Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Glossing Big-Tymers

Touré indulges his writerly ego to insightful effect.

By Touré

This is billed as an essay collection, a form book publishers despise and I love. But it isn't really--he's a master of the ubiquitously shallow and partial celebrity profile. Presumably TV got CNN figurehead turned BET big-tymer Touré his first nonfiction book deal, and magazine journalism--for Rolling Stone especially, plus Playboy, Tennis, Suede, Icon, and others--provides its content. Touré can write essays, yeah, and those true essays occupying Kool-Aid's final 85 pages are at least passable. The profiles start with serious access one senses he charms rather than bullies his way into, embrace the humiliating task of auxiliary interviews, and narrate with thematic smarts and stylistic flair. But sometimes, in an extra twist, Touré inserts himself. The portraits of Eminem, Alicia Keys, D'Angelo, Beyoncé, Russell Simmons, and others are definitive tagalong journalism: swift, thorough, insightful. But when he loses a $2,500 poker pot to Jay-Z, plays basketball with Prince or Wynton Marsalis, has his arm taken off volleying with Jennifer Capriati, or stunningly, wonders whether Suge's thugs will break his bones or just bruise him, he's defying the rules that in some selections poke their silly heads out when he refers to himself in the third person as "a writer" or some such. He has an ego, obviously (most writers do), but he always trains it on his subjects. He's a writer born and made. Too bad TV pays so good.

Village Voice, Mar. 21, 2006