Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Schoolly-D [Schoolly-D, 1986] B+
  • Saturday Night [Jive, 1987] B
  • The Further Adventures of Schoolly-D [Rykodisc, 1987] B
  • Smoke Some Kill [Jive, 1988] B-
  • Am I Black Enough for You? [Jive, 1989] B
  • Welcome to America [Columbia/Ruffhouse, 1994] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Schoolly-D [Schoolly-D, 1986]
From the beginning, rap has been a music of aggressive, expansive possibility, claiming the world on beat and boast alone. This Philadelphia street tough claims only his turf. His powerful scratch rhythms are as oppressive and constricted as his neighborhood, and his sullen slur conveys no more hope or humor than the hostile egotism of his raps themselves. I'm not saying he isn't realer than all the cheerful liars the biz has thrown back to the projects, or that his integrity doesn't pack a mean punch. But he's still an ignorant thug, and he's cheating both his audience and himself by choosing to remain that way. B+

Saturday Night [Jive, 1987]
Maybe two of the three new cuts on this fattened major-label reissue are weak, but liberals will certainly be heartened by "Housing the Joint"'s explicit denial of those "racism" rumors. Me, I don't give a shit one way or the other, because even though the subtlety would be lost on me if he held a .357 to my head or gang-banged my bitch in the back room, I'm certain that the secret fascination this professional B-boy holds for white critics isn't just his exotic brutality, which he certainly makes the most of--"motherfucker" is such a rhythmic word. It's his intimations of vulnerability--not L.L. Cool J's romantic shit, but something wryer and stupider. What other rapper would write a rhyme about the night his mother pulled a gun on him--or make it so clear that, just like in West Side Story, he's depraved on account of he's deprived. This doesn't speak too well of white critics, obviously, but it also doesn't take away his raps, his rips, or his muscleman groove. Docked a notch for gang-banging a bitch in the back room. B

The Further Adventures of Schoolly-D [Rykodisc, 1987]
Still getting paid, Schoolly offers another consumer option: one pricy little phonogram comprising Schoolly-D and the unfattened, premajor Saturday Night. Very street--the beats are real realistic. B

Smoke Some Kill [Jive, 1988]
Anybody as smart as Schoolly, who on his own testimony turned down a scholarship from Georgia Tech because he only wanted to study art, must be held responsible for his own bullshit, especially if he makes a large part of his living selling black fantasy to white thrill-seekers. Are B-boys really like this? How the fuck am I supposed to know? What I do know is that between his cheeba and his malt liquor and his foldaway dick and his casual "faggot"s and his eagerness to blame an unspecified cocaine habit on a nameless and maybe even figurative "white bitch," he's the white audience's paranoid-to-masochistic fantasy of a B-boy. He deserves credit for realizing the fantasy so scarily, and for commanding his own tough-guy sound. But that doesn't mean you have to like him. B-

Am I Black Enough for You? [Jive, 1989]
Some call Schoolly's show of racial solidarity a career move, but I find Sly and P-Funk and Malcolm and James I-Am-Somebody and Richard Pryor's coke routines a productive use of his sound--almost believe "Pussy Ain't Nothin'" is designed to convince the womenfolk that he wants their brains. B

Welcome to America [Columbia/Ruffhouse, 1994] Dud