Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Buck 65: Talkin' Honky Blues [WEA, 2003]
It's hip-hop, all right, only with vocals white as Hank Snow. As this Maritime yokel turned Paris sojourner likes to say, "Street credibility--zero. Dirt road credibility--up the yin-yang." That's despite a black presence in Halifax going back to the Underground Railroad--and also despite dense, bassy beatbeds built the old-fashioned way, from handmade scratches and anonymous samples tweaked and tortured. These nods to tradition are overshadowed by his gravelly murmur, his Jimmy Stewart accent, his single steady cadence, his guitars without a trace of funk--and above all by his independence of hip-hop orthodoxy. His art wouldn't exist without hip-hop and he knows it, but it's also bigger than hip-hop, and at some level he knows that too. Begins with a boast, ends with a gun, and in between come allegories and tall tales, travel vignettes, a romantic confession of uncommon delicacy and candor, detailed first-person portraits of a perfectionist bootblack and a "roadhog with an old dog singin' slow songs tryin' to hold on." You say you want funny too? You got it. A