Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-02-01


The Coup: Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack (Interscope, 2018) Six of the nine tracks on an album that breakthrough director Boots Riley couldn't resist tacking onto his debut flick are boosted by guest stars, including undeniables Tune-Yards, Killer Mike, and E-40, although the two Janelle MonŠes seem a mite thin for his baked-in Oakland funk. And all three Boots-alones are in his ideologically revolutionary tradition, which now goes back a quarter century. "We Need an Eruption"? "Level It Up"? He means those things, as he always has, although of course he's also glad "level" rhymes with "Neville"--Aaron, to be specific. A-

Czarface: Czarface Meets Metal Face (Silver Age, 2018) MF Doom adds not quite decisive comedy/insanity/gravitas to Deck/7L/Esoteric's not quite supergroup ("Badness of Madness," "MF Czar," "Captain Brunch") ***

G Herbo: Humble Beast (Machine, 2017) Chicago, street, basic, reporter, sounds older than he is ("Malcolm," "Red Snow") ***

Saba: The Bucket List Project (Saba Pivot, 2016) A mixtape that does its honest best to focus his subset's goals in a world way more mixed up than the mixtape is ("World in My Hands," "Most") **

Saba: Care for Me (Saba Pivot, 2018) Noname, Donnie Trumpet, and pathfinder Chance the Rapper, Saba makes humanist hip-hop like few outside Chance's Chicago orbit--Homeboy Sandman, Atmosphere, and fellow Chicagoans Serengeti and Open Mike Eagle come to mind, not many others. I don't mean color-blind or race-neutral--no humanist with a brain would make that race-negative mistake. I just mean what these days is called, well, relatable. Every song on this official debut is rooted in Saba's hood and brushed if not haunted by his murdered cousin and partner John Walt--"Jesus died for our sins, Walter got killed for a coat." But it's also haunted by the sexual stress most male rappers are too fake to admit, by the career anxieties of someone who gave up an Ivy League scholarship to pursue music like his absent father. And it's warmed by an unassuming, conversational flow fitted to beats that favor naturalistic keyboards and percussion. A gorgeous and affecting record. A-

1800 Seconds: Curated by Pusha T (Mass Appeal, 2018) "Curated" my ass--just 10 young rappers who flatter the boss by imitating him, proving that terse is no more surefire a concept than anything else (Cartel Count Up, "Make It Count"; Nita Jonez, "Rockin Heels") *

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