This is my typical thought process a week before a review is due.
Saturday: Just as I finish up a couple of past-due reviews, I find, sandwiched between the phone bill and the credit card bill, another stack of CDs to dredge through, one of which is Jean Grae’s sophomore proper full-length, This Week. Time to grease the wheel, I pour a stiff drink and start to listen.
Sunday: A half bottle of Jack Daniels later, I wake in haze, only remembering that This Week was knocking and infectious. My throat is sore, a side-effect of my shamelessly trading verses with Grae and singing along to the album’s soulful hooks.
Monday: Crammed on the train heading toward work, I listen to the 9th Wonder blessed “Supa Luv.” Soulful does not even begin to describe 9th’s contribution; it’s so pure and heavenly it would make Stevie see the light. Grae breezes through the beat with a joint for the grown and sexy, demonstrating the tremendous growth she has made since her 2002 debut, Attack of the Attacking Things.
Tuesday: Four hours of overtime, McDonald’s dollar menu for dinner. Hip-hop writing just doesn’t pay the bills.
Wednesday: This Week is on loop on my iPod. Even though “Give it Up” and “P.S.” reveal a more introspective artist airing out tales of courtship and friendship, Jean Grae still manages to break out her lyrical brass knuckles. On “Style Wars,” Brooklyn Academy’s Will Tell cooks up a joint that will inspire b-boys and b-girls to break out their linoleum boards. Grae’s quotables seal the deal: “Cry me a river nigga/ they’ll find you in Ipanema/ Tied to line with leech in your liver.”
Thursday: Preemptive strike. I send out an email to the Jean’s publicist and my editors to give an update on the review, even though I haven’t even started to write. A little lie never hurt nobody.
Friday: With a deadline fast approaching it’s time to hammer out an angle. Compared to her other efforts, something is indelibly different about Grae. This time, she exudes confidence, rhyming with a chip on her shoulder and popping shots at all mean muggers. She makes this clear from the jump: “Critically acclaimed and shot down since Attack/ I took all of the criticism and load it up and shot back.” She has never lacked the skill or potential to be an elite emcee, she just needed to develop a stronger mike presence. This Week is Jean Grae’s best solo album to date, but it only scrapes her potential.
Saturday: The review’s almost done; it just needs something to wrap it up. I decide to let Jean Grae articulate: “I give a fuck if ya frame that or quote it/ I meant what I said/ ‘cause I wrote it/ point noted.”