18 September 2023

"Better Day (Ghetto Girl)" by 702 (2003)

The cover art to Star (2003), with Irish Grinstead standing in the middle.

It felt bug strange tonight reading that Irish Grinstead, homegirl from 702, passed away at the age of 43, because I've actually been listening to a lot of 702 lately.  I wasn't a fan of this group during their heyday.  But some years later I came across the "CN Remix" of 50 Cent's In Da Club, which is interlaced with a track 702 dropped titled No Way (2003), and it instantly became like my favorite Fiddy song, largely due to the addition of the girls' vocals:

That prompted me to later seek out the original version of No Way, which I ended up enjoying even more than that remix:

One thing I'll give to 702 is they had the sweetest voices of any R&B act I can readily think of.  The problem, in my opinion after listening to a number of their songs, was with the production.

The lead singer, Kameelah Williams, has a really voice sound but not a lot of vocal range.  So their songs tend to sound better at times when Irish and her sister, LeMisha Grinstead, are backing Kameelah up throughout.

That's the strategy that their production team should have utilized on most of their tracks, like they did on No Way.  But instead, they relied more on the traditional formula of letting the lead singer go it alone in the verses, with the backup singers only really representing in the chorus, which sometimes worked for 702 and for the most part didn't.  That said, whenever I feel like listening to music with a girlish sound, this is the act I gravitate towards since they were really good at harmonizing while sounding distinctly female.

Also, the latter part of their album Star, beginning with track #11, No Way and concluding with #15, Jealousy, is a pretty good listen.  And that's where I found this hidden gem, which is called Better Day (Ghetto Girl):

Usually, I'm not really keen on these smile-in-the-ghetto type of songs.  I feel that the message should rather be more along the lines of 'get out of the ghetto'.   But after listening to this track numerous times, I've come to appreciate the various lyrical intricacies it possesses, being a lot more complex than 702's usual fare.


As implied, the subject, "a ghetto girl", is independent by this point, most likely being a young adult or perhaps even teenager.  She is depicted as someone who is a generational resident of the 'hood, having grown up there and now, on her own, being stuck in such an environment.

More to the point, in terms of the premise behind the lyrics, is her life having been difficult throughout.  The second verse reveals that her mother lacks the type of sympathy that is ideally required for such a position, and her father is sexually abusive.  So the subject eventually got fed up, and it reads as if she may have run away from home.  And as it currently stands she is "against the world alone", being so depressed from loneliness, the cost of living and things of the such that she has "contemplated suicide".

Kameelah and the rest of the gang are empathizing and sympathizing with the subject.  Not only are they "praying for a better day" for this girl but are also encouraging her to shun depression and rather adopt a more positive outlook on life.  But going back to my criticism of these types of songs, they invariably fail to point out any effective means towards achieving those goals.  That said, when going through hardships like those highlighted above, I guess it's better to know that at least know that someone, like a popular musician, understands and cares, even if only in song.


This track follows that same traditional R&B formula mentioned above, the type that I argued didn't really fit 702's strengths.  But what makes it exceptional nonetheless, outside of its message (as opposed to the girls' usual romantic-based tracks), is the instrumental.  And here's something really interesting - Better Day was co-produced by Faith Evans, aka the widow of Biggie Smalls.

The other producer is a New Yorker by the name of Buckwild, who's a long-standing member of the Diggin' in the Crates Crew, which also includes the likes of Fat Joe and Lord Finesse.  Also, from a vocal perspective, the parts of Better Day where the girls are harmonizing together come off really well.


Star is actually 702's most recent studio album (out of three in total) and also presumably is their last.  So these days, the only time you hear about them is on gossip sites or when something like what transpired today happens.  It was both sad and shocking reading about the death of Irish Grinstead.  But maybe her passing will bring about a renewed interest in 702, an act that never really achieved monumental chart success but was an intrinsic part of the genre-changing 1990s' R&B scene.


Below is an interesting video titled The Unfortunate Demise of Twins Irish and Orish Grinstead (of 702).  It's a mini-documentary that not only focuses on Irish's life but also give an in-depth look at the history of 702.  Be advised that it does get quite emotional near the end.  But all things considered, it is a fitting addition to this post about a 702 song that is also quite sentimental and deals heavily with the topic of depression.

Last updated on 25 February 2025

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