Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Turntablism is a fancy name for what old-school hip hop called DJing, and on record it's usually too fancy. In 2000, Montreal-based DJ Kid Koala's funny little Carpal Tunnel Syndrome proved an exception, and now, after contributing to the surprise hit Gorillaz project, Koala proves he can groove on the eponymous Bullfrog (Ropeadope). Bullfrog is an old-fashioned four-piece funk band like Booker T. & the M.G.'s, slightly modernized and with a percussionist where Booker's organ used to be. They do without the organ because Koala keeps adding samples: horns, background vocals, cheerleading, commentary, whatever. It helps that the guitarist and (female) percussionist sing some. A droll, deep-voiced rapper helps even more. The best kind of trad--trad with a twist.

Mush Filmstrip (Frame 1) (Shadow) segues rappers, ambient techno artists, and a rock band or two into the best kind of mood music--mood music with brains. Simultaneously funky and haunting, it's like the soundtrack to one of those strange dreams where you wake up wishing you could remember more details just to figure it out. Key contributor: New York alt-rapper Aesop Rock, whose own Labor Days (Def Jux) is much more literal and equally striking.

Playboy, Nov. 2001

Oct. 2001 Dec. 2001