Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Political correctness is bad for music because music is nothing without pleasure and pleasure is too rare a thing to play by anybody's rules. But rejecting p.c. across the board is as stupid as imposing it that way; dangerous though those rules can be, they have their roots in real human pain. And I submit that neither Buju Banton's 'Til Shiloh (Loose Cannon) nor Shabba Ranks's A Mi Shabba (Epic) would be so pleasurable if it didn't strive for sensitivity and responsibility.

Ranks is dancehall reggae's established honcho, Banton the young challenger whose street rep has surpassed the master's, and like many Jamaican toasters, both have suspect sexual politics. A vocal abhorrer of oral-genital contact, Shabba reduced his bedmate to a Live Blanket on his very first hit, while Buju got noticed with a little number that advocated murdering "batty boys," as gay men are known in patois. Such moments didn't make their music any more fun, which is why I'm pleased to report that on these records there are none.

Although Shabba's varied, funk-savvy vehicle doesn't downplay the sexual prowess he's always made such a thing of, anybody who can utter the words "You do me and I do you" has finally learned to see over the top of his dick. And Buju goes for the Robert Nesta Marley crown itself. Possessed of dancehall's gruffest, hugest big-bad-wolf voice, he has the confidence to turn that meal ticket to the lyrical, elegiac, and empathetic. Sure he'll tell you who's Champion. But Murderer and Untold Stories preach powerfully against oppression. And Wanna Be Loved is a song a man might actually mean in the morning.


Ini Kamoze's Here Comes the Hotstepper (Columbia) surrounds the title hit with classic tracks from Jamaican beatmasters Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. And Carla Marshall's Fire on the Mountain (Chaos/Columbia) showcases a gal who can shout as loud (and rude) as the rude boys.

Village Voice, July 1995


June 1995 Aug. 1995