Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

De La Soul: Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump [Tommy Boy, 2000]
Once pranksters whose greatest pleasure was disrupting the groove they adored, they've evolved into hip-hop's purest musicians. Partly our ears have changed and partly theirs have, so that their brilliant hunches now sound like glowing accomplishments. As they leapfrog around from Busta to Beastie, from herky-jerk drum and bass to diva anthem, from playground old-school to love-men ballad, this holds steady as the Temptations album of dreams, with Smokey and Holland-Dozier-Holland playing king-of-the-mountain and James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin doing God's work below. The lyrics are intelligent of course, clever and moral and street-conscious and just gnomic enough, but their art is in their beats and flow and tunes too. Hip-hop as a great black music, as amenable as jazz itself to young turks turned old masters. A-