Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:


  • Honor Killed the Samurai [Iron Works, 2016] **
  • Descendants of Cain [Iron Works, 2020] A-
  • A Martyr's Tale [Iron Works, 2021] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Honor Killed the Samurai [Iron Works, 2016]
46-year-old NYC firefighter--a "job," not a "calling," he stresses--crystallizes Brownsville gangsta knowledge into finely worked rhymes gruffly and grittily served ("Finer Things/Tamahagee," "Just") **

Descendants of Cain [Iron Works, 2020]
Street criminal turned 20-year FDNY veteran and now captain Kaseem Ryan is also a rapper who doesn't declaim or quick-lip and doesn't mumble either. He just talks, in cadenced rhymes for sure but that's not the point--the point is what he has to say on a catalog comprising five albums plus extras going back to 2008. Always a matter-of-fact realist--"I live this vivid shit, I ain't that creative"--he's never been averse to recollection or commentary, and this album assumes a didactic stance he puts across. "I still feel hate every now and then," he begins by reporting; "My heroes sold heroin," he soon recalls. But his basic aim here is to report on not preach about the devastation the street life leaves in its economically understandable, politically defensible, humanly unjustifiable wake--reporting that leaves room to articulate emotional alternatives, so that "Had to use your fists to change your fiscal" evolves into "Times the inner me cry from the imagery." Yes he can translate his two-sided experience into a political goal as utopian as it is limited: "Some equality, none in poverty, I'll be joyous then." But by closing with "I Love (Mimi, Moms, Kevs)" (wife, mother, departed homeboy) he makes clear that human connections are a precondition of whatever joy comes his way. A-

A Martyr's Tale [Iron Works, 2021]
All but embodying what Nina Simone observes in "I Notice"'s coda: "I think that the artists that don't get involved in preaching messages are happier" ("With All My Heart," "Having Nothin'," "Subtle") ***