Dr. Octagon has remained the most celebrated, mythical alias of rap innovator Kool Keith, despite his objections to the attention it's garnered over his other work, as well as his multiple attempts to kill off the character. Since the release of the project's classic 1996 debut, two illegitimate follow-ups have appeared. 2004's Dr. Octagon, Pt. II was a straight-up bootleg, and 2006's The Return of Dr. Octagon, based on abandoned sessions from a proposed Resurrection of Dr. Octagon, was largely produced without Keith's involvement, and shouldn't be considered canonical. The Dr. Octagon persona surprisingly resurfaced on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2013 album Mosquito, and Keith continued performing songs from Dr. Octagonecologyst during his concerts. In 2017, Keith reunited with the Automator and DJ Q-Bert, the co-architects of the original album, for a string of live dates as Dr. Octagon, and the trio released the project's first true sequel in 2018.
Moosebumps: An Exploration into Modern Day Horripilation is partially named after one of the most memorable phrases from the debut, and the album immediately kicks into self-referential gear with "Octagon Octagon," which constantly loops a sample from Octagon's first single, "Earth People." Keith unleashes a torrent of everyday items which happen to have become octagon-shaped, serving as a spiritual successor to Ken Nordine's "Olive." From there, the album continues in the familiar Octagon style, with Keith delivering rapid-fire rhymes which encompass porno fantasies, sci-fi narratives, and inscrutable non-sequiturs. His lyrics are as bonkers as ever, and he clearly sounds more energized than he has on some of his less-heralded work. As expected from the Automator, the production is impressively dense and cinematic, filled with layers of eerie backing vocals, live drums, guitars, horns, and even tablas (on "Black Hole Son"), as well as loads of bugged-out scratching from Q-Bert. The smooth, lush "Flying Waterbed" is laced with a dazed chorus from Interpol's Paul Banks, and the Del-featuring "3030 Meets the Doc, Pt. 1" is a crossover episode between Octagon and Deltron 3030, seamlessly integrating the two story lines. It's hard to recapture the essence of a stone-cold classic, and despite the team's valiant efforts, nothing here sounds quite as inspiring, boldly futuristic, or even as revolting or grotesque as the original. Similar to sequel albums by other hip-hop oddballs such as Quasimoto and the aforementioned Deltron 3030, Moosebumps tries so hard to replicate the debut that it ends up sounding a bit formulaic, even with an expanded budget and a wider sonic scope. It's still an impressive effort, and worth checking out if you're already a fan, but newcomers absolutely need to hear the original first.