Brooklyn’s Jean Grae has been around for a very, very long time. She started in 1996 as part of the group Ground Zero, who got Source Magazine’s Unsigned Hype award, then moved into the band Natural Resource, where her song Negro League Baseball became an underground hit.

She put it on her first contracted album, Bootleg of the Bootleg, which literally reeked with pure brilliance. One of the best rap albums of the 1990s. Not one of the best albums by a female rapper—one of the best, period. And she’s hit the high notes multiple times since then, on albums like This Week and Jeanius.

Recorded with her fiancee Quelle Crhis, this album finds Jean much more playful than she has been in the past. “With difficulty comes learning,” she says on Gold Purple Orange, which bounces along, bar after bar, giving straight talk about how hard it is to live in America, but at once feeling hopeful and fun. Fun!

On Peacock, she’s “a proponent of the mainframe hacking,” of blowing up the system, over a sinister techno soundbed, stepping aside for Dane Orr’s grounded, deeper voice to pull us forward into the fight against bad cops: “You ain’t about to off me, ‘cause I’m free…” Yeah, it gets very political. But it never loses it’s center, which is that Everything’s Fine. Just like Bobby Darin told us not to worry and just be happy. I mean, look how funny this video is…

The best rap albums have their share of fun and humor. It’s the thing most amateurs take for granted, confusing grit for content and sarcasm for wit. Jean Grae doesn’t make that mistake.

If this isn’t one of the best rap albums of 2018, we’re in for a terrific year in hip hop.

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