Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-08-13

2013-08-13

Jay-Z: Magna Carta Holy Grail (Roc-A-Fella, 2013) After too many plays, this holding action won me over. Deeper than catchy, Timbaland's music is the precondition on an album that pits Basquiat against Blue--black man as artistic rebel versus black man as family stalwart. But the breakthrough only came when I started grinning every time I heard him advise his daughter regarding the Basquiat in his kitchen: "Lean on the shit, Blue, you own it." And though later he swears, "I love my niggas more than my own blood," nowhere is black more beautiful than in the person of his own wife: "Sleep every night with Mona Lisa/The modern version with better features." In short, family wins both times. Give it up to the one where Beyonce pledges gangsta devotion and, best of all, the one where the would-be billionaire looks back at the betrayals of his own departed head of family with something that feels like dread. B+

The Lonely Island: The Wack Album (Republic, 2013) Struggling for cred as aging rappers will, they stumble occasionally. Some of these ideas obviously seemed funnier when they brainstormed them--the Bloomberg rap that could be any cartoon mayor's, the incomprehensible "Spell It Out," the flat conceit of not giving a "honk"--and many come down well on the amusing side of hilarious. But most are amusing, and a few--the Robyn-fueled dance instructions of "Go Kindergarten," the manly boasts of "Diaper Money," the you-only-live-once-(so-watch-it) advisory that builds to "Two words about furniture: killing machines"--are as inspired as anything on Incredibad, where they wouldn't have fit because the rappers were younger then. Best DVD extra: the gay marriage-themed "Spring Break Anthem." B+

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