Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-01-22


Public Enemy: The Evil Empire of Everything (Enemy, 2012) This is going along fine, politicizing indefatigably with cameo help from super-scratcher Davy DMX, saxophone pro Gerald Albright, Otis-channeling soul sister Sheila Brody, and Ziggy Marley 10,000 dutchies on, when finally, midway through, here comes some madman with the deeply stoopid "31 Flavors" and you realize it wasn't going along fine enough. Flav even contributes a superior Otis homage, about cars, and sells the irresistible "Broke Diva," in which Chuck joins an attack on gold-diggers I have the feeling Mrs. Chuck could do without. To compensate, the boss ropes the celebreality money-grubber into an attack on "Fame." B+

Public Enemy: Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp (Enemy, 2012) After a decade-plus of preaching the singles gospel and trying to outsmart a digital music system he saw coming and secretly fears has no room for fiftysomethings, Chuck D gathers his forces for two albums released back-to-back--numbers five and six of the new millennium for all his singles talk, and like most of them, pretty damn good. This one's preferred because there's more Flav on it. Preacher Chuck needs William Drayton's nuttiness no matter how corrupt it's become, in part because its corruption is a corrective to all of Chuck's conceptualizing. Although young beatmakers echo the old Bomb Squad whomp, the preacher has lost some boom vocally, and like his cadences, the politics are old-school--a term he disparages, preferring "classic rap." But as he explains at length in "still necessary" liner notes unavailable from iTunes, which had an exclusive on this music for months before physicals became available from the evil empire of online everything, the times justify those old politics more than ever. A-

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