Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Run-D.M.C.: Down With the King [Profile, 1993]
A triumphant comeback, but the comeback is spiritual and the triumph formal, which adds up to art rather than culture. Where multiple producers usually signal overweening identity crisis, this is debt collection--since rap as we know it proceeded from their innovations and accommodations, there's no one in the music who doesn't owe them. And though the two Bomb Squad cuts owe Cypress Hill in turn, all the other guest overseers--Q-Tip, Jermaine Dupri, Pete Rock, EPMD--drop plenty flavor without impinging on the group's aural identity. Sure of their hard-not-gangsta ethos, equally deliberate in the vocals and the bass and drums, they always sound like Jay, Run, and Darryl Mac. Yet with their own spare production style signifying only as a trademark, they live off those outside shots, and the boasts about the stages they useta rip up ring truer than the ones about the trends they're gonna start. I hope their godfather status is good for sales as well as respect, influence as well as sales. But I wonder how much their return will mean, even to rap aesthetes, if it isn't. B+