Robert Christgau:
Expert Witness

Kool A.D. / Kool & Kass

Kool A.D. : Word O.K.

(Bandcamp mixtape)

After releasing six mixtapes between February 2013 and March 2014, the multicultural who broke up Das Racist rested, and this was a good place to stop—a culmination, temporary or maybe not. Splitting the difference between modest confidence and cool diffidence, he claims “best rapper in the world” as a joke because these days a joke is a lot better than nothing if it’s brainy and benevolent and keeps you in food, shelter, and airplane travel. Old materials you won’t mind hearing again are recycled occasionally. First-string cameo providers Lady Bug, Talib Kweli, and Del the Funkee Whatever add class. Amaze 88 and the beatmaking corps keep the flow relaxed, strange, and thrift-store lush. Near the end of the opening “Open Letter,” this best rapper in the world tosses off a metaphor that rhymes with “metaphor”: “If you headed for a wall you better set a course through a door.” Clearly, that’s what he thinks he’s done. Here’s hoping that door either stays open or led him into a room where he can get his work done when he’s in the mood. A

Kool A.D. : 63

(Bandcamp mixtape)

Released simultaneously with 19 in early 2013, this is the one that goes down easy. Perpetually amused and perpetually ticked off, unusually well-informed even though he doesn’t read enough, his congenially stoned, organically radical, holistically pro-life flow defines without dominating a cast of nearly two dozen, including a couple of junior pimps keeping it whatever they keep it. Few tracks maintain like the picaresque jingle “Airplane Flight” or the Kanyefied autobiography “Exotische Kunst.” But every one keeps on bullshittin’. Hip-hop as good conversation. Dinner-rap with PSAs. A MINUS

Kool & Kass: Peaceful Solutions

(Bandcamp mixtape)

Kool A.D.’s the laff-a-minute one with the throat cured by years of holding his tokes in and the stoned laff to match, Kassa Overall the jazz drummer qua all-over beatmaker and relatively rational and mellow rapper. Kool’s more “I gotta think about some shit not to give a fuck about,” Kass more “Words from a hat like barely a metaphor/Still finding myself the reason I met her for.” Both give “Shouts to our white mothers/Thank God they liked brothers.” Bob Marley offers the benediction. Bone Thugs’ Bizzy Bone raves about Jesus, money, and sleeping in the bus station for upwards of 10 minutes. A MINUS

Kool A.D. : Not O.K.

(Bandcamp mixtape)

From the beatless two-finger-piano-plus-sine-wave opener to the minimalist-piano-plus-brushes closer, you’ll believe Victor Vazquez is deploying the weirder half of the sessions from which he’ll construct two albums. The beats are funkier but never aggressively danceable‑-synth whistles, skeletal syndrum snatches, organ parts, sandpaper vinyl noise. And the raps are in Spanish and French as well as English, as befits a guy who claims Michael Ondaatje, believes Leonard Maltin and Rick Ross belong in successive 16s, and leads his own prayer circle. B PLUS

Kool & Kass Are . . . Peaceful Solutions: Coke Boys 5 (Bandcamp mixtape) Stoned afternoon in a Berlin hotel room hooked on the samples “Dayum, son, where’d you find this?” and “Maybach music” (“C.R.E.A.M.,” “Uoeno”) **

Kool A.D.: 19 (Bandcamp mixtape) Hip-hop as clever conversation—gallery-rap (“All Skreets,” “Marine World Africa”) *

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Follow Robert Christgau on Twitter at @rxgau.
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