Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steinski: What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective [Illegal Art, 2008]
Coming to hip-hop as an older outsider, moonlighting adman Steve Stein went for verbal meaning in his beat-based sound collages, the earliest of which--"The Payoff Mix," "Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)" and "Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop)," all collaborations with Stein's engineer buddy Double Dee--were as foundational for turntablism as "The Message," and still sound as fresh. But he's in command of a wide range of black music--funk, soul, jazz, breakbeat and hip-hop (where his tastes run old-school and underground)--and his beats can make you chuckle. Steinski loves straight comedy and exploits an impressive store of datedly "hip" spoken-word records to add extra irony to the history he evokes and reproduces. Because he's always preferred the popular to the esoteric, his uncleared samples have offended cultural capitalists from Walter Cronkite to the Incredible Bongo Band. Note that this rarities collection includes the excellent bonus radio-broadcast-turned-CD Nothing to Fear, which came out in 2002 and vanished soon after. Buy it while you can. A