- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Carl Hancock Rux Apothecary RX

Giant Step Records

Carl Hancock Rux is the kind of guy metro-hipsters swoon over. Born and raised in Harlem, he’s a man of many hyphens: poet-playwright-novelist-rapper. Yes, rapper.

Not that these multiple roles are mutually exclusive — Tupac Shakur was no fool — but Mr. Rux is bookish rather than thuggish. With his focus on the identity crises and dysfunctions of the black diaspora, he’s a mixture of protest-rapper Chuck D. and public intellectual Cornel West.

Thankfully, he’s a much better rapper than Mr. West (see the Harvard man’s “Sketches of My Culture”). Ponder the parallel meaning and economy of “born so in the womb” and “torn so in father’s room,” for instance. Mr. Rux also boasts a rich singing baritone, too. Listen to his Afro-Caribbean word-rush (“I Got a Name”) to orchestral Celtic R&B; (“Fanon”).

“What the heck is orchestral Celtic R&B;?” you ask. My reply is, Beats me. I’d never heard it done, either.

It took Mr. Rux five years to release this frenetically catholic album, an indie-label follow-up to his major-label debut “Rux Revue.” Like the latter, “Apothecary RX” is restless and relentless, mingling jazz, blues, soul, rock in a salad of hip-hop, dub and techno beats.

“RX” isn’t quite so heavy on old-school funk and blues as “Revue” was, but Mr. Rux and co-producer Stewart Lerman (Dar Williams, Black 47) nonetheless keep the album rooted solidly between town and country.

Sometimes “RX” is too dazzling for its own good, as though Mr. Rux just wants to show off. “Lamentations,” for example,starts out with a country-blues slide guitar; goes raga; and ends up electronica. And, generally, the songs are longwinded.

“I am a man who sings too much, brings too much,” he announces on “Me.”

You can say that again.

But there are enough moments here where more really is more.

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