Marvel girl

'This week' is an invitation to the complex world of Jean Grae

With her third album, Jean Grae - a former Alvin Ailey dancer and South African emcee - invites us deeper into her complex world. This Week is Grae's attempt to chronicle what she goes through in the course of a typical week. Based on the recorded evidence, these days Grae is caught somewhere between alcoholism and Afro-centricity, armed with one of the sharpest tongues in the game. The album presents Grae not as a chanteuse or diva, but as an Angela Davis-influenced lyricist who defies industry labels.

Like her previous works, This Week showcases Grae's ability to flip phrases and spit rhymes. With Queen Latifah intent on making bad movies, and Lauryn Hill busy raising her kids, Grae has stepped up as the illest female emcee working and puts plenty of brothers to shame. Standout tracks include the braggadocios of "A-Alikes," the GZA-influence valentine "Give It Up," and "The Wall," one of the most brutal self-deconstruction tracks in recent memory. Sonically, the album excels with several piano-laced tracks produced by a host of newcomers. Of particular note, 9th Wonder check in on "Supa Luv" and "Don't Rush Me."

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This week
Jean Grae
(Babygrande Records)
Unfortunately, This Week falters through the inclusion of a number of aural skits that are either flat-out annoying or rooted in Grae's smug inner art-school/theater-nerd sense of humor. It's safe to say that when Prince Paul invented the medium with De La's classic Three Feet High and Rising, this wasn't what he had in mind. The disc also disappoints with the exclusion of "Forgive Me," a haunting account of abortion included on advance versions of the album that represents Grae's deepest work yet somehow didn't make the album's final cut. Even with these caveats, however, This Week is a mesmerizing LP that captures Grae's continuing evolution from Marvel Girl to a Phoenix force on the mic.

M. Solis