Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-06-28


Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap (free download, 2013) His flow a cartoon whine, his wordplay wittily associative, his affect educated ghetto, and his main life experiences rising in the rap game, zonking on cannabis and lysergic, and surviving a battle zone, he projects an anxiety that has recognizable cognates among alt-rock waste-os with a lot less to be afraid of. Amusing though he and his yelp can be, I like him best when anxiety is a mood rather than a subject, particularly on the quasi-political track hidden behind "Pusha Man"--"Paranoia," an anti-summer song, because summer's when people gets shot. I also welcome the two-and-a-half minute "interlude" that praises, yup, "falling in love"--and the one that proves "Clean Up Woman" is his favorite song. A-

Homeboy Sandman: Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent (Stones Throw, 2013) The guy who cashes "checks for packs of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked" is so skilled he risks being too smart for his own good--a little like Aesop Rock, except that a) he's not white and b) he's not an obscurantist. He wants to set his people on the right path and keeps thinking up explicit ways to say so. But none of them have gotten near that goal so far, not even theoretically, as they might if his skills included the ability to rise to actual hits, as opposed to pleasurable musicality, and also to sink to them. Not that that kind of skill comes any easier than the rhyming and rapping he's so good at. But I'm struck by my favorite song on this EP, "Lonely People," in which a raggedy "Eleanor Rigby" refrain flexes against verses that begin: "Look at all these wannabe famous people/All they talk about is famous people/Every statement be defaming people." True enough, obviously. But it makes me wonder whether fame is really something he's willing to go for. B+

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