Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Vic Mensa: There's Alot Going On [Stateside, 2016]
The Spotify hit on this seven-track placeholder for Mensa's Roc Nation debut is, what a surprise, its sole sex track: I'll tie you up, you bring Kiki along, etc. But give him credit for ignoring the crack trade--his drug songs are cautionary tales about Adderall addiction and dropping acid in the studio. Credit too for the shape and spark he found rejoining producer and homeboy Papi Beatz. And all respect to "16 Shots," a Black Lives Matter anthem from a Chicagoan still outraged at the murder of Laquan McDonald so many police murders ago. The biracial son of a Ghanaian economics professor, Mensa isn't as smart as he thinks he is--"Everybody tryna be American idols/My X factor is I'm the only one with the voice" is supposed to be clever? But he's made something of his advantages, confessing and accusing in street language that doesn't downplay his literacy, articulating so conversationally you'd think he was just talking to ya. And he's definitely smart enough to know that the most riveting words here are spoken without rhyme or rhythm by McDonald's lawyer, Jeffrey Nuslund--69 seconds impassively, objectively describing every brutal detail of a videotaped attack that took so much less time than that. A-