Rux Revue


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Rux Revue is the debut album by Carl Hancock Rux, released by Sony 550 Records and produced in Los Angeles by the Dust Brothers;Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf; featuring drummers Joey Waronker (formerly of R.E.M.) and James Gadson; bassists Atom Ellis (of Link Wray/The New Cars) and Carol Kaye; keyboardist James Hall and bass guitarist Wah-Wah Watson. The CD was voted one of the top ten alternative music CDs of 1998 (New York Times/Year in Music). Incorporating a gospel influenced Sprechgesang and Vocalese style reliant upon an African American influenced alliteration, consonance and assonance while abstaining from the common techniques of poetic monologue popular in spoken word poetry, Rux's music is often associated with the experimental sound of anti-folk and electronica pioneered by Beck and Stereopathetic Soulmanure. His baritone gospel tinged voice has frequently been described as a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison with influences of Nick Cave, Bill Withers and Lou Reed, mixing soul, gospel, blues, rock, classical and hip-hop into a collage of machine samples, drum machines, live instrumentation and sound effects.

"Carl Hancock Rux has done it! The odds were against this twenty-eight-year-old writer-performer from Harlem, but he's made a spoken-word album that doesn't connote coffeeshops and bongo drums. With the help of a competent cast of producers and players, including the Dust Brothers, Money Mark (Beastie Boys), and Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnaph (Elliott Smith and Beck), Hancock grooves and rhymes through his urban landscape like an underground prophet. His nimble sense of humor and unexpected commentary make Rux Revue a trip definitely worth taking."

"There are two ways to listen to Carl Hancock Rux. With your headphones on, his lyrics - half-sung, half-spoken word reimaginings of what blackness means - dazzle with their originality, insight, humor, and energy. Booming from your stereo speakers, however, the full scope of Rux's achievement can be measured: With production help from the guys behind Beck and the Beastie Boys, Rux has made his social observations and self-examinations truly musical."

"No poet signed to a major label has ever sounded as comfortable with a band as the 29 year-old, South Bronx bred Carl Hancock Rux...On Rux Revue (he) creates gospel inflected grooves that are both ambient and full of revelation...Though his baritone bends like a willow switch, he remains a verbal artist, one whose voice sometimes reverberates...Rux is coming from a place way beyond anger or regret and from a whole museum full of pop culture's black stereotypes."

"If Jim Morrison and Gil-Scott Heron were able to have a son, his name would be Carl Hancock Rux. Part preacherman, part poet, Rux infuses his lyrics--delivered in spoken word format--with offbeat statements and a psychedelic sound ; an experimental mix of rock, drum n' bass, soul music, hip-hop, freestyle jazz and funk..."

"The most startling original record for some time, this could herald the arrival of a major new talent. Part scat-poetry in a Saul Williams style, part funky Beck rambling, the sweeping production (courtesy of a Dust Brother and Beck's backroom boys) elevates."

"Rux himself is a Sunday morning preacher conjuring Saturday night's fever, a pentecostal dadaist who works songs to spasm and collapse. This performance poet with the apellation of either a Roman emporer or late Victorian aesthete is rockin' the minstrelsy-mocking, ghetto-gothic, soul-dandy cool pose with grace right now...Carl and his background singers construct walls of wailing, with their tight Ladysmith Black Mombazo /Joni Mitchell harmonies; these sirens massage rants and their syncopated chain gang harmonizing pushes Carl beyond reason. Keats declared truth is beauty, but there are moments in (The Rux Revue) performance that break through and touch bone. A reminder that truth can be ugly too."

PLAYBOY Magazine
"There isn't a more beautifully written set of lyrics around than on Rux Revue...while Rux's deep voice will recall Gil Scott-Heron, Rux also evokes Lou Rawls of "Dead End Streets"...elsewhere he connects with the blues, and "Miguel" shows that his use of Latin accents is the product not of faddishness but of affinity. "No Black Male Show"is a great critique of hip-hop thaT would make Chuck D proud."

"Rux comes from just about everywhere on "Rux Revue" -- an album that not only digs into deep issues like lust, love, death, poverty and artistic integrity—but it also explores the inescapable connection between music and poetry, going places few artists have gone before. It is a tapestry of grooves and Rux's unique blend of sharp cynical poetry and rap, fortified by trials of his difficult personal history."

"This literary young lion found the balance between hip-hop cool and the poetry slam's pretensions on his debut collection of funk-powered, soul searching rants forming a panorama reaching from the neighborhood to the universe."

"Carl Hancock Rux, the charasmatic poet and composer who played at Joe's Pub on Saturday night, deliberately invoked a revival meeting. Flanked by his hot band and three female singers who testified gospel-style, Mr. Rux urged the crowd to open up to his tales of urban blight, moral struggle and black pride...evoking the psychic disorder social justice can cause...his performance may have been the (CMJ Music Festival) weekend's best."

"Carl Hancock Rux's debut is a fully realized effort to present poetry as musical theater. It's similar in this vein to Charles Mingus' A Modern Symposium of Jazz and Poetry and The Clown, or Wynton Marsalis' Blue Interlude and The Majesty of the Blues, or Stevie Wonder's Living for the City. Backed by a live band and singers, Rux's sound encompasses rock, blues, jazz, funk, and hip hop, the words allowed the most fruitful representation in sound. His voice is a rich baritone; he sometimes shouts, sometimes croons, sometimes whispers. At all times he is insistent, a quality we have come to recognize as the hallmark of performance. His work grapples with recalling his past and creating out of it a self-consciousness that is productive, rather than self-pitying. The production quality is excellent, a testament to both the producers (among them Toshi Reagon) and to Rux's command over his material and his relationship with his band."

"This disc succeeds on so many levels, it should be a required musical companion for anyone who's read Richard Wright's "Native Son" or Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man." Rux Revue is complex and layered, meriting multiple listens to mine the deep wealth of Carl Hancock Rux's perspective. Rux treats words like communion wafers and wine, slipping them around his mouth, savoring the flavor and the experience, transmogrifying them from simple syllables into messages, explanations, revelations, and observations that elevate the listener to a higher plane. Alliteration, rhyme, repetition, allusion, meter all tricks of the poetic trade that Rux uses with practiced expertise. His voice carries enough cadence that the music could be left off, and the disc would still satisfy. That the music which surrounds his words varies, wandering from soul to hip-hop to Robert Johnson blues, is another reason for awe and immediate purchase. Rux's language varies from street slang to Harvard-educated purity within the track..."Languid Libretto (I Can't Love You Better)" pairs Rux's rich baritone against sweet female backing vocals. As close to a "traditional" song as Rux Revue possesses, it's got an honest sexiness Barry White would envy...Another gem, "Asphalt Yards" trades an uplifting female sung chorus with Rux's words, spoken with alternating machine-gun speed and measured pace. Rux holds up a circle of light on the cover photograph: a beacon of illumination, or a hand held halo. Either or both, it's light well shed on an artist already renowned in his circle and deserving of a much, much wider audience.

"A second-generation son of the NuYorican poetry movement that originally launched in New York at the beginning of the decade, Carl Hancock Rux's voice is unique even amongst the legions of his local peers. On his debut album, Rux Revue, it's not just his physical voice—a deep-rooted baritone that echoes Gil Scott-Heron with a touch of blunted Jimi Hendrix swagger—that talks loud but also his artistic one, informed by the experience of a turbulent foster-care childhood. Rux doesn't adopt the showy rap cadences preferred by most young "slam" verbalists, opting instead for subversive deliverance that belies the typical "poet" style. It's a moving mix of recitation and singing, sounding, at times, like a booming all-knowing prophet to an old-school funk crooner to a soul-searching evangelist. Indeed, Rux's words could very well be transcribed for the page or be kicked a capella and resonate with convinced fury. But Rux is enamored with the actual performance of his words, resulting in backing musical soundscapes that blend seamlessly amongst cloudy black beats, Funkadelic-like opuses, and lamenting blues. With this album, Rux breaks the conceptions of what a poet is and should be, a remarkable achievement that screams to be heard."

"Wear headphones to listen to CHR's album...find the big old padded kind, the ones that mat your hair down and suction cup around the edge of your ears...then turn the volume way up. The timbre of Rux's voice is like the distortion of Hendrix's guitar—disconcerting yet exhilerating, demonic, yet seraphic, and ultimately unlike anything you've ever heard before...he's doing what Gil Scott Heron was doing 20 years ago and Micheal Franti did with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphophrisy—taking some sharp ass street poetry charged with social relevance and dropping it over funky beats. But Rux (dare I say it?) possesses a lyrical prowess that surpasses Heron. His intonation, his impeccable sense of rhythm, his prodigious grasp of language are astounding, track after track."

"Carl Hancock Rux is first and foremost a poet, but don't mistake Rux Review for a "spoken-word" album. The Harlem-born, Columbia-educated writer/performer's recorded debut renders the po-mo-poetry-recitation-over-a-canned-jazzbo-track an embarrassingly one-dimensional cliche. With a silky, yet bracing baritone, Rux's labyrinthine travels through the political, sexual and emotional pathways of his own past is tempered by the learned observations of his present-day mind... Recalling the Afrocentric commentary of Gil-Scott Heron's funk-jazz as well as the gritty observational nature of Lou Reed's downtown art-rock, Rux presents a rarely heard amalgam of spiritualism, music and politics."


"The singer, poet and author Carl Hancock Rux...knew that introducing himself to the record-buying public would be a trick: His music finds touchstones in the blues and vintage R&B, modern rock and hip-hop. It combines straight-ahead pop hooks with evocative spoken-word diatribes. It borrows conceptual ideas from performance art and spontaneity from jazz. Funky and thoughtful at the same time, it captures the crossbreed energy of this endlessly hyphenated, hybrid age. As art, this is an achievement. Rux speaks in a deep baritone, and sings with an instinctive grace, a buoyant quality that recalls classic jazz and blues vocalists."