Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

  • Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury [4th & Broadway, 1992] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury [4th & Broadway, 1992]
As critics kvell, skeptics eye their p.c. quotient: a black rapper with white adoptive parents and Asian American DJ who subsumes his racial analysis in an explicitly antihomophobic, antixenophobic leftism and allies himself with the Piss Christ and the Dead Kennedys. And for sure a few of the ideas are pat or simplistic and a few of the metaphors flat or anticlimactic ("politics is merely the decoy of perception"? wha?). But if Michael Franti is no Linton Kwesi Johnson, neither was LKJ at 25. His wordslinging isn't quite Chuck D., subject of the ballsy imitation/tribute/parody/critique "Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury," but his intellectual grasp thrusts him immediately into pop's front rank--I'd put money on his thought quicker than Michael Stipe's or Michelle Shocked's, not to mention Richard Thompson's or Black Francis's. And then there's the DJ that isn't--with crucial help from Consolidated's Mark Pistel, industrial percussionist Rono Tse is a one-man hip hop band. He creates more music than he samples, stretching Bomb Squad parameters to carry the tracks whenever Franti falters. I'd like to think the two could penetrate right to hip hop's fragmented core. But if they never achieve full cultural resonance, their art will have to suffice. And it will. A-