Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-06-11


Fat Tony: Smart Ass Black Boy (Young One, 2013) Like so many alt types before him, the half-Nigerian Houston rapper relocates to Brooklyn--with no audible Nigeria in his flow and, beyond the slight drawl some young black New Yorkers also retain, not much Houston either. Or much alt, come to think on it. Mostly he recounts sexual-romantic and other contretemps--not conquests, not adventures, just situations, humanely and humorously understood, which some might say is kind of African after all. Even the lovely "Father's Day" has that vibe. The beats by his man Tom Cruz skip explicit melody to achieve textural continuity with electronically simulated and approximated drums, shakers, scrapers, and the like. All pretty homespun and imaginative. Like alt should be, come to think on it. A-

Young Fathers: Tape Two (Anticon, 2013) Say these three Scots--rapper-singers African-born blacks, beatmaker white Edinburgh native--cross Shabazz Palaces and Tricky, only they're dirtier sonically than either, and also more emotional, energetic, even tuneful. Noticing the range of such fundamentally grim lines as "Inside I'm feelin' dirty/It's only 'cause I'm hurtin'," "Work your life don't know why," "She's looking for love/She's looking for trouble/In the wrong places," "She couldn't give a fuck if the exchange rate's down," you'll soon feel how all those slight musical differentials hoist the group's collective spirit, and how courageously the music's depressive candor strengthens their will to be alive. "We can unite ourselves"? I wouldn't bet on it. But a stirring effect regardless. A-

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