Flyover Drawl: Expert Witness with Robert Christgau
The Dean tackles the 'American Honey' soundtrack, plus recent projects from Travis Scott and Dreezy.
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 a number of books over his career including his autobiography, Going Into the City, which was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To read more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.
American Honey (UME download) I elected to purchase this DL-only soundtrack in tribute to a rambling, music-drenched rollercoaster of a two-and-a-half-hour film that transfixed me and made my stomach flip simultaneously. But if you prefer, Spotify's stream lacks only Bonnie "Prince" Billy, who adds nothing to a musical gestalt that conjures magic from the cross-genre sequencing that gums up so many soundtracks. Here the Southern hip-hop of half the tracks, which gets the semiprofessional young cast moving countless times with Oaklandite E-40's "Choices" the theme song, absorbs the country and mostly female indie-rock stuff. Sam Hunt's smash "Take Your Time" and Steve Earle's ancient "Copperhead Road" are highlights, and just as Mazzy Star are gauzy and the Raveonettes are buzzy, Hunt is comfy rapping and Earle has never allowed consonants to impede his flow. So call flyover drawl the sonic concept. Many of the artists were unknown to me—Quigley? MadeinTYO? Låpsly? Og Maco? Carnage? Raury? Razzy Bailey? Carnage again? But their personal bests share a lazy, hedonistic ease designed to make the most of limited options. One charm of a film that traverses Middle American landscapes bicoastalists never lay eyes on is that the misfit kids it follows around peddle not drugs but magazines, doing only incidental damage as they lie and steal. Another is that they dance goofily whenever they get the chance. Not to Mazzy Star, of course. Although hell, why not? A
Travis Scott: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (Epic) Where American Honey is lascivious, the second album by this Houston rapper whose Lamborghini I've never understood is jutht plain thilly. Celebrating the women he fucks on the drugs and alcohol the real-life Travis supposedly eschews, the rapper-organizer taps a raft of people who owe him something, and if they're somewhat less august than DJ Khaled's band of toadies, they get more done as they establish Auto-Tune as the human side of screwed-and-chopped. Universal pitch correction makes it harder to tell one rapper from another even as big names Kendrick Lamar and Young Thug nail focus tracks. So let's hear it for 21 Savage and Kid Cudi too. B PLUS
Dreezy: No Hard Feelings (Interscope) If this Chicago rapper-turning-singer was half as irresistible as I wish she was, there'd be more than one thing on her loosely plotted tale of trading Jamal in for Sean that's half as great as its great greatest hit ("Body," "Afford My Love") ***
T.I.: Us or Them (T.I./Roc Nation) Intelligent black man goes straight conscious while wisely ceding the EP's most intelligent rhyme to Killer Mike ("40 Acres," "Black Man") ***
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