Pazz & Jop Preview

Handicappers take note—it's Consumer Guide's annual Pazz & Jop preview. Only which ones finished, which ones should have, and which are my own self-indulgent eccentricities? A week from now you'll know.

A Collection of His Greatest Hits (Epic)

Forget R. Kelly if you can get him to bug off already—when it all comes down, Kenny Edmonds will be remembered as the most interesting love man of our era. Only females of a certain mindset can be expected to sit still for all his palaver, but he's got a hell of a line. Duplicating but three tracks from his superb worstseller The Day, this is the distillation of woman-friendly romanticism; there's even a song that accurately and effectively deploys the jargon term "abused." The new one he didn't write advances instantly to the head of his repertoire: "Poured one for you but I drank that too," laments the bereaved wino-in-progress. The new one he did write lacks a killer hook. But is it ever outspoken about fortysomething males who leave their wives primping at home. A MINUS

Fucking Yzarc (bootleg)

No connoisseur of commercially illicit music, I neglected to seek this out when it surfaced last summer and ended up taping a borrowed one, though I'm sure the Napster-literate could burn something similar. We've all heard some of this music, but having the guest shots compiled here on one longform cements what a nonstop force he is. "Stan" or no "Stan," he's a rhymer not a storyteller, an inspired free-associater who like so many rappers loves rhyme as raw technical device and finds fresh sonic material in a self-renewing English language hooked on celebrities, brand names, neologisms, code—and a world where "real" poets long ago distanced themselves from rhyme the way "real" composers distanced themselves from tune. Unlike such African American coequals as Mos Def, or Aceyalone, say, he has no apparent metaphysical ambitions—he's a comedian and prankster whose own art mines the metaphysics of entertainment, a/k/a celebrity. He's totally ill here, more into sex, and smack up against Dr. Dre's or Missy Elliott's his flow rocks. Interscope: You got the juice. Market an improved version when Marshall Mathers falls off. A MINUS

Re-Animation Live! (Blue Note)
Buy Listen

In the studio, trumpeter Tim Hagans's integration of turntables and samples into jazz combo ended up subtly and fatally stiff and segmented. In concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the electrobeats and spoken-word overlays sound like parts of an organism. Think '70s Miles only tamer, a model many will pick up on. B PLUS

European Klezmer Music (Smithsonian Folkways)
Buy Listen

The idea of klezmer as goodtime music makes every bit as much sense as the idea of polka as goodtime music. Obviously that's the main thing both are supposed to be. Only goodtime musics happen to be a passion of mine, and there are plenty that do the deed better. So the klezmer that moves me generally has spiritual ambitions. With Klezmatics violinist Alicia Svigals relegated to second fiddle by leader Steven Greenman, this American ensemble performs original-instrumentation suites designed for rich people's weddings a century ago. Never a repertoire that took celebration to unseemly extremes, by now it partakes of a classical civility that packs just the charm to soothe a plebe with no passion for civility. A MINUS

A Retrospective (Jive)
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Listening to this selection bound all over his vast corpus, you're struck by two things. First, even striding off a Blondie sample he wouldn't have stooped to in his proud twenties, he always sounds like himself. Second, he never sounds like anyone else of much moment—except Run-D.M.C., called out on the early "South Bronx." His musical forthrightness has no modern-day parallels—Gang Starr are scatmen by comparison, the N.O. Bouncers parademasters. How much impact the right voice and beat could make back in the day—and still can, especially boiled down to stark strokes that stick in the mind. To hear in one place "South Bronx," "The Bridge Is Over," "Criminal Minded," "Black Cop," the sociologically perfect and metaphysically weird "Love's Gonna Getcha," and the bullheaded history lesson "What Is That?" is to learn that sometimes all a man needs to make great music is an idea he believes in. A MINUS

Warriorz (Loud)
Buy Listen

Ooh, Eminem, scary. You want a rap record to terrify your ass, how about one with a street anthem about robbing niggaz? Socially redeeming characteristic: will discourage young African American men from wearing jewelry. Billy Danze is the coarse-grained DMX bellower with the crazy laugh, Lil' Fame his rugged sidekick. Wielding brazen, unrelenting samples, they attack like a firing squad on a spree, with a fierce joy Guns N' Roses would abjure hard drugs for. As is no secret, I hate gangsta rap—hate its smugness, its brutality, its cool, its lies, its contempt for the ordinary, its failure to provide role models for young African American men. But this specimen convinces me that, sometimes, thugs have more fun—get large in the ways that matter by shitting on anybody they fucking feel like. I scoff at "guilty pleasures," too. Pleasure is nothing to feel guilty about. This may be. A MINUS

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