This Week

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The new-agey poster chick for female emcees is back with her long-awaited second album. And she’s amped to take on past critics and kick the sophomore jinx straight in its ass. Her debut, Attack of the Attacking Things managed the get the South African-born, New York-bred lyricist considerable underground buzz while somehow rubbing a gang of salty journalists the wrong way. Reviews seemed to either herald Grae as the anti-Lil’ Kim and backpacker heir to Lauryn Hill or pan her as a confused emcee with piss-poor production and little substance. Not one to take condemnation lightly, Grae has roared back. She even admits to how damaging past criticisms have been to her ego.

So, of course, Grae here is self-deprecating; some of her best verses are born of self-disses. And despite an incredibly sexy voice and meticulous flow, one can’t miss that Ms. Grae is a mind-bending, honest lyricist. (“Don’t Rush Me” finds Grae clocking in with such rhymes: “Age is a motherfucker/Find myself staring at the little kids thinking I could beat ’em like a step-mother”). Since her days as What?What! from her mid-’90s BK collective Natural Resource and raucous cameos with The Roots, Talib Kweli and Prince Paul, Grae’s been known to steal the limelight when she guests on any track.

This Week is painfully reflective and works as a conceptual piece, canvassing inner demons, bad breakups (for which she takes full credit) and an unquenchable thirst for booze.

If there’s one thing journos had right the first time, Grae’s beats are hit or miss. The first half here is like a precursor to the latter half which features the ill production of 9th Wonder and Midi Mafia on various tracks. The romance inspired “Supa Luva” is so hot it leaves listeners wondering what a full collaboration LP between Grae and 9th could have sounded like. Though it won’t snag a Grammy, This Week is a seven-day walk with one of hip hop’s finest. No doubt.

Jonathan Cunningham writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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