Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2003
Twenty-three-year-old Chevon Young was not an overnight sensation. She was repeatedly passed over by A&R people because Eve was already a star and they didn't think there was room in the majors for two female MCs from Philadelphia. Then someone steered her to the Beat Club, the new record label run by master producer Timbaland, whose partner-in-rhyme, Missy Elliott, liked what she heard and sent her up to the boss.
Tim dubbed her Ms. Jade, calling her "the female Notorious B.I.G.," a flattering label that nevertheless waters down her claim to being different and points to the fact that the best producer in hip-hop never got to work with the greatest rapper of all time. "Girl Interrupted," the debut album he produced for Jade, is as fat and juicy as any of Biggie's jams were. Cutting loose from the minimalist beats that Missy prefers, Tim throws so many weird things into the mix that even guests Jay-Z and Nate Dogg are forced to duck.
But while Tim loses his head, Jade keeps hers. Wielding a monotone as attention-getting as DMX's hellish growl, she displays a confidence that springs from a solid understanding of her milieu rather than any impulse to show off. Despite repeated self-identification as a "champ" and a "gangsta," Jade mostly comes across as a plain-speaking odd girl out.
In "The Come Up," she allows that while drinking and banging takes up some of her time, "I got bills to pay/Gotta make my way/Is that OK?" Admitting her lifestyle is "a me-thing," she refuses to give up anything to sisters who think she owes them something ("Get Away") and exposes money-grubbers for the losers they are. "Is that what's called big pimpin'?" she asks a discarded layabout lover sarcastically in the Missy duet "Really Don't Want My Love," and another hip-hop cliche bites the dust. And as a bizarre Nelly Furtado vocal snakes in and out of the full-throttle beat of "Ching Ching," Jade tears the bling-bling lifestyle apart. "Don't hurt 'em, girl," shouts someone in the back. Ms. Jade acts as if she doesn't even hear him.