intergalactic Black Elvis and the scatologically minded Dr. Dooom, inhabiting a world of sex, thugs, and shock 'n' roll. His 1997 release, Sex Style, may have set the ultimate high (or low) for raunch, out-ruding even 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell (the man responsible for "Me So Horny"); his 1999 LP as Dr. Dooom, First Come, First Served, was equally overwhelming in its lewdness.
Not surprisingly, Keith's show at Slim's last Wednesday night was filled to capacity. But, unfortunately for those fans, the artist never showed up. According to Slim's booker Dawn Holliday, the night was dicey from the get-go, as several members of Keith's crew caused problems. Around 11:30 p.m., one of Keith's posse, Jacky Jasper, announced that the rapper had been arrested on Mission Street.
"No one's believing it," Billy Jam, owner of the Hip Hop Slam label and an audience member, says of that moment. "I'm expecting Keith's going to come out in handcuffs with some women whipping him -- that's the kind of reputation he has."
Instead, the musicians slipped off the stage, saying they were going to "see what was happening." The next thing he knew, Jam says, Keith's collaborators were leaving. "I saw the bus screeching off; it was like something out of the movies," he laughs.
"In my opinion, they were very irresponsible, having left 400 people that could've rioted," Holliday says. (She called the police, just in case.) "This is the first time an artist has out-and-out not filled his commitment for a show -- and I've been here 14 years."
The crowd was understandably confused and angry, having paid up to $20 to see the headliner. Night Manager Toni Morgan went onstage to try to mollify the assembly, offering everyone a free pass to any upcoming Slim's show (save New Year's Eve or benefits). "It sucks, because people are going to go, 'Slim's ripped us off,'" Holliday says, "when, in reality, we were as ripped off as anyone."
A Slim's doorman told Jam that Keith's pals had "strong-armed" the club into giving them the rest of the money owed Keith, before high-tailing it out of there. The artist's manager, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the men took the money before realizing Keith wasn't going to perform. The next morning at around 3:30, says Holliday, Keith's tour manager returned to the club, gave back the money, and apologized, saying the rapper had been with a woman who'd been stopped for a DUI, and he'd gone to the station with her. (The SFPD has no record of arresting anyone named Keith Thornton that night, and the manager would only give Slim's the woman's first name, making the story impossible to corroborate.) Keith has offered to do a makeup date at the end of the tour, which has since made successful stops in Santa Cruz and Fort Collins, Colo. Needless to say, Holliday is uncertain about the suggestion. "I don't know what I'm going to do," she says.
Although as his manager says, "No one tried to do anything bad here," Keith does have a history of such incidents. Billy Jam recalls a European show at which the rapper failed to appear, leaving KutMasta Kurt to deliver excuses. And Spin recently included Keith's actions during a Lollapalooza tour -- when he wouldn't play until audience members filled a suitcase with cash -- in its list of the most embarrassing moments in rock history. While such disregard for his fans may not be shocking, his listeners' continued allegiance is. Maybe Keith's next Dr. Dooom LP could be called First Come, Under Served.