Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kool Moe Dee

  • Kool Moe Dee [Jive, 1987] A-
  • How Ya Like Me Now [Jive, 1987] A-
  • Knowledge Is King [Jive, 1989] B+
  • Funke Funke Wisdom [Jive, 1991] ***
  • Greatest Hits [Jive, 1993] B+
  • The Jive Collection, Volume 2 [Jive, 1995] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Kool Moe Dee [Jive, 1987]
Sex is this Threacherous Third's only great subject, and before you tell him to grow up already, check out the dumb hyperbole of "Monster Crack" and bite your tongue. His braggadocio and jibes at the fair sex also won't mollify liberals, but that's even less the point than it usually is. This man boasts for the sheer joy and truth value of it. He loves words more than any thesaurus or rhyming dictionary can teach, and though I'm sure he owns several, they're not where he got "I'm a rap warrior/Elite Astoria/I'll take on a hundred and four-aya," not to mention "Drip-drip-drippin' and pus-pus-pussin'." Which latter isn't even the raunchiest moment on "Go See the Doctor," a safe-sex song followed hard on by yet another monitory tribute to the dumbness of dick. Knowing sex is both dangerous and funny is unadolescent enough for me, his offbeats are def, and Harlem computer whiz Teddy Riley keeps him on the one-and. A-

How Ya Like Me Now [Jive, 1987]
As a solitary rapper of the old school, locked into praising his own dick, mouth, and brain, Moe Dee doesn't have much room to stretch, but does he make the most out of it. He never lets the jaunty, out-of-kilter swing generated by his electronic percussion lie there--trick rhymes, variable lengths, filters, double tracks, sung refrains, and the occasional extra instrument all work to shift the beat without undercutting its dominance. He never throws a song away, and makes a virtue of "sticking to themes"--last time sex, this time rap itself. The story of "Wild Wild West" and the sound of "Way Way Back" establish his back-in-the-day credentials. "Don't Dance" is the boast to end all boasts. And lest you think he's hung his jock out to dry, "I'm a Player" features the most realistic assessment of male chauvinism yet attempted in a music that makes a fetish of the disorder. He will, he will rock you. A-

Knowledge Is King [Jive, 1989]
His beats grander, his samples funkier, his cadences harder, Moe Dee not only ain't no joke, he's lost his sense of humor. He's feeling his age, has something to prove: all that gladiatorial imagery sounds pretty defensive. With help from Teddy Riley, his natural swing puts the first set of boasts across anyway, but on the B, only the magnificent "Pump Your Fist" (attention, JDO: he has the chutzpah to call the Middle Passage a "Holocaust") shows the kind of knowledge that is power or vice versa. B+

Funke Funke Wisdom [Jive, 1991]
back in command ("Funke Wisdom," "Rise 'n' Shine," "Death Blow) ***

Greatest Hits [Jive, 1993]
This safe, sane 15-track summation is sufficient to the old-school veritas of Mohandas Dewese's declaratory beat. It don't stop, and it don't stop. But on his first two albums, and more explicitly if less consistently later, he was also a bridge to the conscious rap that made the old school seem so elementary. How ya like him now depends on how well ya knew him back when. B+

The Jive Collection, Volume 2 [Jive, 1995]
Volume 2 not for the artist, but for his label's new catalogue exploitation; nine of the 12 tracks also appear on Moe Dee's 1994 best-of, with which it shares its inferiority to his first two solo albums. But the three additions--"Knowledge Is King," "Funke Wisdom," "The Avenue"--show off his brainy independence. Both comps fulfill their destiny. This one goes in the changer. B+