Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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STEINSKI
What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective
Illegal Art

Law-breaking mix master conjoined history and culture using a razor blade and analog tape

Once, turntable connoisseurs scrounged for crappy cassettes of this compilation's first three tracks. Because New York ad man Steve Stein cut his chops before sample clearance, his music is a utopian version of how culturally cross-referential--and funny--sound collage might be: Incredible Bongo Band, meet Groucho Marx. His collaborations with engineer Douglas Di Franco, a.k.a. Double Dee--the winning entry in a 1983 master-mixing contest plus "Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)" and "Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop)"--sparked the likes of DJ Shadow, who christened his first record "Lesson 4." At track six, Double Dee departs and Steinski's groove becomes more literary, producing rich music-and-spoken-word essays on the JFK assassination, Desert Storm, 9/11 and sexual intercourse. Not all connect, but a bonus disc, the soon-vanished 2002 full-length Nothing to Fear, compensates. Buy this before it vanishes, too.

Blender, July 2008