9th Wonder & Jean Grae Jeanius

As proficiency goes, 9th Wonder is at the front of the pack, in terms of sheer quantity of releases, with his endless stream of full-length collaborations and strategic big name production gigs. But quantity does not always equal quality, and his latest partnership with feisty New Yorker Jean Grae on the long delayed Jeanius LP highlights a few of the beat man’s shortcomings. Grae maintains top form from start to finish, dominating with the scripted braggadocio of "This World,” cracking wise with fellow class clown Phonte on "The Time Is Now” and even flashing her storytelling might with the revealing, autobiographical "My Story.” Unfortunately, you can’t help but get the sense that her output is somewhat restricted by 9th Wonder’s increasingly utilitarian musical approach. While the soul-beat wiz manages one certifiable head-banger in the moderately abrasive "Think About It” and earns a passing grade soundtracking Grae’s more pensive turns, his largely singular themes do little to raise your pulse rate. (Blacksmith)