'Everything's Fine' by Jean Grae and Quelle Chris is the scathing satire we deserve
RnB/Hip Hop |
Wednesday 11th April 2018 | David
Everything is most certainly not fine and these two studious smartasses know it, bringing us the irreverent, irony-drenched album that our tumultuous era deserves. For the recently engaged Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, the title of Everything’s Fine is a dreary encapsulation of all the lies we’re told and the lies we tell ourselves as we try our best to ignore the sinking ship we’re in.
The tone is set with the opening skit, in which a series of quiz show contestants with unfortunate backstories – from a Fine Arts graduate who’s been out of work for 15 years, to an android sent from an apocalyptic future to warn us of impending disaster – are each asked how they’re doing before responding with the same habitual answer: "Everything’s fine." For the next 50 minutes, Grae and Chris offer a stirring, mind-bending alternative to such mutually destructive inaction without ever taking themselves too seriously.
Track two, ‘My Contribution to This Scam’, is an electrifying, take-no-prisoners purge of modern rap, in which the duo rail against pseudo-woke fans, airheaded Instagram rappers, YouTube reviewers and pretty much everyone in between – themselves likely included. Single ‘Gold Purple Orange’ is a track of two contrasting halves, opening with Chris listing a series of popular assumptions and stereotypes before Grae launches into a detail-laden account of her own distinct upbringing. It’s a pointed condemnation of intellectual laziness, pressing listeners to reassess their simplistic understanding of the world beyond their personal echo chamber.
The album’s most direct and sincere moments tend to come via the tough, sharp-witted lyricism of Jean Grae, whose nimble flow runs circles around every beat. Chris provides the more abstract and cryptic passages with a loose, unhurried delivery that’s right at home amidst the jazzy stoner production. Either way, there’s a lot to unpack here lyrically. In Chris’s own words, this album ‘took time like duck confit’ as the pair deliver verse after verse that’s dense with smart wordplay and eclectic pop culture references, along with moments of poignant insight.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the title and repeated mantra of Everything’s Fine is reminiscent of a popular meme that surfaced during the US election, its two-panel cartoon of a dog sitting contentedly in a burning house becoming online shorthand for denial and self-delusion during troubling times. Between its ironic, reference-heavy humour and its scathing commentary on our social media-enforced culture of selective information, this is an album that sounds like it was made by and for the internet but it's no mere clickbait.
Everything’s Fine is one to take your time with in order to soak in its amusing, ominous, often paranoid vision. It’s a complex, consistently surprising work that challenges a nation to break out of its collective stupor and leads by example.