August 27, 2008

My Gut Reaction: Jean Grae - Attack Of The Attacking Things (The Dirty Mixes) (August 6, 2002)

Rapper Jean Grae, whose real name is Tsidi Ibrahim, is from New York by way of Cape Town, South Africa. She is best known as an underground emcee who, essentially, rips the shit out of whatever verse she happens to be contributing to on any given day. She has recorded tracks under various aliases with some of hip hop's heavyweights, and when I say "heavyweights", I mean "actual good artists" and not the highest-selling motherfuckers out there.

My favorite random fact about Jean Grae, whose rap name is taken from the character from the X-Men comic book series, is that one of her former rap aliases was What? What?, which is one of the best rap names ever.

I don't know a lot about her, and I'm not going to fill up space writing a bunch of nonsense. What I will say is that, ever since I started receiving e-mail and comments about the (lack of) female artists on HHID, Jean's name has popped up consistently, and truth be told, she's an artist I had always wanted to look into, since, besides dusting off classic discs to see if they still have relevance, I'm trying to help others discover newer, more obscure artists that you may enjoy, but the problem was that I never actually had a copy of her debut disc, Attack Of The Attacking Things (The Dirty Mixes). Thanks to the local library, I can at least see what I have been missing out on.

Here we go.

1. INTRO
Weak rap album intro. Sure, Jean Grae doesn't waste our time explaining to the listener why Attack Of The Attacking Things (The Dirty Mixes) is the best album since sliced bread, but it's still pretty weak.

2. WHAT WOULD I DO
Mr. Len's instrumental crawls underneath a bed of (surprise!) actual lyricism. From the few guest spots I remember the former What? What? from, Jean's always been pretty good, and now I'm wondering what took me so damn long to get this CD. The Mindy Cohn reference also made me chuckle.

3. GOD'S GIFT
Masta Ace's beat comes off as something that Busta Rhymes would have rejected in a rare moment of clarity. It also overpowers the lyrics, which is never a good thing, unless you're deliberately aiming to create a song for the clubs.

4. BLOCK PARTY
Wow, that title is misleading. It's kind of like finding a song called "America Is The Greatest Country In The World", popping it into your CD player, and realizing that it's a six-minute rant about how much the rest of the world hates us. The points that Jean makes are valid, though.

5. NO DOUBT
The beat is a tad bit too slow for most listeners to get in to. I didn't find the lyrics on here to be that memorable anyway, though, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

6. BUBBLIN' (SKIT)
Completely unnecessary.

7. THANK YA!
This is an interesting listen. The singing on the hook sound as if it belongs on a different song completely, but Jean hits all of her boasts out of the park.

8. LOVE SONG
This Beatminerz-produced joint is very damn good, but it is melancholy as shit. Still, this is probably the most realistic depiction of what runs through the mind of a young woman (Jean Grae herself, possibly) who suffers through multiple failed relationships. I can't stress enough that this song is really good.

9. GET IT
Writing a hook for a hip hop song has got to be the hardest job in the world. I can't believe that there aren't college-level courses for that shit that rappers are forced to enroll themselves in, since it seems that a lot of hip hop hooks are terribly written. Jean Grae is no different: the chorus is pretty blah, but the song is decent otherwise.

10. KNOCK
This song does not, in fact, knock, but that's mainly because Jean Grae doesn't make those types of songs anyway. But this shit is still really fucking good.

11. LIVE 4 U
Not bad, but at this point, you're wither already in love with Jean Grae's work and are willing to strap on a backpack to support her full-time, or you're wondering if this type of serious, meandering, sentimental rap song is the only type of song Jean knows how to create, and if she deliberately chooses her beats based on how likely they can be mistaken for ambient noises for insomniacs to listen to.

12. FADE OUT
A very touching outro.

THE LAST WORD: Remember the write-up that I did for Lil' Kim's Hard Core a couple days ago? Attack Of The Attacking Things (The Dirty Mixes) should be the polar opposite of that disc, since lyrically Jean Grae towers over most other female rappers (and quite a few of the guys), but after listening to it for the first time in its entirety, I found the beats to be mostly bland. There are a handful of good songs (and one great track in "Love Song", which is not a cover of the Cure's classic, sadly), and the fact that the album is really short is a plus, but Jean Grae deserves better beats, instead of sounding like she's sleepwalking approximately half of the time. As such, I will probably keep "Love Song" on my iPod, but, like Chino XL and Ras Kass before her, I can't condone recommending an album based on lyrics alone. Sorry, kids. But her lyrics are impressive enough that I will try to locate the rest of her catalog.

-Max

12 comments:

  1. you should check out the album she did with 9th wonder a few weeks back that finally got released: Jeanius

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  2. Good to see a review of this album. I did not enjoy this album as much as her future releases but it's still a very good album. I recommend "Bootleg of the Bootlegs" (blew my mind first time hearing it) & "Jeanius" for better beats and righteous lyricism. Keep up the great work.

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  3. your local library has an incredible selection!

    i checked one time, and mine was full of michael bolton, beethoven, and eric clapton.


    zero hip hop whatsoever.

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  4. great review. I know I sound like a broken record right now, but you should also check for Invincible's Shapeshifters. As far as lyricism and sustaining symbols/narratives go, I really think she has made the album of the year.

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  5. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessAugust 27, 2008

    I'm starting to think that KRS-One is your librarian. Either that or your "library" is accessed through a "modem."

    Jean Grae is an elite lyricist. It damns her with faint praise to say that she's the best female lyricist ever. I was introduced to her through Bootleg of the Bootleg and that's still my favorite album of hers. It's got my two favorite Jean Grae songs and the last track is an attempt to answer the Ras Kass Critique. The song would benefit from being presented as separate tracks, but Jean blesses us with a 30 minute lyrical clinic over a selection of various hot beats, mix tape style. If that doesn't do it for you, there's a song with a prominent Jay-Z sample and a song with unbridled profanity. Given the current impossibility of rapping in italics that's a pretty good job of catering to Max's interests.

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  6. Mr. AquariusAugust 31, 2008

    little late, but this was a pleasant surprise. thank you.

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  7. just some info you may or may not know or care about ms. grae: she was originally also run run shaw, also of the group natural resource and produced most, if not all of the tracks for natural resource as well as bad seed and other makin' records/obs fam people. her lyricism took a nosedive when she switched from what? what? to jean grae but thankfully has since regained it. uh.. also, the blend with herbaliser is off the hook and i think my first introduction to what what. she really needs to stop doing shit with ninth wonder

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  8. canibal ox suffers from the same thing, they need better beats

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  9. try the one she did with Blue Sky Black Death, Max, you won't be disapointed !
    One of the tracks is " Still a love song", a sequel to the one you loved in this review and also a very good one

    plus Blue Sky Black Death definitely deserves some shine here

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  10. But thanks for the review! I hope folks go check Grae's newest stuff out. Girlfriend is nice.

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  11. I disagree with you on God's Gift. It's probably my favorite track on the album. I think her mastery of the "playa" voice is brilliant.

    "kiss me and the globe turns, sunrise and moon shine, ocean tide shift in just the blink of an eye"

    Maybe you've never been on the receiving end of this type of talk, but as a woman, I have and Grae kilt that.

    One Love

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  12. You can't recommend an album based on lyrics? Man, you're full of shit.

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