Since 2018, Chicago singer-rapper Jean Deaux has released at least an EP or full-length every year, and there’s hardly a bum note in her growing discography. She harnesses the enticing aesthetics of R&B, reaching for the sublime with whispery percussion, lithe and steamy guitar melodies, supple keyboards in plush, downy drifts, and smokily smoldering vocals that pull you into the song like a vaudeville curtain hook. Her performances combine that sound with elements of hip-hop and pop, demolishing the already porous borders that separate the genres. At the start of “Every Night After,” from last year’s Most Wanted, she flits between sultry singing and sharply delivered rapping, pulling off a balancing act that reliably earns male rappers praise that she doesn’t get—even though she outstrips the pack with every lyric. Deaux is also a go-to collaborator for some of the city’s most talented rappers and singers of the past decade, and you can hear her voice on some of the best songs by the members of Pivot Gang. Given her track record so far, I expect my list of her own best tracks to keep getting longer for years to come.
Best of Chicago 2021 is
sponsored in part by
Refer to the closed final ballot to see all the categories and finalists that were voted on.