Jean Grae: Jeanius

You lost if you haven’t 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, Grae’s 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 you’d expect; Jean Grae’s lithe lyrics pair with 9th’s 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 it’s pondering the passage of time over somber chords on “Don’t Rush Me” or trading bars with Little Brother’s Phonte over haunting soul clips on “The Time Is Now”, Grae craftily reveals bouts of insecurity and reasserting her life of rhyme, respectively.

You’d be remiss to dismiss Grae’s 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 don’t like the way I flow / She needs more emotion though / I’ll give you a motion it’s you holding your broken nose / And leave you comatose / With a pound of Colombian snow at ya side and when the cops arrive they’ll just think you overdosed / This ain’t 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 it’s appropriate, but always deliberate in its delivery. It’s 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 Wonder’s drop kicks and soul loops hold Jean down smoothly for the disc’s 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 day’s best MC’s, and producers, often get taken for granted when their mass marketable peers get most of the glory. That’s why it’s so important that you cherish the Jeanius of your talented stalwarts now, before they retire.