Jean Grae, ‘Jeanius’ (Blacksmith)
This collaboration with producer 9th Wonder has been floating around in bootleg form since 2004, making its official release a bit anticlimactic. But the sweet-and-sour lyricism on the New York indie-rap queen’s fourth album still sounds remarkably vibrant. She drops both eccentric battle rhymes (“Your strawberry licorice / All up on my kicks / I’m born to snap / Picture this” from “2-32s”) and suicidal thoughts (the despairing “My Story”) with equal conviction. And 9th Wonder is in top form, flipping Phoebe Snow and other soulful ’70s samples with emotional fervor.