Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Jungle Brothers are young (19, 20, 21) Afrocentrists from Afro-New York. After 1988's Straight Out the Jungle moved 200,000 sopies on a local label, Warners coughed up over a million including buyout, one hears, for the right to market Done by the Forces of Nature, and if it never breaks beyond rap radio the company could recoup on street and MTV exposure alone. Such are the economics of hip-hop these days, and let's hope the artists get a share, because these high school grads have their own sound and vision. Imagine De La Soul's shambling weirdness played casual rather than arch. Drawling funkily through well-observed narratives and rallying cries that retain a surprising gentleness even when they predict Judgment Day or deny that Columbus discovered America, the JBs bring the old black-music ideal of positivity to rap--an almost utopian musical rendition of a life spent sipping orange juice under the sun that'll probably make white people nervous anyway.

But not two 22-year-old white Afrocentrist sympathizers whose style is a good deal more militant than the JBs', maybe because they have more to prove. Though 3rd Bass came up in the same street and project culture that shaped their black brothers (check Product of the Environment), their desire to reach the hardcore rap community with The Cactus Album (Def Jam) goes up against rap's newly entrenched ethos of racial solidarity. No lovers of self-hatred, they have the guts to dis Nation of Islam as well as white supremacist dogma, and a pussy song called The Oval Office ("Lunch became filet of sole with tongue/Oval office work is never done") made me wonder whether Prime Minister Pete Nice took a John Donne seminar at Columbia. All of which suggests that 3rd Bass will do it their way if they do it it all. Good. In the rap community, that's usually the best way.

Playboy, Dec. 1989


Nov. 1989 Jan. 1990