Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Streets: Original Pirate Material [Vice, 2002]
This succès d'estime--"cult classic, not bestseller," he says it himself--ventures closer than you'd hope to the ignoramus whine that hip hop isn't music. More even than in our underground, it settles for rhymes-with-accompaniment. In England, where the garage Mike Skinner claims to "push forward" is techno's last big thing, he may be the answer to "Who Got the Funk?" By the parochial standards of the Neptunes and Timbaland, however, his beats perk up mostly when he skanks them. As for his realism, I took it more seriously once he claimed he'd be in museums 500 years from now. All I know about his education is that he name-checks Carl Jung, but the streets he represents are a literary creation. Sometimes they rock, definitely. But sometimes words fail him. There's plenty of detail, and feeling too--not just anger, tenderness. By my parochial standards, however, his one cult classic thus far is "Too Late," where he loses the girl because he doesn't know how to keep an appointment. A-