Jean Grae The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP

While she works on a proper sophomore effort to follow-up Attack of the Attacking Things, Jean Grae offers up these tracks as a stopgap. If this EP title is a device to deflect the acclaim heaped on her after that record to lower expectations it doesn’t really work because if the tracks collected here are cast-offs, they wipe the floor with most MC’s Grade A material. With her boundless vocab, witty battle-ending punch lines, sarcastic sense of humour delivered in her inimitable monotone, her intricately visual rhymes find her in a malevolent mood ("Hater’s Anthem”), disclosing unsettling depression battles ("Take Me”) addressing hip-hop ills ("My Crew”) or outshining Cannibal Ox and so-so production on "Swing Blades.” It’s clear that being perennially unheralded isn’t the plan proved by the bonus addition of a 45-minute mix of rhymes and freestyles. Grae fashions actual songs, not throwaway mix tape drops over Nas’s "Purple,” Scarface’s "My Block” and no less than three Jay-Z instrumentals. Shining brightest on Jigga’s beats she delivers a playful poor-woman’s parody of "Excuse Me Miss” and a devastating thirst-inducing verse over the "You Don’t Know” beat. Toss in the inclusion of NY indie classics "Bum Deal” and "Negro League Baseball” that she recorded with former group Natural Resource and it’s clear Jean Grae has not only maintained her profile but has a made a strong case to be considered one of the most versatile MCs around. (Babygrande)