Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Whodini [Jive, 1983] B-
  • Escape [Jive, 1984] B+
  • Back in Black [Jive, 1986] B+
  • Open Sesame [Jive, 1987] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Whodini [Jive, 1983]
With the secret of the great rap album still shrouded in mystery, you can't fault this attempt for starting with two intelligent if corny black youths from Brooklyn (cf. Wham! U.K.). But novelty hits do sometimes wear thin (cf. "The Haunted House of Rock: Vocoder Version"). And though you might get away with producing your album in London or even Cologne, going from one to the other is asking for trouble. B-

Escape [Jive, 1984]
Like all aspiring popmeisters, producer Larry Smith and head rapper Jalil Hutchins turn out ingratiating variations on a formula. Fortunately, the formula isn't tired yet--it was a great singing synth riff that put "Haunted House of Rock" over, not the novelty concept. Even the putative follow-up "Freaks Come Out at Night," dumber lyrically than "Escape" and "Friends" and dumber musically than the irresistible "Five Minutes of Funk," is five minutes of fun. B+

Back in Black [Jive, 1986]
They're not just ladies' men, they're the big brothers every B-boy wishes he had. Or so they hope. Autobiographical examples make their stay-in-school and one-love advice more convincing than most, though just to cover all the bases they don't stint with the etiquette tips ("That's Dom Perignon, it's supposed to bubble"). But nowhere are they catchier than on the "tag team sex" of "I'm a Ho" or more realistic than on "The Good Part": "But I keep going for it and I won't stop/Because I don't believe there is a good part/Because I been searching and lurching and looking real good/Because if there is a good part it ain't in my neighborhood." B+

Open Sesame [Jive, 1987]
I admit it, I get off on "Early Mother's Day Card," a rap achievement surpassing even a stay-in-school song capable of keeping somebody in school. But when it's all I notice beyond a def beat or two, I wonder whether they're still in the right business. B-