Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Lucy Ford [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2001] A-
  • God Loves Ugly [Fat Beats, 2002] A-
  • Seven's Travels [Rhymesayers/Epitaph, 2003] ***
  • Headshots: Se7en [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2005] B+
  • You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2005] **
  • When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2008] B+
  • The Family Sign [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2011] ***
  • Southsiders [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2014] A-
  • Fishing Blues [Rhymesayers, 2016] ***
  • Mi Vida Local [Rhymesayers, 2018] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lucy Ford [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2001]
Although in other manifestations crew chief Slug can get ill, this one-disc double-EP collects the thoughts of an alt-rap everyman. Brooding through the long days on caffeine, nicotine, gasoline, and Ant's looped, retarded samples, the voice evokes Will Smith sans Bel Air--the Depressed Prince of South Minneapolis, clueless in his latest scrape. But Slug understands women better than most male losers, and maintains a winner's enthusiasm for his own talent. Inspirational Verse: "Some got pencils and some got guns/Some know how to stand and some of 'em run/We don't all get along but we sing the same songs/Party for the fight to write." A-

God Loves Ugly [Fat Beats, 2002]
Slug is hip hop's finest poet of everyday life because he's come to terms with moderate success, the amenity that affords him opportunity to look around. Neither resentful nor driven, he doesn't feel sorry for himself, doesn't overrate himself, doesn't think the world owes him a promotion budget. Metaphoric tough talk aside, he doesn't bitch about r&b or bling, either; sure he wants more, but he's got too much pride and too much self-knowledge to waste emotion blaming the system. His one obsession is unrequited love, which he analyzes with such thoughtless candor and penetrating introspection that I not only believe the someone exists, I think it's possible her name's really Lucy. He raps like a man thinking, over strong, simple beats that put his thoughts in order and his body in gear. If Lucy says he's ugly, he's too good for her. A-

Seven's Travels [Rhymesayers/Epitaph, 2003]
Sometimes he thinks he spends too much time on the road, and he's right ("Always Coming Back Home to You," "Say Shhh"). ***

Headshots: Se7en [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2005]
Nearly two hours of 1997-99 cassette-only rarely peak and never drag. A battle rapper already touching on the conscience-stricken sexual and relationship issues that would move shysters to slot him emo, Slug is so excited to discover how much rhyme he has in him that his creative optimism revs Ant's subtle tracks. He's not inventing alt-rap. But he might as well be. B+

You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2005]
"Let's watch a rapper get bitter like the city winter"--and he makes something of it ("Watch Out," "Pour Me Another"). **

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Sh*t Gold [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2008]
Rapper Slug and beatmaster Ant both change direction on this classy package (a bound book--download that, suckers). Ant's shift is less auspicious: no samples. But the "Shoulda Known" synth groan is his catchiest hook in years, and most of the music he coaxes out of his Twin Cities g-s-d-etc. cohort is distinguished enough, especially given his partner's progress. Slug has always made more of self-examination than most cult celebs who work that shtick, and he shows them how on tracks like the well-named "Me." But he's even sharper empathizing with smaller-time losers. True, two of his angst victims are waitresses, the club-circuit version of the cab drivers who've been giving journalists man-on-the-street copy for generations--how about slaves of telemarketing, or data entry? Nevertheless, the lost lives and loves he sketches are so painfully familiar they feel like truth. And Ant's homey beats enhance the illusion. B+

The Family Sign [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2011]
More memorable than many more interesting rappers as he singsongs medium-tempo of his mature values, his life as an entertainer, and his lost dog ("Became," "She's Enough") ***

Southsiders [Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2014]
Rarely has such a modest record been so in-your-face about it. Ten years since Sean Daley d/b/a Slug started disengaging from the old-boy alt-rap he hoped he'd outgrown, lines like "The world might not live through the night" and "I highly doubt that y'all think about sex anywhere near as often as I think about death" add a gravitas you may shrug off and I believe keeps him up nights. I also believe that as he "write[s] it all down before it vanishes," he feels "Fortunate" to make music from his words and a living at it too. For CD purchasers only: a portfolio of proudly unpretentious architectural photographs documenting the workaday housing stock of his mixed Minneapolis hood. A-

Fishing Blues [Rhymesayers, 2016]
Rap lifer is so glad he got there and hopes you are too ("Next to You," "The Shit That We've Been Through") ***

Mi Vida Local [Rhymesayers, 2018]
World's staunchest purveyor of the hip-hop of everyday life, extended instrumental intros included ("Trim," "Mijo") **