Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roxanne Shanté

  • Bad Sister [Cold Chillin', 1989] A-
  • The Bitch Is Back [Livin' Large, 1992] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Bad Sister [Cold Chillin', 1989]
I'd loved everything else she'd ever done, and at first this album irritated me, but now I hear it as a self-conscious return to the street appeal of 14-year-old Lolita Gooden's "Roxanne's Revenge." Even the remixed "Wack Itt," heavy with the housed bass fuzz that's the record's aural signature, and "Go On Girl," vocals phased and speeded over hyped congas, suit music intended to sound crude and overheard in an era of packed mixes and clean hooks. So do the casually nasty rhymes, most of which Roxanne didn't write, and almost every one of which--the exception is "Fatal Attraction," a carefully plotted tale that ends with a jimmy in a pickle jar--could have been made up on the spot by the unassuming owner of the most natural voice in rap. Spunky, sexy, conversational, full of fun, with a burr turning quaver that radiates hesitation and delight, she's still in contact with her happy, lucky 14-year-old self. In other words, a true rock and roller. A-

The Bitch Is Back [Livin' Large, 1992]
As politically incorrect as the dickheads she disses, Shanté scorns "bitches" and "hoes" (and "hookers" and "sluts" and "bull daggers") who think they can rap--that is, every female rival you can think of, many of whom she calls out by name in the scabrous "Big Mama." She claims to rhyme her own, but she only had her name on three tracks last album, which was four years ago, and this one doesn't bother with writing credits. So if in her world the original is still the greatest, that world exists mostly in her own mind. The thing is, though, it also exists on her records. Because she still is the greatest--she just is. Her tone and attack and enunciation vie with Ice-T and Chuck D and Rakim. Her material is full of outrageous insults and filthy internal rhymes. And perhaps because hard is all there is where she comes from, her tough, jazz-tinged music is as fresh as the stuff gets these days. She's of limited use showing off a slow groove or going dancehall, and I'm not going to claim she's got redeeming value. But I'm also not going to tell you "Brothers Ain't Shit" has nothing to say. A-

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