A relatively unknown Chicago rapper, Jean Deaux (pronounced “John Doe”) hasn’t released a project in four years. Despite this, or maybe more accurately because of it, she comes out swinging for the fences on Krash — an EP with the ambition and breadth of a Kendrick Lamar album. Out the gate comes highlight “Way Out,” a tantalizing R&B-rap mash-up. Most of the song is devoted to luxuriating in an atmospheric hook, with a burst of hip-hop galvanizing the center of the song. The heartbreaking lyrics (“Kill or be killed and you die alone”) smear into each other, adding a lush smoothness to Deux’s flow, which has a nasally whine about it — which means that it’s intensely versatile. “Deserve (More)” mostly repeats this formula, while she experiments with twisting certain inflections more, finding new vocal expressions that build-up through the second verse, until reaching a climax; that cut short, and dissolve back into the chorus.
As the project develops, R&B influences sneakily morph into electronic, drum-and-bass-heavy bangers. “Krash” — the zenith of the project and one of the best hip-hop songs of the year — is another exercise in vocal texture, going from nasally teasing to breathless braggadocio to swaggering scream — and back to a sexy R&B hook. Featured artist Bari’s soft tenor perfectly compliments the soundscape. It’s also a hilarious song with some classic wordplay: “Ima shit twice over like deuce / DEUCE!” If anything holds this project back, it’s the five minutes devoted to skits, none of which are nearly as emotionally powerful as the music. Don’t chalk it up to “ambition outweighing talent” — the talent is there. It’s simply focus shifting slightly more than necessary. And by the way, Kendrick does it too.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 4