FOURTH TIME IS A CHARM
Back in July, South African-born underground female rapper Jean Grae released her fourth full-length CD, and her second for Talib Kweli’s Blacksmith Recordings. Within the first two minutes of this under-the-radar gem, she commands the listener to “get your learn on”…AND WE DO; and when she says she’s “fixin’ to school you”, we believe…WE BELIEVE. When Ms. Grae boasts of her own rapping and her “pimp-phatically speaking impeccable word-flow”, it is with tongue-in-cheek poetry, yet remains an incredible understatement, as her wordplay borders on the line of lyrical master, and her prowess for prose is well-evidenced on these thirteen 9th Wonder-produced tracks. With an almost Moby-ish, polished production quality, complete with blues-y samples and dusty scratching, the underlying music behind “Jeanius” screams “Retro”, with bursts of basic old-time funky beats, laid-back horn breaks, and the non-stop classy flow of Grae’s flawless superiority on the microphone.
Queen Latifah or Salt n Pepa, she’s brutally (and unforgivably) not; the language is not suitable for even some ladies I know. However, on “Jeanius”, Jean Grae sounds honest, true-to-herself, and totally convincing without sounding brash or cheesy. A split personality of gangster, mother, and storyteller all come crashing head-on in the epic “My Story” as Super-Jean and her powers inside reign supreme in the end of this Billy Holiday-meets-Outkast jam. And by track five, “The Time Is Now”, when she cries out, “trapped in the rap again, blacker than a boat-load of Africans”, she has somehow tapped into that small dark side that hides within all true Hip-Hop and old-school Rap fans, universally touching a spot inside, no matter what your color is on the outside. Hitting you in the heart, AND the mind, the at-times introspective “Jeanius” is just that and a whole lot more, and should set the standard for female emceeing for some time to come.-- review by Carl Noone, Jr.