Review: Jean Grae (@JeanGrae) ‘Gotham Down: Cycle 1: Love In Infinity’

It is fit­ting that Jean Grae, the super-heroine fem­cee also known as Tsidi Ibrahim, takes her stage name from a Mar­vel ‘X‑men’ char­ac­ter. In the com­ic book series Jean Grey is born with tele­path­ic and telekin­et­ic super­powers, and it would seem that Jean Grae, South Africa born, New York based rap­per is also bestowed with powers bey­ond the aver­age human. Thank­fully for hip hop con­nois­seurs it is not tele­path­ic and telekin­et­ic powers Jean is gif­ted with, but some freak­ishly super­hu­man deliv­ery, flow and ima­gin­a­tion. At the same time as deliv­er­ing high-grade home-grown hip hop, Jean is also telling a story, and it’s a com­plex one.

The story began on ‘Chapter One: Des­tiny’ with 2003’s ‘The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP’, fol­low­ing an assas­sin on the run from the com­pany she worked for. This story and assas­sin theme was then con­tin­ued in Jean’s fea­ture on the track ‘Assas­sins’ for Phar­oahe Monch’s 2011 LP ‘W.A.R.’. Jean picked up the story again in 2012 with track ‘Kill Screen (Steve Wiebe)’ and it’s accom­pa­ny­ing video (a track which fea­tures on this col­lec­tion). Later this year Jean is set to release ‘Cake or Death’ her much anti­cip­ated album that cov­ers the assas­sin storyline from 2005 to 2013 and the Gotham Down pro­ject picks up the story in 2016. So this is non-lin­ear storytelling through hip hop, and who else has done that, ever?

Gotham Down is an album released as a tri­logy with ‘Cycle 1: Love in Infin­ity’ being, obvi­ously, part one. Open­ing with ‘Time (Gotham Intro)’ a short, futur­ist­ic apo­ca­lyptic scene-set­ter, with Jean deliv­er­ing just one line, ‘The funny thing about time is: it doesn’t exist’. Time, or non-exist­ence there­of has played a big part in this story, Jean has pre­vi­ously stated that if you truly under­stand that we are all, in the simplest form, energy, there is no such thing as run­ning out of time, there is no time. Think about that.

We are then launched straight into track 2, ‘Iwanteweback[the4ewesong]’, a meta­phor-laden break-up song with an insanely catchy hook (‘I want you back, I want you boo, though we ain’t lov­in’, we ain’t fuckin’, we ain’t through’) and a bass line that does things to your brain, good things. Jean deliv­ers lines ref­er­en­cing everything from music­als to oil soap, delivered with her usu­al expert tim­ing that belies her under­ground status.

Track 3 ‘Before the Sum­mer Broke’ sees Jean par­lay her deliv­ery over a remin­is­cent sound­ing beat, syn­thes­isers and what sounds like a live drum kit accom­pan­ied by a smooth-as-a-Ken-doll hook.

Clev­erly titled ‘Ah, Muse You’, a love song to a lov­er and inspir­a­tion fol­lows as track 4. Anoth­er smooth hook is accom­pan­ied by a mech­an­ic­al beat, and lyr­ics of adu­la­tion, ‘I got a pil­low with your name on it, You down, mono­grams – so you know you got the claims on it, I sewed it by hand with heart strings, Gui­tar strings play when you lay on it’.

The old-skool style beats and deliv­ery of Jean’s 2011’s ‘Cook­ies or Comas’ mix-tape are revis­ited mag­ni­fi­cently on track 5, ‘Double Katanas’. Clev­er rhymes, and amaz­ingly deep meta­phors make this a bril­liant track, a def­in­ite album high­light. Par­tic­u­larly remin­is­cent of ‘You Don’t Like It (So What)’ and ‘Case­bas­kets’ from the afore­men­tioned mix-tape, which by the way is also a phe­nom­en­al hip hop work that if you don’t know, you should get to know.

‘Love in Infin­ity’ closes with ‘Kill Screen (Steve Wiebe)’, inspired Don­key Kong movie ‘The King of the Kong: A Fist­ful of Quar­ters’, the track was released by Jean last year with a graph­ic and enthralling accom­pa­ny­ing video. This off-the-wall track opens with the line ‘This is rebel shit’ set­ting the tone and goes forth to deliv­er, prob­ably, the most in-depth meta­phors and intric­ate prose ever heard on record. This track is pure hip hop gold, there’s not many people that make tracks like this any­more, and end­ageoured spe­cies like Jean Grae really do need con­serving.

‘Gotham Down: Cycle 1: Love in Infin­ity’ is a truly amaz­ing record which will not receive even half the praise or rev­en­ue it deserves. An organ­ic (all beats made by Jean, at home) record which dis­plays the true tal­ent of Ms. Grae. If you are a new listen­er this album is a per­fect example of what the tal­ents she poses, but please listen to her back cata­logue, espe­cially those records form­ing the story line con­tin­ued here.

Yes, Jean Grey of X‑Men, Jean Grae of Hip Hop, both super-heroines. This is how to deliv­er hip hop, a record on so many levels, a gift. Jean Grae, I salute you.

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Micky Roots


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Micky Roots

Micky Roots

Micky roots is one of the edit­ors of I am hip hop magazine, a pure hip hop head and visu­al artist he brings his strong know­ledge of hip hop, social con­scious­ness & polit­ic­al con­cern to No Bounds.

About Micky Roots

Micky Roots
Micky roots is one of the editors of I am hip hop magazine, a pure hip hop head and visual artist he brings his strong knowledge of hip hop, social consciousness & political concern to No Bounds.

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