Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King [Fader, 2016]
After undermining a decade of honorable leftwing slam-rap with one of the most joyless pop sellouts in the annals of musical poesy (what? you missed Volcanic Sunlight?), Williams grabs some beats from rapper-turned-rocker Justin Warfield and justifies a lifetime of well-intentioned hype. Where political rage has a way of turning musical headache even when it's as informed and focused as Williams's is, here it's a show of power. Income inequality as death dance; Black Lives Matter as African chant; coltan as cotton as the new slavery. The guy's very nearly in a class with Linton Kwesi Johnson, the most politically astute beatwise songpoet ever. Mantras like "down for some ignorance," "fuck you understand me," and "hacker in your hardrive" have teeth. And "Think Like They Book Say" is warmer than anything on the sellout because it's hot not for love or even sex but for logic--the logic, and hence the politics, of the transsexual option. A-