September 27, 2019

Jean Grae "The Evil Jeanius" (Album Stream, 2008)

"A FEELING THAT I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER..." First time vinyl pressing of one of the last decade's most curiously compelling hip-hop projects. A little backstory: Blue Sky Black Death are a production duo from the Bay Area, consisting of Ryan Maguire (aka Kingston) and Ian Taggart (aka Young God). They signed to Babygrande, releasing albums as collaborations with various Wu-Tang affiliates in addition to acclaimed instrumental projects. Jean Grae is an emcee, actress, comedian, and producer from Brooklyn, New York. Her career started in earnest around 1996 as a member of the hip hop group Natural Resource with James “Aggie” Barrett, releasing a string of well-received underground 12”s. By 2002, she too was signed to Babygrande, releasing her debut Attack of the Attacking Things, and later the acclaimed Jeanius LP, produced entirely by 9th Wonder. She worked on a number of mixtapes and experimental collaborative projects, including downtempo warrior The Herbaliser's Take London (2005), a spiritual predecessor to The Evil Jeanius. It’s not clear how exactly The Evil Jeanius came to be, but the combination of BSBD’s intuitive sampling, rugged scratching and brooding cadence matched with Grae’s razor-sharp rhymes make for some of the most potent heights reached by all parties involved. The record hits the ground running with "Shadows Forever," Grae’s fierce flow rushing over a sample of “Venus in Furs” by The Velvet Underground. “Strikes” is a harrowing tale of a murder in self-defense over glitchy muted snares. “It’s Still A Love Song” is a cheery, well, love song, backed with looped strings and pulsing organ samples. "Threats" is a distant cousin to Jigga's song of the same name, which finds Grae trading bars with Chen Lo over a gritty Etta James sample. The thing about gray area projects like this is they aren't really supposed to work, but this one does amazingly in spite of its cryptic origins, and we're thrilled to finally have it on wax. Turntable Lab exclusive variant on white vinyl." Listen below...

Back in 2008, Jean wrote a MySpace blog titled Jean Grae Is For Sale where she said "So, the economy sucks. I apparently have another unauthorized album for sale dropping Sept 30th and I figure, if everyones gonna make money offa me, why not make it directly and directly to the people who really love this shit anyway." She was speaking to the release of "The Evil Jeanius," and went on to publicly offer feature verses at $800/ea. My feelings now and at the time were that Babygrande misrepresented this album, and that tainted it for me... regardless of the fact that I really do enjoy it. These vocals could be from 2004 -- or perhaps even earlier -- we don't really know the full back story. In 2019, it's certainly not my intention (or my place) to dissuade you from supporting the vinyl, but just sharing memories I have from when it originally came out in 2008. However forced it may've been, the LP's marriage of Jean's vocals & BSBD beats is truly great!