Historically, music couples have always captured the hearts of audiences. Bonnie & Clyde and John & Yoko come to mind. Underground hip-hop has found it’s challenger in Quelle Chris and Jean Grae. The Detroit powerhouse delivers on the highly anticipated Everything’s Fine, going bar for bar over some fantastic production.
Everything’s Fine is the definition of anxiety in the 21st century. It is equally as biting as it is frank. Quelle Chris and Jean Grae are two of the most acclaimed rappers in the industry and they play their hand well throughout the album. Not a single verse goes to waste and the same can be said for the features.
The first track opens to a parody gameshow steeped in pessimistic irony. Each contestant is introduced to a list of disappointing milestones in their lifetime. The only correct answer (in fact the only answer) is “Everything’s Fine”.
‘My Contributions To This Scam’ is easily one of the most sardonic tracks on the album, a merciless pastiche of the rap landscape. Fans, rappers, reviewers are all taken over a lethargic boom-bap beat. It’s the first foray into the intricate word play of the two MC’s, which continues on the third track, ‘Ohsh’. This track features some of the many quotable moments on this album. Hannibal Burress is the first of many comedians that will feature on this album, dropping a few verses that add to the hilarity of this track, but the champion of ‘Ohsh’ has to be Jean Grae. This is one of many nuggets: “Scheherazade, but I killed the King on day one.”
One of the most enjoyable parts of this album is that any skits or interludes don’t take up too much time. If anything, it prevents the ideas from falling apart or becoming a disorganised mess. ‘Golden Purple Orange’ has an entrancing production with some fantastic instrumentation by Dane Orr. Quelle Chris and Jean Grae draw blood once again, taking aim at the divisive prejudices and stereotypes that plague American society. Again, Jean Grae’s entrance at about the halfway mark oozes charisma. She takes advantage of the instrumental, stretching out syllables and words, creating a completely unpredictable flow in the process.
‘Doing Better Than Ever’ is the next break in the tracklisting, in which we get American-Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu acting as a brainwashed consumer. He repeats “Everything’s fine” in an deadpan robotic voice
‘Breakfast of Champions’ interpolates Biz Markie’s ‘The Chase’. It once again evokes the biting irony, converting what was a funky hook into a soul-crushing mantra. ‘Scoop of Dirt’ continues a stream of good features which really make the overall experience of the album so much better. Your Old Droog revels over another industrial beat, in which he raps about being the black Ahmet Ertegun and being able to “roll a dank like an ankle”.
‘Zero’ kicks off with a long monologue, which analyses the impact of technology on the human mind. Midway through this dialogue, the dystopian production kicks in. It feels like a bad trip or a mental breakdown for the couple. The countdown in the chorus might imply that there’s “zero f@!k’s to give”, but it almost feels like the doomsday clock striking midnight.
‘Waiting For the Moon’ is certainly more uplifting, taking the previous tracks into consideration. Anna Wise, who features on both of the last two tracks, brings some excellent vocals once again. ‘Waiting For the Moon’ is one of the more easy-listening tracks that featueres on the album. ‘River’ follows a similar course. In fact the beats almost sound like they could have been created by Flying Lotus. This song is the most emotional and serves as a testament to the relationship between Quelle Chris and Jean Grae. It contemplates the idea a successful domestic relationship in modern American society. Mental health and broken dreams are some of the many emotions which are expressed as anxieties.
This album doesn’t want you to feel okay at any moment. It constantly asks you to challenge the status quo and open your eyes to the dystopia that society might be headed towards. The humor, lyricism and lush instrumentals serve as a safe-space from the constant anxiety that the two emcees exude. Quelle Chris and Jean Grae manage to consolidate their ideas in a very coherent manner, which makes their abstract style of hip-hop accessible even to the casual listener. In many ways, this is hip-hop’s answer to 1984.
Image: Quelle Chris via. Bandcamp