Jean Grae And Quelle Chris Discuss Being A Match Made In Rap Heaven On ‘Everything’s Fine’

Hip-Hop Editor
03.30.18

Mindy Tucker / Mello Music Group

In the last dozen years or so, image memes have become one of the internet’s favorite, primary ways to convey a specific, relatable emotion. Within the last few years, one, in particular, has begun to stand out a little more as the world seems to settle into a stranger, darker version of itself thanks to the rise of a certain pumpkin-colored politician and his Reddit-bred followers. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now.

It’s a six-panel comic featuring a dog, sitting at a table drinking coffee as the house around him burns down. In the second panel, he says, “This is fine.” By the fourth panel, he’s melted down to a skeleton. Usually, when used with regard to America’s current dire political straits, users will post the first two panels alone, as if to say, “Sure, everything’s going to shit, but it’s okay, we’re all okay.”

K.C. Green / Gunshow

That always struck me as a bizarre way to look a situation. Call me a whiner, a complainer, a snowflake, but I’m a firm believer in the first rule of the 12-step program, despite being fortunate enough never to need it myself. In order to fix the problem, you first have to admit it exists.

Fortunately for me, I’m not alone in this denial of denial. Rapper/producers Jean Grae and Quelle Chris have also decided that this is a rather unproductive approach to dealing with life’s problems and made an album about it, sarcastically titled Everything’s Fine. It’s out today on Mello Music Group, and it’s a stunningly straightforward reflection on life’s many speed bumps, both small and large and an honest meditation on the benefits of addressing them head-on.

Grae, formerly known as What? What?, has been a longtime fixture of the underground, independent rap scene, appearing on songs as far back as the early 2000s, spitting aggressively dextrous raps and raging against the corporate music machine. These days, she’s self-releasing all her projects directly to Bandcamp and massively expanding her range, from performing straight stand-up comedy to singing boozy Christmas carols. There’s even an “instructional album for adults” containing nuggets of wisdom for social interactions like “Don’t Be A Dick To The Waitstaff” and “Use Your Fucking Headphones.”

Quelle Chris is her longtime collaborator, a producer from Detroit who’s been crafting left-field soundscapes for rappers like Open Mike Eagle, Danny Brown, and Pharoahe Monch since 2011. He’s been a part of a number of Jean’s Bandcamp experiments, especially contributing to her That’s Not How You Do That series. He also directed the videos for Everything’s Fine‘s singles, “Gold, Purple, Orange” and “Zero,” for which he actually learned to code video games in order to create an authentic, retro look.

Everything’s Fine finds the duo tackling everything from rap stereotypes to the fractious political climate over dissonant, off-kilter beats with dense rhymes packed with their trademark acerbic wit and jaded but optimistic insights. It’s filled with hilarious skits from the duo’s comedian friends like Hannibal Buress and Nick Offerman, but it also has tender moments like album closer “River,” which delves into some deeply personal narratives. By balancing humor with their distinctive bluntness, they’ve made an album that draws us out of that sense of denial, to see that the house is on fire, but like the comic, giving a step back to see the comedy in the disaster.

The couple — Chris proposed to Jean in November of last year — graciously opened up about the album’s creative process, working together as a couple in hip-hop, and what project they have planned next.

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