Robert Christgau on CupcakKe's Literotica and Leikeli47's Smokescreens
The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews CupcakKe's 'Ephorize,' 'Queen Elizabitch,' and 'Eden' alongside Leikeli47's 'Wash and Set' and 'Acrylic.'
The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it—the music editor of the Village Voice from 1974 to 1985 and its chief music critic for several decades after that. At the Voice he created both the annual Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll and his monthly Consumer Guides. Christgau was one of the first critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." He taught at New York University between 1990 and 2016, and has published six books, including his 2015 memoir Going Into the City. A seventh, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017, is now available from Duke University Press. Every Friday we run Expert Witness, the weekly version of the Consumer Guide he launched in 2010. To find out more, read his welcome post; for almost five decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.
Cupcakke: Ephorize (Cupcakke) It would be silly to assume all this homeless-shelter graduate's literotica is literal. But from the armpit-licking "Spoiled Milk Titties" to the dickhead-picking "Duck Duck Goose," believe she's gotten closer to real-life versions of the carnal variations she dreams up than the average Soundcloud trapper has to the carnage he's mumbling about. Not only is her imagery healthier and more humane, not only do her raunchiest rhymes ride her catchiest beats, but she's inserted a public service announcement, cheering on "boy-on-boy" action that'll leave both fellas free to fuck another day. Toward the end she even finds "a new man makes me wet like the ocean." But how about that—before the song is over, he dogs her. A MINUS
Leikeli47: Acrylic (Hardcover/RCA) From her friendly, articulate, elusive, music-centered interviews, what we know for sure about this rapper-singer who never goes out in public without a ski mask is that she's from Brooklyn. Plus, right, this: "My love of fashion came of being poor." Everything else we must infer from her lyrics. On her new album, for instance, there's enough detail about historically black colleges in the Greek victory chant "Roll Call" to suggest she attended an HBC herself, although the Broad and Lombard hint places it in Philadelphia, which isn't home to a single one, a smokescreen typical on on album that gets down to cases even so. Articulated in a Lauryn Hill fan's clear, island-tinged flow is a tour of a shy, smart, moderately successful young woman's hood: the nail salons and girl blunts, the sexist UGs and subway makeout sessions, the dumpster babies and relatives who need more help than you can afford to give them. The evidence that she's as musical as Hill, much less her beloved Michael Jackson, is sketchy. But what an up it is to hear a soulful survivor-and-then-some try to get there. A MINUS
Cupcakke: Queen Elizabitch (Cupcakke) The DIY/XXX rapper's 2017 breakthrough album starts with some street sociology and an earned brag before returning to the "fuckin'-for-a-check" rhymes that remain the bliss point of an irrepressible rhymer who never slurs a phrase or swallows a word. But the clincher is "Biggie Smalls," one of several tracks that prove her heart is as big as the rest of her: not just "Stretch marks in a bikini, I'm that damn brave" but "fuck dude if he don't like small boobs," because "Big or small, it's who you are." After which, right, it's back to "Pay the damn price or go home to your wife." But that's who she is whether or not it's who she'll remain. B PLUS
Leikeli47: Wash and Set (Hardcover/RCA) On her debut, the masked marvel keeps things simple, showing off her stuff in an impressive assortment of what are more chants, jingles, and ditties than songs. After all, what bizzer in his or her right mind would say no to a young nobody who sneaks the assonant "Ski mask under my hijab" into her opening track? Next she's late to work because that Juvenile song she loves comes on. "Money"—"Not the cemetery / Or the penitentuary"—is followed by "M I L K," which is not to be pronounced "milk." Attend also to the ragga "Bubblegum" and the area-code-literate "Ho." B PLUS
Cupcakke: Eden (Cupcakke) Shows impressive expertise in both sex and the city but devises better hooks for the one that's more fun ("Garfield," "A.U.T.I.S.M.") ***
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