Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-11-04


J Cole: Cole World: The Sideline Story (Roc Nation/Columbia, 2011) Smart about abortion's complexities and MLK's infidelities and weed's propensities, so aware of how "mornin'" spawns "moanin'" and "wet shit" swallows "next shit" that the sex rhymes hit a nerve, toned up by Drake and Jay-Z's 16s not to mention Trey Songz's and Missy Elliott's hooks, he's worth the shot Jay couldn't resist giving him. But he's still not comfortable enough or clever enough. Ask yourself, kid--are you having fun yet? If not, why not? Ultimately, isn't that what flow is about? B+

Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do (Universal Republic, 2011) The best punk revivalists understand that without catchy songs they might never have fallen for the style to begin with. Ditto the best honky tonk revivalists. Soul revivalists, not so much. So maybe Detroiter Andrew Cohen's civically revivalist Motown/Ford homage inspired him to hone a bunch of hooks and get an assembly line up and running. What we're hearing here is the Temptations turning into the Delfonics--the way his midrange gives up the verse and his falsetto takes the chorus is as nice as his boyish sexism. In the best song, he spills his coffee and misses his bus yet is lifted by a cellphone call where she says she loves him. In a good one Snoop Dogg sings. A-

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