Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Fugees are two Haitian American cousins who specialize in hip hop beats and rhymes and a young actress (Sister Act II) who goes to Columbia. Like many promising lineups, this one debuted with one of those albums you feel guilty about not enjoying, but The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia) is just the opposite--smart and strong and beautiful the way other so-called alternative rappers only say they are. Multicultural without sanctimony, militant about cops and contemptuous of criminals, taking such contagious pleasure in wordplay that getting every detail would be a distraction, weaving sounds both strange and strangely familiar into a seductive rhythmscape, this is why some of us thought rap was the future of pop. Things didn't turn out that way. But the Fugees will be remembered.


The most confusing thing about the hard-fought U.S. breakthrough of Oasis is that Brit band's hummability quotient. Sweeping England on the right pose is easy, but here it's supposed to take tunes, and Liam Gallagher's are ordinary. Yet it's even harder to imagine the Brits with the tunes scoring here. Not only does Pulp's veteran striver Jarvis Cocker know how to construct songs, he's indiscreet enough to make them mean something. The basic theme of the highly potent Different Class (Island) is sex as a weapon in class warfare. If Americans wanted to understand that, fools wouldn't get away with demonizing hip hop. So I hope it'll pique your curiosity if I promise that Cocker has as much to say about the sex part as the class part.


With the 1989 death of guitarist Luamba Franco, singer-bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau became the grand old man of Zairean soukous, and like most seigneurs, he tends to coast. But on Africa Worldwide (Rounder), he reprises a top 12 of his thousands of songs--and provides a glorious introduction to this lilting pan-African style.

Playboy, Mar. 1996


Feb. 1996 Apr. 1996