Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Let loose in a studio, young rhymers and mixers go crazy. Sixteen titles, 70 minutes, why should they stop? This is their big chance. But brimming over with creativity takes time, and on their second or third try some rappers figure out that meanwhile they're not getting paid. Solution: interim EPs with the welcome side effect of concentrating the attractions of such motormouths as Ice Cube and Chubb Rock.

Digital Underground's This Is an EP Release (Tommy Boy) doesn't offer a surefire novelty like The Humpty Dance, but it also avoids the dead spots and collegiate irritations of the Sex Packets album. The leadoff Same Song grooves on an insinuating new jack funk not unlike the new backing for the remixed Sex Packets, virtual reality for erotomanes that's far more seductive in this incarnation. And just to shake things up the there's a wedding song worthy of Threepenny Opera.

In an altogether different world, believe them, are the guys whose edits and bonus beats pad out three or four songs/poems into the nine-track Lifers Group (Hollywood Basic). I don't know why they're so stingy--they've got plenty of time where they live. But maybe they're a little bummed stuck out in Rahway State Prison. Which is why they sound so scary, so furious, so convinced that they've totally fucked up the only chance--the only life--they had. This is the real gangsta rap, a brutally stripped-down representation of the rape, death, and other daily indignities of prison life.

Playboy, Mar. 1991


Feb. 1991 Apr. 1991