When you hear the phrase, "everything's fine," we immediately understand it as emotional shorthand. In daily life, we depend on those perfunctory clichés (hope all is well, good to hear from you, etc.) to spare ourselves from the psychological unpacking that the truth requires. For that, there's art. For that, there's Everything's Fine from Jean Grae and Quelle Chris, a jagged, acerbic odyssey that brilliantly riffs on this dystopian zeitgeist. Released on Mello Music Group, this album replaces that reflexive cliché with honest and eloquent tangents. It's specific and subtle in its execution, achieving equilibrium between lackadaisical detours to smell the flowers and the frantic acknowledgement that there's an inferno raging outside.
If the great political albums are often grim polemics, Everything's Fine achieves its goals partially through withering satire. See the opening skit, a Prince Paul-style game show in which three contestants numbly croak that everyone's fine despite flying high on every imaginable drug, crying themselves to sleep at night and being unemployed for a decade and a half despite having a Master's in Fine Arts. It's rare to find a record where two rappers are so seamlessly intertwined. But the album also bears the hallmarks of two singular creative geniuses trading bars, collaborating on beats, and combining fun with internal therapy and external observations. It features indelible cameos from Denmark Vessey, Grammy Award winner Anna Wise, Your Old Droog and Big Tone, as well as comics Ashok "Dap" Kondabolu, Michael Che, Nick Offerman, and Hannibal Burress.
On "Zero," Jean artfully references Rachmaninoff and The Donner Party in the first two bars. With "Scoop A Dirt," she name-drops the Babadook alongside the truth bomb that Friends was little more than a whitewashed rip off off Living Single. Meanwhile, Quelle balances boasts about bags of cash the size of Chris Christie with poignant existential laments. It's a record with only a couple antecedents: De La Soul is Dead, Organized Konfusion's Stress: The Extinction Agenda, Blackstar, and maybe Cannibal Ox's Cold Vein. Yet it doesn't sound remotely like any of them. It's spontaneous and free, yet refined and meticulous. Even if everything is abject, it's a reminder that music can transcend.