Artist: Jean GraeTitle: This WeekRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Shawn Lawrence James
The portrait of a female MC. Circa 1988, the bourgeoning genre of Hip-Hop presented a blank canvas of soul and decided to let nature take its course. The initial draft was sketched with brilliant shades of social-conscious vibes (Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y”) outlined by a beautiful, fully clothed sista whose stunning lyricism gave most cats in the music industry a run for their money. With the inevitable evolution of Hip-Hop, more hands grabbed the utensils of this foregoing masterpiece and quickly went to work. Erasing the majority of her outer garments and adding a Platinum Rapper/co-writer in the foreground (Jay-Z, Biggie, Trick Daddy, you get the idea…) Hip-Hop feverishly embraced the sexier, less integral shift in the game. At the apex of our next revolution we have Jean Grae, a bold contrast of how a female MC is pictured. This Week (Orchestral/Babygrande) her full-length follow up to Attack of the Attacking Things is an even bolder attempt to Bogart the entire creation and pick up where her ancestors left off.
Grae revs her engines on the fiery introduction, dishing her abstract lyrics through a concoction of blaring horns, synthesizers, and soulful crooning. She then shifts gears on the poetic standout “Give It Up”. Here she plays the secret admirer and displays a soliloquy over a hypnotic lit backdrop. It’s here that she pours her heart out, dripping each ounce of emotion into lines like: “I wanna roc a fella so bad/ o, man/ notepad filled with all of the ink that a soul had.” She keeps the momentum going as listeners gleefully receive a taste of her flavorful game on the syrupy “Not Like Me.” She transcribes her game into a witty club anthem while still maintaining to satisfy her core audience. The inner beauty of This Week lies not only in what she says, but how she comes across saying it. Her flow, a hybrid of new-age lyricism and old school stamina carries this album the extra mile. She’s been blessed with the carnivorous hunger of a Mixtape prodigy, while reaping the benefits of a celebrated bar structure.
Overall Jean delivers a stellar album pregnant with post-bling sensibilities and enough introspective depth to even touch Sticky Fingaz. Despite a few missteps (the vapid “Supa Luv” could have been avoided) tracks like the guilt-ridden “P.S.” and the electro-funky “Whatever” have what it takes to nourish the craving for those seeking a premier female MC. Absent are those “Step Your Rap Game UP” worthy quotes that left a messy residue on Hip-Hop’s surface. What it’s replaced with is an ill flow, rewindable rhymes and the opportunity for Jean Grae to illustrate a new definition of what a female rapper should look and, most importantly, sound like.