Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-04-10


Big K.R.I.T.: 4Eva N a Day (free download, 2012) He was just Kritikal, but the Mississippi underground had trouble pronouncing that word--check out the consonant-averse "1986" intro to understand why--so he made it Big K.R.I.T., claimed it stood for King Remembered in Time, and continued a rapping career that imagined high school coaching as a fallback. No hip-hopper has ever been bigger on getting up when you're down and making every minute count. Could get tiresome, but on a no-cameos mixtape Def Jam couldn't clear, his proudly drawled, lucidly conceived preachments go undefeated. Almost every soulful track grew on me, with the clincher "Down & Out," one of his periodic explanations of why sometimes he sips and smokes instead of trying yet again. A-

Spoek Mathambo: Father Creeper (Sub Pop, 2012) Although I slotted this Soweto-raised 27-year-old's 2010 Mshini Wam as promising kwaito electro, I never imagined it promised a hip-hop record so dark it reveals his labelmate Shabazz Palaces for the arty pothead we can assume he is. Contra the nervous crits who claim to hear a "palpable feeling of hope" or "summery highlife melodies" (highlife, eh? I've heard of that--African, right?), even the sweet opener about the sexual maturation of a guy who was feeling it before his pubes came in ends ominously. After that come evocations of oppression only more brutal because they're sometimes dissociated--blood diamonds, why we hate our crap jobs, the deadening surrender of the tricking American hip-hop makes light of. The music suits because it's also dissociated--beaty enough to keep your foot tapping and your subconscious involved, but devoid of the escapist joy that is the miracle of so much Afropop produced from equally horrendous daily struggles. A

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