Welcome to Expert Witness with Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics." He currently teaches at NYU and published multiple books throughout his life. For nearly four decades, he worked as the music editor for The Village Voice, where he created the annual Pazz & Jop poll. Every Friday, Noisey will happily publish his long-running critical column. To learn more about him and his life, read his welcome post here.
Future: Monster (free mixtape)
Released shortly after Honest failed to catapult Atlanta's solidest trap-pop hope into a Jingle Baller and longer after babymama Ciara started saving it for a Christian quarterback, this mixtape doesn't bother with radio-friendly. Far from it. Before it sinks slowly into the generic, it justifies openers claiming "Radical" and "Monster" with a five-track sequence that begins with the club hit "Fuck Up Some Commas," ends with the outrageously catchy "2 Pac," scoops up a fine Lil Wayne 16 along the way, and never tops "Throw Away," a truer love song for Ciara than any hook machine he'd hoped would cross over: "I came home last night to a menage/Got my dick sucked I was thinking about you/I was fucking on a slut and I was thinking about you/When you're fucking another nigga I hope you're thinking about me." Actually painful. Strong like pop so seldom is. Vulnerable like pop so seldom is too. B PLUS
Future: DS2 (Deluxe Edition) (Epic)
A hypnotic, slow-motion trap-life tone poem that turns on two tells: "I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops" to set the mood and "Best thing I ever did was fall out of love" to rationalize it. Not that the departed Ciara is first cause of Future's beat-steeped lassitude. First cause is he's a junkie, addicted to the liquid scag crack magnates and FruityLoops prodigies mix with carbonated beverages so as to forget their demons—and believe that Future mentions "hell" and "the devil" more than your average syrup sipper. Does his life ever not sound like fun. I'm sure he fucks a lot, as in the echoing Metro Boomin' showpiece "Groupies" or the semiconscious "The Stripper and Percocet Joint." But does he come? Opiates, after all, are notoriously anorgasmic, and while he does once resort to the term "make love," the porn tracks are long on domination and athletic ability and the exception is "Rich Sex," about the special frisson of coitus with your chains on. In another inconsistency—he is large, he fucks up commas—one song does insist, "I'm just enjoying my life." And no doubt many of his poor fans believe him. But I don't. If only our deluded nation took hip-hop seriously, this miserable minor masterpiece would be all the proof we needed that money can't buy happiness. A MINUS
Migos: Yung Rich Nation (300 Entertainment/Quality Control/Atlantic)
"You know, it feel good when you're recognized," they're not ashamed to conclude, and although at first I was irritated by how pragmatically they reclaim what they're not ashamed to call "Gangsta Rap," now I find them generically opportunistic and endearingly jolly—which I may rescind as their heads swell, but later for that. Very hooky, kind of funny, barely brutal at all. "Yung rich niggas never did a pushup" is a brag that's hard to hate. B PLUS
T.I.: Da Nic' (Grand Hustle) Just to prove he's lost neither knack nor professional standing, an enjoyable EP no one expected or, I admit, needed ("Broadcast Live," "Ain't Gonna See It Comin'") ***
Drake & Future: What a Time to Be Alive (Cash Money/Epic) Talented frequent collaborators though they remain, beyond the sure shot it's hard to tell what they're bringing out in each other ("Big Rings," "30 for 30 Freestyle") **
Young Thug: The Barter 6 (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) Running one of his inscrutable jokes on the major label ("Can't Tell," "Halftime") **
Migos: Rich Nigga Timeline (free mixtape) Hoping their base forgives them for acting so soft, gangstas redux stick their catchiest number at the end of this overlength 18-tracker ("Struggle," "Bachelor") *
Future: 56 Nights (free mixtape) Sprung from his Dubai lockup, DJ Esco enlists 808 Mafia to arouse Fewtch from one of his many insensate stupors ("Trap Niggas," "March Madness") *
Follow Robert Christgau on Twitter and read the archives of his criticism on his website.