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Album Review: "Everything's Fine", Jean Grae & Quelle Chris

Jean Grae and Quelle Chris’ chemistry doesn’t end with the fact they’re married; this long awaited collaborative project Everything’s Fine proves that their individual styles of underground hip hop compliment each other as smoothly, each with their own catalogs and well-established presence in the genre. The album’s beats are a loose, woozy haze of left-field experimentation; its lyrical tones are a combination of cynical sarcasm and sincere commentary on heavy issues such as police brutality and more to do with oppression people of color face living in this country.

And these ideas are presented from a witty angle; see creative interludes such as the opener which introduces contestants dealing with arduous life obstacles, and they’re only allowed to respond that everything’s cool. There’s also Everything’s Still Fine, which calls out people that make bullshit excuses to not pay attention to current world events when in reality they lack empathy. Doing Better Than Ever is another crucial moment that touches on mentions of the fact present day is the “best time to be alive” as justification not to continue to strive for societal progress, which is essential to make life in this day and age as smooth/fair for everyone as possible. These interludes definitely push the narrative of the album to its fullest.

Zero’s beginning passage could be interpreted in plenty of ways, but its mention of fear conditioning led me to suspect that it’s about the oppressed’s relationship to their oppressor and their tendency to go into protective mode after being mistreated once; it’s one of the project’s most clever analogies. My Contribution to This Scam sums up the project’s larger objectives by raising the question of what listeners are doing to positively impact the world in their lives while also poking fun at those who assume they know more about the history of hip hop culture than they do. It’s backed by a simple, dirty beat with grimy bass & fuzzy percussion that makes it stand out as one of the album’s highlights.

House Call is another sonic high point, with production that calls to Doggystyle, The Chronic, or other classics in the realm of g-funk with a slightly more mellow but still sufficient approach. OhSh is another one of the record’s most entrancing instrumentals, with its whirlwind of wailing and clicking synths supported by heavy bass. Scoop of Dirt works in a continuous warped beat; this and the hilarious verse from the man, the LEGEND Your Old Droog make it a clear standout cut.

Gold Purple Orange’s commentary on labels struck me as another significant moment lyrically; it begins with a Quelle verse that lists common social assumptions, and transitions to Jean’s analysis of labels with a reflection on being seen as the brainy girl in her adolescent days. People might stop at nothing to try grouping you into a category, which is generally harmful and worthy of raising a conversation about. Human beings will always be far too complex to fit into these specific niches. Moreover, Peacock and Breakfast of Champions restates the exhaustion that Quelle and Jean feel observing and dealing with the way they’re treated as minorities; they’re produced in a fittingly somber way, with swirling, nocturnal instrumentals.

Waiting for the Moon is one of the record’s melancholy closing cuts; the serene pianos and Anna Wise’s warm vocal remind me of a track like 13th Floor/Growing Old off of ATLiens. Both cuts are more relaxed in tone and thoughtfully written than the rest of the content on their respective projects; Jean’s last verse on it is a moment where her lyricism shines without a doubt. River’s dazzling production drifts off to subtly incorporate pianos, flutes, and guitars, and is an exquisite conclusion to the project.

Overall, this release is conceptually strong and instrumentally stimulating. It mainly suffers for its slight lyrical detours on cuts like OhSh and House Call. Their early placement makes them feel essential and drew me away a little too early; both have clever moments but don’t feel important to its overarching theme. Nevertheless, this is a decently concise project that sheds light on a lot of our societal shortcomings that it’d be a fatal mistake to let slip by.


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