Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Afrika Bambaataa

  • Looking for the Perfect Beat 1980-1985 [Tommy Boy, 2001] A-

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Looking for the Perfect Beat 1980-1985 [Tommy Boy, 2001]
What's the name of this nation? Zulu, Zulu. I've never loved electro like Bam the Prophet and miss J. Lydon's "World Destruction," but here at the irreducible least are two of the greatest records of the '80s. The 1982 Arthur Baker space jam "Looking for the Perfect Beat" you know: synth figures and drum rumbles and startling scratches echoing a hooky title cadence that's varied and layered around everyday rapping--rapping that finds all the earth it needs in the patch of grass outside the rec room. Cosmic Force's "Zulu Nation Throwdown" you've maybe read about: floating over its clattering trap set and nothing-but-a-disco rhyme-trading on Lisa Lee's spunky minute of fame, it defines the inspired innocence of first-generation old-school and allows me to retire the 1980 Paul Winley 12-inch that's been my most-played vinyl since I went digital. Cosmic Force disappeared posthaste, replaced by the likable Soul Sonic Force, who pass the mic on tracks that range from competent to classic and invite James Brown and Melle Mel to the party. But I'll never forget "These are the devastating words that you never heard before/I'm Lisa Lee, huh/I got rhymes galore/So young ladies out there and from the heavens above . . . " And now here comes Chubby Chubb. Lisa Lee is gone forever, and so are her girlish ways. A-

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