Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

DJ Maphorisa X Kabza de Small: Scorpion Kings [BlaqBoy, 2019]
Maphorisa is a big-deal DJ in a South African dance genre called amapiano, de Small more renowned as a producer. As with most dance genres, I know nothing about amapiano, which I gather is associated with deep house. What I do know when I hear it is a good beat--which in these variations dispenses with the r&b fours of mbaqanga for what presents itself as a consciously pan-African nod to a panoply of central African polygroove(s)--highlife, rumba, soukous, perhaps even "Afrobeats." The same pair's somewhat flightier and more divafied 2020 Once Upon a Time in Lockdown goes down too easy to suit me. This one, however, I couldn't put back on the shelf. It's all beats, so amelodic it's almost abstract at times. It provides little pitch or even texture--electronic though it presumably is, this percussion percusses so vividly you sometimes feel you can hear the drumstick that isn't there depressing the drumhead that isn't there either. The vocals are mostly chants if that, though they do vary, divided 50-50 genderwise with some kids in there too. The selling point of a record like this isn't hooks you hum. It's hooks that compel you to replay the album because you just have to hear them again. A