Jean Grae & Quelle Chris aren't fine
The pair sign off on their collaborative effort Everything's Fine...
Jean Grae is surely the most talented female rapper of her times. On the scene for over twenty years, she has always been in the forefront of what has sometimes been called alternative rap, alongside Talib Kweli, Mr. Lif and 9th Wonder. Her music is set apart by her gobsmacking technique, her constant research, and an unparalleled sense for mockery. At her side, Quelle Chris is an extremely creative all-rounder who takes great pleasure in subverting established conventions, whose roots are in J-Dilla’s Detroit. The major thing he shares with Jean Grae is a heightened sense of independence, a determination to follow his own path. They are both lodging in today’s best label for independent innovation: Mello Music Group.
The encounter of tradition and experimentation brings a multitude of colours to Everything is Fine. Full of improvisations that verge on free jazz and analogue distortions, Quelle Chris’s production and Jean Grae’s ideas open up a mysterious space. Jean Grae takes centre stage lyrically with lines that always contain the right dosage of cynicism and a regal performance, in particular on the bouncing “Gold Purple Orange”. Quelle Chris always punctuates these bravura sequences with his own deep and enveloping voice, adding a different flavour with a ludic touch. The boundaries are fluid. Over a psychedelic rock breakbeat, the duo indulge themselves and invite offbeat comedian Hannibal Buress onto “Ohsh” for a pitch-perfect sparring match.
In fact, contrary to what the title says, nothing’s going well, everyone knows it, and the duo uses this double discourse to develop some very intelligent little pieces on the nature of happiness. By working on the idea of “wellbeing” in the modern world, they create some often-dystopian vaudevilles recalling the finest hours of MF Doom, Cage and Run The Jewels. These echoes sound the loudest on the labyrinthine “Zero”. With some very filmic synths, the album closes on some lighter notes, in particular drawing on some brilliant turns from Anna Wise. Very profound, Everything’s Fine is a masterpiece among the output of these two artists; it’s a joyful meeting between two rebellious spirits whose content is sure to inspire reflection on a number of subjects in our societies – while having a lot of fun with the form.