Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2018-01-19

2018-01-19

Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (Pro Era/Cinematic Music, 2017) Interrupting a catalogue that's essentially an ongoing autobiography to preach to the disenfranchised in the year of the coup, it makes sense for Flatbush's finest to reverse the normal hip-hop sequencing strategy of starting raw and sneaking in anything soft or conscious at the end. The first half here starts almost sweet, cushioning such messages as "In the land of the free it's full of freeloaders / Leave us dead in the street to be their organ donors" but also "Tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful" with crooning, chorales, r&b grooves. Still, I get happier myself when six street-flavored tracks toughen the second half up and cameos change it up: guttural Meechy Darko, Chronixx representing for Ethiopia, Schoolboy Q leaving his penis out of this. And real-versus-fake brags are beyond tired, a rhymer this literate has a right to go after the "ad lib rapping" of Soundcloud freestylers, especially while scoring points like "I need dead presidents to represent me / Cause I never knew a live one that represent me" and "Nowadays they hangin' us by a different tree / Branches of the government / I can name all three." Inspirational Verse: "Fuck Donald Trump." A-

Big K.R.I.T.: 4eva Is a Long Time (Multi Alumni, 2017) His generic superstar dreams as over as his Def Jam deal, he's free to make the most of the friendly drawl, good heart, and garden-variety ambition we went for to begin with ("Bury Me in Gold," "Big Bank") ***

Playboi Carti: Playboi Carti (AWGE/Interscope, 2017) If Migos are the Beatles, this diamond-collecting pretty boy crosses the Raspberries and the Archies. A pimp-identified Blood or vice versa whose idea of social consciousness is not to drink lean and drive and whose idea of a thrill is meeting Raf Simons (look it up, I had to), he is definitely, like they type, FUN. His playful flow careless of consonants, Carti makes exactly as much as he should of spare beats that ease from the faux flute of "dothatshit!" to the faux rhinoceros-huff of "Lame Niggaz." Nahmean? A-

Eminem: Revival (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope/Goliath, 2017) Much cleverer than lemmings claim, bluntly and intelligently political too, but so received in its cartoon misogyny and pop grandeur you know he felt irrelevance bearing down even before #MeToo killed this album on the vine ("Untouchable," "Chloraseptic," "Like Home") **

Vic Mensa: The Autobiography (Roc Nation, 2017) Moderately fluent rapper and observant storyteller reminds us yet again that conscious brothers dog around too ("Down for Some Ignorance," "Heaven on Earth") **

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