Album: Jean Grae

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The Independent Culture

Jean Grae goes against the grain of contemporary hip-hop diva style, as is immediately apparent from the cover photo to This Week. For one thing, she's wearing more than lingerie; for another, she's depicted writing amidst a sprawl of books. As she affirms in "Not Like Me", she's not like other Jeanies from the block - she enjoys reading, chess, cooking and conversation, and is unimpressed by ostentatious displays of wealth: "They're not like me/ Baby you know it's not easy/ To come across a girl like Jean." But boy, can she spit images. Take "A-Alikes": "I burn sky, scorch the earth's flesh/ At the same time the murderous text/ Unrolls like a phoenix with the glow of death." She's unafraid to admit her fears, and possessed of a self-image that swings from articulate assertiveness to disgust at her shortcomings, such as her paranoia and what she regards as her borderline alcoholism. "I'm an insecure failure/ I can barely maintain/ I wanna scream like Mahalia," she admits in "The Wall", and vividly conveys in "Goin' Crazy" the routine terror of a woman walking home alone: the kind of thing most rappers would deny through hip hop's pervasive gang mentality. But Jean Grae's clearly one of a kind, with her own agenda. As she observes, "This ain't Gray's Anatomy/ Some of it's talk therapy/ Some of it's sketch parody/ With lyrical dexterity."