Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Starlito & Don Trip

  • Step Brothers Two [self-released, 2016] ***
  • Step Brothers Three [Grind Hard, 2017] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Step Brothers Two [self-released, 2016]
No government "Bunk Beds" for these payers of dues and bills--they're too long on both cold-eyed perspective and human connection ("Paper Rock Scissors," "Something for Nothing") ***

Step Brothers Three [Grind Hard, 2017]
Starlito, the lower-voiced half of the DIY duo who've broken through to make my favorite hip-hop album of the year, isn't the first to observe that "ballers wanna be rappers, rappers wanna be ballers." The difference is that these guys make both ways of life sound like the hard grind their label name isn't the first to claim. "My future's in that paper bag," exclaims Don Trip as he negotiates a cash exchange; "I ain't been home in the last 30 days / I've been on the road gettin' paid," moans Starlito to introduce the high-anxiety "If My Girl Find Out." Later come the carefully plotted legal murder of "Good Cop Bad Cop" and the modern-day whips and chains that enslave rappers and ballers alike on "The 13th Amendment Song." I also like the way they rhyme, say, fortune-Porsche-mortgage-abortion-divorce ya-Nordstrom-extorted-quarters-important-portion-Ford Explorer-torture-hoarder-lawyer-Jordan-Porter (with law enforcement, touring, and President Orange crammed in there too). I also like the way their kids better use their car seats. "I used to prey on my enemies now I pray for serenity"? I'll buy it. In fact, I just did. A-