Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Romeo Must Die [Virgin, 2000]
I'm not beatwise enough to swear that Timbaland is the first cause of all these tracks, but for sure all articulate a genrewide reaction to the textural overkill of the Wu-Tang imperium--a reaction that's now gone on so long I bet something else replaces it soon. So rather than a key to the future, take this boldly amelodic soundtrack as a summing up and Timbaland's titular executive production as an ascension into the noble realm of middle management. Note that all the lead voices and subproducers strutting their stuff add indispensable variety, and that it's singers rather than rappers--executive producer Aaliyah, Playa hiding the best cut in the 13 slot, the well-monikered Destiny's Child--who provide the high points. Are their half-tunes the future? Or is it possible that the earnest meaning mongers of the putatively old-school underground will pick up on a minimalism every bit as spare and considerably more meaningful than the retreads they're riding? A-