Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Black Thought [extended]

  • Streams of Thought Vol. 1 [Human Re Sources EP, 2018] A-
  • Streams of Thought Vol. 2 [Human Re Sources/Passyunk Productions EP, 2018] A
  • Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Able [Republic, 2020] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Streams of Thought Vol. 1 [Human Re Sources EP, 2018]
Even though the Roots frontman's first 2018 EP was clearly a signal that the hiatus following his band's 2014 . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin was turning permanent, I somehow still believed that was Questlove on drums when it was actually 9th Wonder soul samples impossible to identify without a scorecard. And there's plenty more stuffed into these five tracks, 17 minutes that make room for guest slots by sturdy point guard Rapsody on the widely informed "Dostoyevsky" and loquacious jeremiah Styles P on the far-reaching "Making a Murderer." It's never more exciting than on a retrospective lead track situated "Back when Burning Man was blacks in Birmingham." But it never bogs down. A-

Black Thought & Salaam Remi: Streams of Thought Vol. 2 [Human Re Sources/Passyunk Productions EP, 2018]
I always thought Questlove was the brains of the outfit, and conceptually he was. But no longer hemmed in by album concepts or fusion-band masquerade, here's where Tariq Trotter is freed to turn out kick-ass rap mixtapes and show off how much reading he does. From the "Try stoppin' this, I'm on top of the metropolis" of the Prince/Petty-mourning "Fentanyl" to alter ego Reek Ruffin crooning atop a love rap that swears "A lifetime, finally I'm understanding you," he shows John Legend how conscious a romantic lead's conscience can be. New solo contract with Republic or not, he may be too old to play the heartthrob at 48. But it's never the wrong time for a love man to ask the world what's going on. A

Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Able [Republic, 2020]
Cameo power is the main thing the major label imposes on Tariq Trotter's third excellent mixtape inside of two years, and from Stokely Carmichael on the beaten down "State Prisoner" to matched Pusha T and Killer Mike on the exultant "Good Morning" to Dave Chappelle on the historical "Steak Um," they deliver. But not only are the most winning tracks here personal, subject-wise you could call them predictable: the success story "Nature of the Beast" and the marriage-counseled "We Could Be Good (United)." Subject-wise you'd be right, too. Compassion- and complexity-wise, no. A-