Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Run-D.M.C.: Together Forever: Greatest Hits 1983-1991 [Profile, 1991]
Use your programming buttons--the jumbled order, intended like the title to conceal how over they are, cheats them instead. Played chronologically, the music coheres--their style evolves naturally, switching gears only when they begin sweating street cred--and the rhymes lay out a tragedy. A pair of streetwise college kids inveigh against a scourge before anybody has an inkling it's going to happen. Preaching and demonstrating self-reliance, they start with a beatbox and two stentorian voices--"Unemployment at a record high"--and then incorporate just enough guitar to turn the market around. As they get famous, their boasts begin to sound out of touch--live '83 they're all camaraderie, live '84 it's already like the audience is down there somewhere--and by '87 or so their message seems formulaic. But given their bona fides, it retains a certain credibility--even the useless 1989 spiel "Pause" (rhymes with "Don't break laws") sounds like them. By the time they check out with the scary tale of a crack shooting on "The Ave.," they're packing nines--and unemployment 1983-style seems like heaven, or at least not-hell. A