Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-02-08

2011-02-08

Drake: Thank Me Later (Universal/Motown, 2010) Neither thug nor thug wannabe, he's plenty talented, but pretty shallow and without much focus as a mack. That's why his very first official album, pleasing and hookful though it be, consistently bemoans the confusing emoluments and accoutrements of fame. Given his limitations, his famous friends are a mixed benefit, because they show him up. Weezy schools him with wheezy jokes from jail. Nicki Minaj's nasty mouth comes as a turn-on. And Jay-Z's 16 takes up the self-doubt theme not to explore that narrow seam of his expanded consciousness but to show the young man how it's done: "And since no good deed go unpunished/I'm not as cool with niggaz as I once was/I once was cool as the Fonz was/But these bright lights turned me to a monster." B+

Jazmine Sullivan: Love Me Back (J, 2010) Although overdoing the soulful melodrama doesn't beat overdoing the suave cool as decisively as the retro-nuevo believe, the songwriting here is a big extra difference maker, with enough pop moves to lighten the overall mood. Except on a multi-sampled opener shared by a record-seeking 19 creative partners, Sullivan is front and center, role-playing with unflinching intelligence: fluttery in "Stuttering," steadfast in "Love You Long Time," unable to break it off in "U Get on My Nerves," giddy to be free in "Luv Back," sure-likes-to-ball in "Don't Make Me Wait." Sure these could all be personal history, with the crack whore/domestic abuser one added for consciousness points. But it's simpler just to wish every pro was such an astute student of the female condition. A-

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