Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

OLU DARA
Neighborhoods
Atlantic

On his second album as a leader, 59-year-old Olu Dara belatedly finds his footing as the black chronicler 1998's In the World: From Natchez to New York was hailed for revealing. Instead of resting on his laurels as an assured avant-garde trumpeter and the father of the rapper Nas, Dara figures out how to put together a fully effective album of urban folk music, as the lilting Afrogroove of an attention-grabbing lead track clears the way for the steady funk to come. Dara never approaches the stylistic distinctiveness of the Delta blues singers whose rough voices are supposed to excuse his own. But his songwriting accomplishes something new: it records for posterity the subculture he's seen. Twenty years on, the richly detailed "Neighborhoods," "Herbman," and "Bell & Ponce (At the Movie Show)" will stand as history lessons, while "Strange Things," "I See the Light," and Joseph Spence's indelible "Out on the Rolling Sea" evoke a distinctly African African-American worldview, suffused with the inexplicable.

Rolling Stone, 2001