You lost if you havent at least heard of Jeanius in the years, about a presidential term, since it was shamefully bootlegged and placed on a shelf somewhere between Detox and that Nas album wholly produced by DJ Premier. So for the uninitiated, Graes current, Talib Kweli helmed recording home of Blacksmith Records has released an official version of Jeanius (Blacksmith/Warner Bros), her collaborative album featuring the beats of 9th Wonder. The result is what youd expect; Jean Graes lithe lyrics pair with 9ths pleasing grooves for a tasty Hip-Hop union.
The album is pretty much the same deal as the bootleg, save for some song title changes. Much has been made, and rightfully so, of the autobiographical My Story, where Jean gets in depth regarding abortion, suicidal thoughts and her hard knock life over thick drums and subdued horns.
Rocking her rhymes on her sleeve has always been a Jean Grae trait and one of her most endearing qualities as an MC. Whether its pondering the passage of time over somber chords on Dont Rush Me or trading bars with Little Brothers Phonte over haunting soul clips on The Time Is Now, Grae craftily reveals bouts of insecurity and reasserting her life of rhyme, respectively.
Youd be remiss to dismiss Graes lyrical mulling for whining. Fact is she will still give any MC, regardless of genitalia, a run for their money. On #8 (formerly called “Non Sense”) the self-proclaimed Heidi Fleiss of words kicks, You dont like the way I flow / She needs more emotion though / Ill give you a motion its you holding your broken nose / And leave you comatose / With a pound of Colombian snow at ya side and when the cops arrive theyll just think you overdosed / This aint a battle I will make your cranium rattle.
If you must seek some flaws, her delivery has rarely strayed from its systematic approach; sinister when necessary, sincere when its appropriate, but always deliberate in its delivery. Its a ham-fisted critique, but legitimate because even nonsensical switch ups get kudos these days (ask Lil Wayne fans).
Of course all is forgiven if the beats knock, and 9th Wonders drop kicks and soul loops hold Jean down smoothly for the discs fifty or so minutes. But then again, there is nothing here that is sonically unexpected. Grae off-handedly addresses these very points at the tail end of the Intro when she sarcastically says, Jean, change your flow, no. 9th, change your drums, no.
So if the question is does this album knock? The answer is an emphatic yes. Is it worthy of a spot in your iTunes or CD deck? Surely. It is not a new phenomenon where the days best MCs, and producers, often get taken for granted when their mass marketable peers get most of the glory. Thats why its so important that you cherish the Jeanius of your talented stalwarts now, before they retire.