Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Nas: Untitled [Def Jam, 2008]
Between warning Barack Obama not to say out loud what most black voters believe about fatherhood and warning Nasir Jones not to name his new album after the turned derogatory that was an African-American commonplace long before the gangsta rap Nas has been transfiguring since Illmatic, Jesse Jackson has clearly lost it. This album would have been so much more coherent if Nas could have entitled it something like, to cite a surviving song title, "N.I.*.*.E.R," and included a few of the related deletions available on the Green Lantern mixtape cited below. That's because, in the classic manner of turned derogatories, the "n.i.*.*.e.r" songs articulate the confusion and contradiction of a "revolutionary" whose historical analysis encompasses Orwell, Pushkin, Farrakhan, "The Matrix," the Masons, pale horseman William Cooper, Africans-discovered-America scholar Ivan van Sertima, a UFO he saw himself, "the ghetto where old black women talk about they sugar level," every luxury brand known to bling and "an elite group that runs everything"--the last of which, for the record, I half believe in myself. The beats beat Green Lantern's. And what the finale has to say about Obama is so sane I may just check out van Sertima myself. A-