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Expert Witness with Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau on Cardi B's All-Killer Debut

The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews Cardi's 'Invasion of Privacy,' Princess Nokia's 'A Girl Cried Red,' Roc Marciano's 'RR2: The Bitter Dose,' and Migos' 'Culture II.'

Robert Christgau

The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at the Village Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." On top of his columns, he has published six books, including his 2015 autobiography, Going Into the City. He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To find out more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.

Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic) Because she's smart enough to know the difference between a mixtape and an album, she earns the right to treat this official debut as the one that counts—no filler, no throwaways, no riding her smash, no withholding her smash either. Musically and lyrically, every track is thought through, with debts called in and incurred. The Noo Yawk accent she's right to lean on is so blunt that she's not a truly fluent rhymer, so she does well to pull in Chance's flow, Migos's trickeration, Pete Rodriguez's clave. And lyrically, her aim is true. "Write a verse while I twerk / I wear off-white in church"? Tell it, sister. "Only thing fake is the boobs"? Ca-ching. "Pussy's so good I say my own name during sex"? Car-di! A

Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red (self-released) What I loved most about 1992 Deluxe was its spunk. Biting off and shaping up her girly voice into a lively signature flow, a runway rapper with pan-Manhattan attitude put "my little titties and my fat belly" in hip-hop's face and claimed street for an Afro-diasporic bohemia of her own devising. So of course I was disappointed when she went sad-sack emo on a mixtape timed to vie with Cardi. But soon I caught it catching my ear the way sad-sack anything seldom does. "Goth as fuck," as she once bragged, she's not always so confident, and she wants us to know it. Her auto-tunelets range sad to determined, hopeful to boastful, hostile to empathetic. Depressive as fuck but nothing like self-indulgent, she tries to be not just honest but nice about it. B PLUS

Roc Marciano: RR2: The Bitter Dose (Marci Enterprises) Complex rhymes, organic textures, well-felt soul samples, and a few deft cameo changeups render this particular lucre quest so entertaining it's almost interesting ("Corniche," "The Sauce") ***

Migos: Culture II (QC/Motown/Capitol) Premature double album that wouldn't cook down to a decent single plus catchiest-in-show "Beast" profiling penis "gobbler" equals not the new Beatles after all, doncha think? ("Motorsport," "Movin' Too Fast") *

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