When Kool Keith, once of the legendary Ultramagnetic MC's, emerged with his Dr. Octagon persona 10 years ago, it was literally unlike anything the hip-hop world had ever heard before.

When Kool Keith, once of the legendary Ultramagnetic MC's, emerged with his Dr. Octagon persona 10 years ago, it was literally unlike anything the hip-hop world had ever heard before. Those who knew him from such classic Ultramag LPs as "Critical Beatdown" and "The Four Horsemen" were cognizant of Keith's will to be a bit weird on the mic. And though it was sworn that no drugs were ingested during its recording, the sheer absurdist nature of the MC's rhymes, coupled with the otherworldly production of Dan the Automator, the psychedelic scratching of DJ Q-Bert and the odd sample from the underappreciated Chris Elliott star vehicle "Cabin Boy," "Dr. Octagynecologist" confirmed Kool Keith's status as the Syd Barrett of hip-hop.

The fact that he waited until the 10th anniversary of the first Doc Oc album to release this long-awaited sequel sure sounds genuine enough on paper. But when you keep in mind that the man has not dropped a true heater since 1999's "Black Elvis/Lost in Space," or even a halfway decent album for that matter, "The Return of Dr. Octagon" suffers from the classic case of "too little, too late."

Since the dual 2000 release of the awful "Matthew" and "Pimp To Eat," his overblown side project with Ice-T as the Analog Brothers, Kool Keith has dropped nothing but disappointment, and at an alarmingly steady rate. Unfortunately, "Return" finds Keith continuing his descent towards mediocrity. Those desperate to keep the hope of a "return to form" alive might find solace in a track like "Ants," featuring unknown turntablist DJ Dexter, or the Princess Superstar-assisted "Eat It." But for who rediscovered the hip-hop sound through the quixotic genius of the first Doc Oc will see this release as just another reason to stick with their faithful copy of "Sex Style" to fix their jones for classic Kool Keith. -- Ron Hart