Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Anyone bemoaning the lack of creativity of a pop momentarily dominated by boy groups and dance drivel will have trouble hearing it, but in hip hop this is a goldan age. The beats that also fuel their share of boy groups and dance drivel are only the beginning, as three excellent albums demonstrate.

Designed to turn teenagers on while driving their parents nutso, The Slim Shady LP (Aftermath/Interscope), by Dr. Dre's white protegee Eminem, recalls nothing less than the Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill in its hilarity and button-pushing offensiveness. Although it couldn't warn more explicitly against trying its scenarios at home, these do include several revenge murders and one OD. Eminem rhymes with the imagination of a potty-mouth Ogden Nash (how about "eyeballs"-"Lysol"-"my fault"?). Here's hoping follow-ups to the irresistible "My Name Is" will give censors ulcers all year.

Prince Paul Presents A Prince Among Thieves (Tommy Boy), by former De La Soul music man Prince Paul, is just as audacious and totally different: a 77-minute rap opera so well-plotted its option has been picked up by Chris Rock, who plays a crackhead. Other cameos go to old-timers Chubb Rock as a drug don, Kool Keith as a weapons dealer, and Big Daddy Kane as a pimp. And yes, the beats are--what was that word?--def.

Things Fall Apart (MCA), the fourth album by Philly progressives the Roots, is the first to escape the feckless swing of the second-rate jazz they love too much. Here they respect hip hop's more forthright tradition even more, framing the intelligence they make so much of with a clarity that finally does it some justice.

Playboy, Mar. 1999

Feb. 1999 Apr. 1999