Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-04-19

2019-04-19

6lack: East Atlanta Love Letter (LVRN/Interscope, 2018) The only rapper ever to snugli his daughter on his CD cover starts his second album raunchy and then, with moral suasion aforethought, gets over it. "No shit, I treat my dick like a loaded gun/Point that shit away, these hoes gonna blow what comes," goes track two, and for a while he wonders whether his girl loves him enough to warrant giving that up. But over 14 tuneful R&B-raps, the answer is a yes soconvincing that not only do Khalid and J. Cole shore up his slow songs but Future and Offset throw in a rhyme or two. The convincers, however, are the three women who get their say. There's Tierra Whack: "Dick is a distraction." There's LightSkinKeisha: "He ain't gonna fuck with me sometimes, he gon' fuck with me all motherfucking times, period." And best of all there's the empathetic Mereba: "You were never taught how to say loving things and caring things/You were just taught what had to be said." A-

Brockhampton: Iridescence (Question Everything/RCA, 2018) Plenty talent, sure; limitless ambition, absolutely; chart-topping major-label debut, fact; here's where it all comes together, nah. ("Weight," "J'Ouvert") **

Fat Tony: 10,000 Hours (Don Giovanni, 2018) Sincere, smart Houston alt-rapper goes pop/r&b, which isn't as smart as it might be if tricking up the sincere with the cute doesn't come naturally. ("Charles," "Rumors") *

Khalid: Free Spirit (RCA, 2019) Stuck with the impossible task of maintaining the matter-of-fact candor that made his debut a teenpop milestone, the double-platinum 21-year-old is too smart to try--and also too decent to sink to the male entitlement and wages-of-fame angst Biebs and so forth fobbed off on their legions. Right, he's not only getting laid and enjoying his new house in Encino, he's also having trouble adjusting to success. Some might even call him anxious. But he retains the gift of expressing his feelings in songs that cut star-time inevitabilities down to human scale. So however beyond us his privileges and woes may be, we at least feel we share a species with the guy--truisms like "Couldn't have known it would ever be this hard," "I didn't text you because I was workin'," and "If the love feels good it'll work out" are hardly exclusive to the rich and famous. Note, however, that because Khalid now enjoys access to pricier musical materials than when he was in high school, the hooks pack more texture than tune, making this the rare album that comes fully into its own when you up the volume. A-

Khalid: Suncity (RCA EP, 2018) In seven engaging-to-amorphous tracks but only five songs, hitmaking teen tries to figure out not life, not love, just what's left for him to say about them. ("Suncity," "Saturday Nights") ***

Kyle: Light of Mine (Independently Popular/Atlantic, 2018) Best innocent act in r&b, with girlish female cameos nailing two fetching numbers. ("Ikuyo," "Games") ***

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