Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-09-20


Das Racist: Relax (Greedhead, 2011) Setting aside their dreams of biz advances and street glory, they form their own label to showcase a bunch of mostly alt-rock beats--meaning Chairlift and Yeasayer as opposed to MGMT--that reflect their actually existing cultural orientation and almost add up to a sound. Then they construct an album-not-mixtape around the theme of money, including the capital they accrued as they pursued their dreams. "Come to our shows and they're clapping again/Thank you my friends" isn't sarcastic, which doesn't mean it's devoid of irony or should be. "There's a brand new dance/Give us all your money/Everybody love everybody" is sarcastic. "Michael Jackson/A million dollars" is meta. "I ain't backing out till I own a bank to brag about" is protest. "I'm at the White Castle"/"I don't see you here dog" is follow-up. "Your booty is a lifeline" is a religious interlude. A

Ice Cube: The Essentials (Priority, 2008) The card-carrying O.G. and ultimate fake gangsta dares you to distinguish among the very intelligent guy, the writer of talent, the committed role player, the cuddly comedy star, and the flat-out liar. Brazenly sharing just three 1992-1993 tracks with the same label's 2001 Greatest Hits--the swaggering "Check Yo Self," the peaceable "It Was a Good Day," and the doomed "What Can I Do?"--this downplays his hard act because hard is getting old, especially for him. It leads with two of hip-hop's great anti-moralizing sermons, the Snoop- and Lil Jon-powered "Go to Church" and the grinder's credo "A Bird in the Hand," then proceeds to his greatest song, the fact-filled paraplegic memoir "Ghetto Vet." It closes with "Dead Homiez" and "Cold Places," two distinct and convincing arguments for keeping ya head up and ya ass off the street. A-

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