Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-08-27


Ab-Soul: Control System (Top Dawg download, 2012) "I've got 700 dollars from my last show/And I would spend it all on you," the most suburban of L.A.'s four-man Black Hippy posse/"supergroup" sings haltingly on the tellingly entitled "Empathy," and although initially I was impressed that he knew the word "chattel," in the end that 700 bucks was the clincher--that he can occasionally make some halfway decent money off his art, and that he's ready to blow it on love rather than blow or a blow job. Not that he's above imagining blow jobs like any other healthy young rapper--cf. "SOPA," which insofar as it's about the Online Piracy Act has a special place in its trickerating heart for porn sites. He's just a gifted kid who likes his weed and his words, which he twists with palpable delight around sparse synth beats musical enough to layer on some delight of their own. And then there's the closing trifecta: his beautiful ideals, his tragic life, and a scabrous Black Hippy remix for the fun of it. A-

Kendrick Lamar: Section.80 (Top Dawg download, 2011) The Dr. Dre-anointed Lamar isn't a guy who writes a lot of indelible songs yet, especially if you try to find them toward the top of his much-praised second album. Thus he's liable to leave the curious wondering what the fuss is about. But as I re-relistened I noticed myself perking up with every hook. Not that every track has or wants one, but that, for instance, the sung intros to the cosmetics debate "No Make-Up (Her Vice)," track four, and then the crack generation shout-out "Ronald Reagan Era," track seven, come as well-timed structural respites from his thoughtfully private to defensively street raps, which have their musicality too. And then, just when you're thinking not bad at all, come some songs. B+

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