Jean Grae / Quelle Chris

Everything's Fine

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    8
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On Everything's Fine, rappers Jean Grae and Quelle Chris reflect on what it takes to stay normal and sane while dealing with intense personal issues and living in an increasingly corrupt, crazy world that constantly seems on the brink of destruction. Despite how wrong everything seems to be, the average person will typically respond to a casual greeting and query of "How's it going?" with something positive and safe rather than be honest and detail all the things that are going wrong. The darkly humorous album sarcastically riffs on this sense of false, clich├ęd optimism, as well as stereotypes, the whitewashing of hip-hop (and popular culture in general), and the general sense of anxiety surrounding day-to-day existence. Right from the outset, the album is filled with dense, complex vocal arrangements, with both MCs (as well as their guests) delivering dozens of vicious caricatures of fake rappers and "woke" folks. The couple, who announced their engagement a few months prior to the album's release, have vastly different styles -- Grae, who also moonlights as an actress and comedian, is sharper and more dramatic, while Chris has more of a loose, conversational style and can sometimes be described as a stoner rapper -- but they complement each other well, and both drive the album's concept. Musically, some of the tracks sound like the type of sludgy, lo-fi boom-bap Chris is known for, but they branch off into several other directions, such as the smudged P-Funk vibe of "House Call," the spacy, late-night jazz groove of "Gold Purple Orange," and the grinding industrial drone of "Scoop of Dirt." In addition to guest appearances by underground rappers such as Your Old Droog and Denmark Vessey, several comedians also contribute. The brilliant John Hodgman wearily, reluctantly offers words of encouragement on the Negativland-like interlude "Don't Worry It's Fine," while Nick Offerman cheerfully encourages you to disregard anything that doesn't directly affect you during "Everything's Still Fine." On "OhSh," Hannibal Buress shows up to deliver a numbskulled rap satire while a barrage of samples of the word "shit" fly by at a rapid pace, and it's impossible to imagine everyone involved not cracking up in the studio. The album ends with two of its most cautiously optimistic tracks, the more uplifting "Waiting for the Moon" and the ethereal yet hard "River," which seem to resolve that things are, in fact, quite OK, but you still need to watch out and fight for yourself.

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