Jean Grae #5

Jean Grae #5
Jean Grae has been one of the best rappers and most interesting personalities in music for well over a decade now, if only to a select few in the know — for reasons that escape comprehension, her planned releases have been long hampered by delays, leaks and permanent limbo states. So, it being a new day and all, Grae has now taken to putting out music herself at a ferocious pace. Since 2013 she's given us three rap albums, two compilations, an EP, an audio book, a web series and an "instructional album for adults." But it's #5, an R&B EP, that is her best project to date.

Aside from the previously released "So Glad It's Over," this EP was produced and recorded by Grae over a three-day period and released on Bandcamp immediately upon its completion. Fans of Grae will know that she is typically hilarious, but this is a mostly serious and reflective project focusing on love and lust. A slow rolling piano sets the scene for "nothing," that moment in every doomed relationship when there's little left to say and any word could be the last. But from there we're introduced to "Joker," a sunny ode to the object of Jean's affection juxtaposed with the "do me, do me" chorus.

Amongst this deeply personal collection, "SFSC (So Far So Close)" is probably the most introspective set of musings. An ethereal downbeat-less reversed loop plays appropriately along to the push-pull subject matter. Grae describes it as always being so close to the win, yet unable to reach it. "Underneathu" is, without question, baby-making music; over an aqueous mid-tempo beat, Grae channels "Rock The Boat" with promises of "a million oceans." As a bonus, this song loops back into itself perfectly on repeat if it, ahem, needs to be enjoyed beyond its 3:31 runtime.

A little rough around the edges in places, but never to the point of detraction, this is one of Grae's most cohesive releases yet. #5 reminds us of Grae's seemingly infinite facets and incredible work ethic. That such self-sufficiency is demonstrated through tales of companionship is a twist, but I wouldn't put that ingenious intention past her. (Independent)