There's been a myth in Hip Hop for some time now that all the female MCs have gone the way of the dinosaurs, which is to say: they don't exist. VH1 and Ego Trip tried to crown Miss Rap Supreme earlier this year and if the show is any indication, the female MC just might be an endangered species.
Thankfully, that's not the case, as we still have a gem of a female emcee in Jean Grae. Where most femcees get on these days by selling their sexuality, Jean is selling nothing but hot sixteens (but don't get it twisted, Jean is kinda sexy too). After a couple of false starts and complete bootlegs, the self described "Bad Luck Lucy" re-upped with Talib Kweli's Blacksmith imprint for the official release of her collaborative album with 9th Wonder, Jeanius.
From the outset, Jean goes hard on the "Intro" spitting: "Please don't be mad at me, I'd rather be liked/cause your opinion really matters automatically, psyche/ I gives a fuck what you can think of Jean..." Ms. Grae compromises for no (wo)man, and attacks every track with the same ferociousness as the intro. But wait, there's more, she's a pretty good song writer too. A lot of lyricist stumble when it comes to the crafting of actual songs, but Jean makes it over the hump with "My Story." Over 9th's horns, Jean handles the delicate subject of abortion with surgical precision. Regardless of how listeners feel about the subject, when the revelation comes that she's "27 with three kids that I've never met" the already solemn track really hits home. "Love Thirst" switches gears, serenading an unnamed lover. Jean is solid on the track and delivers again on the hook.
Breaking the mold of many mainstream releases are the limited guest slots on the album. Phonte and Jean form like Voltron on "The Time is Now" proving that Buckshot and 9th Wonder aren't the only ones capable of achieving Chemistry. Listening to the two go back and forth at the end of the song is entertaining, and we can only hope this isn't the last time the pair link up in a track. Median also comes through on "American Pimp."
For all of its highlights, Jeanius is not without its shortcomings. Hardcore fans--like this writer-probably copped one of the numerous leaks of the album and hearing no new material for the official release is disappointing. The lack of variety in 9th's production ultimately hinders the album and one can almost hear Jean try to break away from the slow to mid tempo production. The lyrics are solid, and there are too many quotables to list here, but the beats don't always match up to the lyricism.
Despite the bumps in the road, Jean Grae comes through with a dope album. Those in possession of the original leak will be much happier with the commercial release, which boasts a cleaner sound than the gritty bootleg that hit the Internet. If you think the female emcees is going extinct, Jeanius shatters all doubts about whether women can rock the mic in 2008. This is the real Miss Rap Supreme.