Q: What’s Your Sound? A: Hip-Hop
Christgau beat me to the punch with Wussy’s Popular Favorites, and in light of his review released yesterday, here’s mine. I strongly encourage you to check out his over on his Expert Witness column. The Killer Mike review has been sitting around for a while, languishing between other reviews begging to be edited, yet I never found much to say about it regardless of the endless praise. In other news, I’m continuing to rack up notes of albums in 2013, will go on reviewing leftovers from last year for another week or so.
KILLER MIKE – R.A.P. Music (Williams Street ’12): Atlanta rapper’s self-proclaimed magnum opus and 2012’s most critically acclaimed rap (or ‘rebellious African people’) album has a first half that does pretty well—solid beats, great flow, political rhetoric/social commentary/derision of mass-market hip-hop that’s mostly correct if not cleverly delivered. And that’s the rub; it’s not the delivery that makes “Reagan” the eerie, discomforting truth-slapping tune it is, it’s El-P’s creepy background samples—both the music and the snippets of speeches concerning the Iran/Contra scandal—that sustain the atmosphere. When the beats aren’t as strong, neither is he, only it’s much easier to tell; the second act goes downhill quickly with the possible exception of “Ghetto Gospel,” and not even the black artist read-off that closes the deal can save it—somehow he manages to miss Prince, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, but I guess he couldn’t name them all. B PLUS
WUSSY – Berneice Huff and Son, Bill Sings… Popular Favorites (free download): Mixtape from America’s greatest unknown band available on their website: eighteen B-sides, live cuts, a remix, a cover, two by ‘The Magic Words’ (at least that’s what iTunes says) and radio interviews. Personally, I cut the interviews because they were short and consisted largely of Chuck Cleaver cracking wise followed by long spurts of laughter. All in all, only three ‘new’ cuts by my count, at least ones I haven’t heard before (if they’re available elsewhere, I’m unaware of it), and they’re wise enough to open with the best one, “Nomenclature,” and save the other gem for the penultimate track, “Run Away (Jennie Mae).” The third (“Linda Linda/Sweetie Sweetie”) suffers from poor sound quality via live recording, yet Wussy are a band whose performances are worth cherishing and analyzing regardless, like the slower, fiercer “Rigor Mortis” or second acoustic fiddling of “Airborne.” B PLUS