Ignorants and Know-Alls Keep Out

Eight inauthenticities hard to resist, even when hard to understand, or impossible to love

Pick Hits

(Rhymesayers Entertainment)

This Ohio double threat produced for his Weightless crew and rapped for RJD2 before putting one and one together. Though he's the kind of rhymer who scans "another good record with bad distribution" all too swimmingly, the hip-hop don't stop even when it's about some hip-hop-writing "Boom-Box" for Radio Rahiem (of Do the Right Thing, kids) does back-in-the-day prouder than usual. "Big Girls Need Love Too" has a whole lotta heart. "Inner City Native Son" is a straightforward narrative with beats and moral to match. "Kill Me First" makes police violence musical and chipmunks Richard Pryor. "Liberated" respects the dimensions of its theme. A MINUS

Here Come the Choppers!
(Sovereign Artists)

For a decade Wainwright has been keeping it real with songs about family trauma and songs about what a shit he is—themes sometimes addressed simultaneously, as in "Year," where he first meets his latest daughter on her first birthday. Once his political songs fell flat because he wasn't scared or angry enough. Now when he's a shit you wonder why you should care—which is kind of hip-hop, don't you think?—but Bush has him so scared and angry he makes up for it, with a dedicated posse of El Lay studio vets getting in their licks. "No Sure Way" mourns the WTC, "God's Country" renounces Nashville, and "Choppers" imagines a bombed Los Angeles devastated as logically and surreally as a bombed Baghdad. And "Choppers" is no more disturbing than "My Biggest Fan," which could inspire any singer-songwriter to do an emotional cost-benefit analysis on the touring life—and leave a 400-pound aficionado feeling flattered anyway. A MINUS

Headshots: Se7en
(Rhymesayers Entertainment)

Nearly two hours of 1997-99 cassette-only rarely peak and never drag. A battle rapper already touching on the conscience-stricken sexual and relationship issues that would move shysters to slot him emo, Slug is so excited to discover how much rhyme he has in him that his creative optimism revs Ant's subtle tracks. He's not inventing alt-rap. But he might as well be. B PLUS

Bang on a Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing

Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a virtuoso percussionist from a Burmese family so distinguished that the last Burmese ensemble to play New York before his own, back in 1975, was led by his father. Myanmar being a very special military dictatorship, Kyaw Kyaw Naing now lives in Sunnyside, and his first recording with Western musicians is the best kind of fusion—our guys trying to execute his scales, melodies, and structures rather than him trying to adapt. The result is brighter and livelier than most of the indigenous Asian stuff I hear. Though it's chamber music rather than any kind of pop or jazz, it's more accessible and enjoyable than any similarly sourced Rough Guide or Sublime Frequencies comp. Inauthenticity rools. A MINUS

The Massacre

He's impossible to love but hard to resist, and though that may not be what he'd prefer, hard to resist will do. All the ugly gangsta lies are here, especially as regards the brutalization of women and the business of death. But they're incidental to the mood of the piece, which is friendly, relaxed, good-humored, and in the groove. As cute as Jay-Z if somewhat less intelligent, 50 throws a party that doesn't quit. I note for the record that Dr. Dre claims production on just two tracks while Eminem takes four, and that "Candy Shop" and "Just a Lil Bit" are both by "Scott Storch for Tuff Jew Productions." A MINUS


Arabic "Rock the Casbah" or no Arabic "Rock the Casbah," this doesn't bite down as fast and hard as Made in Medina, and it'll take more than the crib sheet to hold Francophone and Anglophone attention when it gets all lyrical in the middle. Nevertheless, Taha transcends translation when he snarls—to quote the booklet, crude though it may be—"Bores, racists, the undecided, ignorants, know-alls, winners, show-offs." If you doubt his righteous rage, the beat and the rai subtext and the ululating hangers-on ratchet his cred. "Get rid of them! Ask them for an explanation!" Yeah! A MINUS

The Best of Boubacar Traoré: The Bluesman From Mali

Though his thoughtful melancholy is his own, Traoré is one of those Africans so indigenously immersed that he sounds like a sage to us—the chorus on "Kar Kar Madison" could be chanting "Honor thy father and thy mother" until you learn that Kar Kar is Traoré's nickname and the Madison the old dance novelty gone Malian. Because he's a sage, you have to be in the mood for him, so I figure 1990's Mariama caught me at the right time. I now prefer this post-1996 sampler while recognizing that it won't be for everyone. Eternal recurrence only goes so far. B PLUS

(Luaka Bop)

A canny idea, packaging vaguely countercultural early-'70s Afropop as psychedelia rather than funk. That way the shambling trap drums and casual solos are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And though none of these bands could have rocked Woodstock's socks off like the Family Stone or Ten Years After, nobody wore socks at Woodstock anyway. Charming at worst and captivating at best, sometimes mild and sometimes wild, the sources range from Cameroon and Nigeria up to Mali, crossing the treacherous boundaries between Anglophone and Francophone, jungle and desert—as if west-central Africa, at least, is all one place. Not that the music's homogeneous, although there's a cheesiness to the guitars that the hotshots down in Kinshasa would have laughed out of town. But it shares a mood—postcolonial hopes inflamed by news of a world cultural revolution that would soon succumb to the economics of enforced scarcity. The high point is William Onyeabor's "Better Change Your Mind," which calmly warns Western nations including Canada and Cuba not to "think this world is yours." It seems Africa didn't have what it took to back Onyeabor up. We shall see. A MINUS

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