Jean Grae Attack of The Attacking Things

Jean Grae has often been called things like, "the dopest underground female emcee," a description she'd probably spurn with disgust. After all, her list of credentials and the evidence on this, her first full-length release, illustrate that she shouldn't be critiqued solely on the basis of her gender. Arriving on the scene under her old emceeing name What? What?, Grae first made a name for herself in New York's independent hip-hop scene with Natural Resource at the beginning of the city's mid-'90s indie hip-hop surge. Through her production skills and collaborations with everyone from ex-Company Flow member Mr. Len to the Herbaliser, Grae has given indications of her inventive and unconventional approach, and Attack of The Attacking Things only confirms what was suspected all along. For much of the record, Grae's calm delivery is shrouded by a melancholy musical ambience, but this often belies what is really going on. Grae is known for dreaming up interesting and witty perspectives to rhyme from - she's written a song called "How To Break Up With Your Girl" and played a middle-class prom queen on the Columbine-evoking "Taco Day," on Mr. Len's Pity The Fool. Here, on the swirling Masta Ace production "God's Gift," she rhymes from the viewpoint of a man in a strained relationship with a woman. The bitter tone of the record is on the brutal level of Ghostface's "Wildflower" and is intentionally jarring, given the fact that the borderline hateful lyrics are delivered by a female voice. Later on the incredible narrative "Love Story," she intentionally weaves between first and third person as she details failed relationships of the past. Grae's talent at detailing interpersonal relationships is by no means her defining characteristic, as "Block Party," a coolly engrossing meditation on imprisoned mentalities, proves. She is often bitingly funny with her rhymes, delivering her punch-lines straight-faced but sometimes the humour is front and centre, like on "Thank Ya," a playful display of lyrical prowess based on a slick '80s country pop groove. She's also determined that she's not going to sell herself short as the statement of self-definition, which "What Would I Do," produced by the Beatminerz, amply demonstrates. Grae's evolution from What? What?, where at times she sounded a little to similar vocally to Bahamadia, has clearly passed, as this complex and rewarding release proves that she's a dope emcee, period. (Third Earth)