Sep 7, 2015

#InCaseYouMissedItMonday: iSweatergawd - Jean Grae (@JeanGreasy); A Niles P. Joint

It was only a matter of time before I reviewed a Jean Grae album.  And in the spirit of In Case You Missed It Monday, I got to revisit an EP that I liked but one that got lost in the shuffle in a busy summer of music reviews.  With that being said, iSweatergawd certainly proved worthy of being reexamined as it is quite possibly the best EP of the 2015.  Jean Grae has used the online music store Bandcamp along with the art of making an EP to perfection in recent years.  
The genesis of the project is “Crux.”  It sees Jean at her best, with her trademark of lyrical somersaults rife with Chuck Jones-ian violence and assertive humor.  It’s a testament to her dominance as a lyricist.  The second track “Looking Free” sees her share the spotlight with dynamic Detroit emcee/producer Quelle Chris.  The track is a smorgasbord of sound that works as a great playground for Quelle and Jean to trade verses.  The chorus seemed long upon the first few listens but it eventually grew on me.  The voice sample in the last minute (which may or may not be Jean using a British accent) really brings it all together.  She uses her talents as a singer to flesh out “Falling Down” which is quite complex despite its 2 minute run time.  It serves as a means for Jean to ponder the world’s ills over a drink, but in song form.  
The next song, “Maybe,”  also takes a melancholy tone, but is more streamlined in it’s approach.  Jean talks about a fear of not finding true love in her 30s after a series of failed relationships.  A dialogue sample from Sex and the City drives the point home.  Quelle Chris returns to concur with Jean’s feelings on the subject.  It all makes for a very poignant song about a subject that doesn’t get talked about in Hip Hop that often.  “38 Special” is much more upbeat and features Von Pea and Donwill (of Tanya Morgan.)  Along with the host, they take turns spitting verses over a beat that sounds like it was sampled from a 70’s TV show of some sort.  It’s a fun song and its cheerfulness helps balance out the somberness of the last two tracks.  Great choice of a penultimate song as the final song goes into an entirely different direction.  “August 20th” has a heavenly beat featuring a subtle jazz saxophone, which is appropriate.  The song talks about Jean’s reaction to the death of her mother, jazz legend Sathima Bea Benjamin.  While there have been tribute songs dedicated to passed loved ones, this is the only one that I can remember that vividly depicts the physiological effects of losing a parent.  It puts you right in the moment.  The verses are bookended with samples from an interview of her mom where she talks about returning to her native South Africa and the realities of living in the apartheid era and her early career.  It’s profound and moving and you could tell that it took a courage most don’t posses to create such a song.

Jean Grae has chosen to work outside of the (music industry) machine during the latter portion of her career and musically it has paid dividends.  Her albums now get released in real time and she can put out rap records and experimental r&b joints alike.  iSweatergawd might be the best of the bunch.  She’s making songs using subject matter that is rarely used in Hip Hop.  I was initially inclined to call it “Hip Hop for grown ass adults” because of the maturity and poise used for some of the songs but she also balances this with lighter and more humorous fare that can be enjoyed by anyone.  Either way, this is a great EP to check out.  Six songs is enough to satisfy old fans while showing prospective new fans what Jean Grae is about.  Being that she’s off the beaten path, this project (along with some of her others) will be criminally slept on by too many.  But listen, get a fuckin Bandcamp account and expand your horizons.  It’s totally worth the journey.
Niles Cavanaugh
Niles Cavanaugh

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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