Regardless of the content of their raps, the vast majority of MCs use the boast as their narrative mode, and Jean Grae is no exception. On the exquisitely tight slow jam, “Not Like Me,” from her sophomore album, the NYC-based South African emigre counts off her unique qualities with such an abundance of verbal resources that you forget the tone (quiet, confident) and concentrate on the words, dense with meaning and humor. “I do dinner on the dutch/while most women do the wallet clutch,” she says, stating her dating priorities, which stand in contrast to the other women in da club. “She ain’t even fully developed,” Grae comments on a typical tootsie, and you know she isn’t talking about the girl’s body.

Raised in a house of jazz where she listened to The Clash under the bedcovers, Grae is just as open-minded in her musical priorities, preferring back tracks with tricky meters and melodic complexities. The beats match her style, which is ambitious rather than merely overbearing like most rappers. She doesn’t demand your attention, she wants to earn it and likens herself to “a derailed train/a female pain.” “I came into this life with one mission,” she says. “Watch me.”

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