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Everything’s Fine — ‘sardonic and surreal’

Everything’s Fine — ‘sardonic and surreal’

March 31
20:34 2018
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Jean Grae and Quelle Chris

Everything’s Fine

(Mello Music Group)

One of the most talented MCs in rap music, Jean Grae deserves more recognition than she gets. The New Yorker has chosen not to languish in undeserved obscurity, however. After a wobble in 2008, when disillusionment with the music industry almost caused her to quit, she has made a virtue of her untethered role in hip-hop, self-releasing records and branching out into audiobooks and an online sitcom.

Everything’s Fine reunites her with an ally. Quelle Chris is a rapper originally from Detroit who has worked on a number of projects with Grae (the pair got engaged in December). Their joint album is sardonic and surreal, with each sharing the vocals and production. Scuffed-up beats and black humour follow the murky pathways of classic underground rap, as laid down in the past by the likes of Company Flow and MF Doom.

Sharing microphone time with Quelle Chris means that Grae’s storytelling abilities are largely muted (she is an adroit monologuist). But her other skills are to the fore. She sets the ball rolling on “My Contribution to This Scam”, a sarcastic look at rap culture, in which she advertises her own vocal chops with comic accents and ambitious rhymes, including the esoteric pairing of “tick lyme” and “reticulum”. “Gold Purple Orange” includes an abbreviated but vivid self-portrait of her New York childhood: “Young girl, side ponytail, thrift store garb/Frizzy hair, bookworm but street smart”.

Quelle Chris complements her well, rapping in a slower, lower voice, adding his own gloss to the album’s themes of a hypocritical world hiding problems behind bland surface calm. There is a slackening in intensity towards the end but otherwise the music has a disruptive psychedelic drive, dense with sampled dialogue, jazzy instrumentation and hypnotic beats and basslines. “With difficulty comes learning,” Grae raps. She makes it sound easy.

★★★★☆



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