Women In Hip Hop Part 3:Jean Grae
Since she kicked in the door about 10 years ago, Jean Grae (Tsidi Ibrahim)has captured rap in a choke hold and she’s not letting go. Born in Capetown, South Africa to a jazz pianist father and a vocalist mother, the former LaGuardia High scholar is no stranger to music or the controversies that come along with it. Her parents fled to New York when she was a toddler in order to escape the blooming apartheid in South Africa at the time. Rapping about struggles, joy, pain, and sometimes simply kicking knowledge Nasir Jones style, Jean Grae is everything an average female rapper’s not. She’s the exact antithesis of Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim.
Unlike most of her female counterparts, the rapper formerly known as “What? What?” vehemently refuses to market her feminine assets, and demands to be assessed on the strength of her talent and not by her physical endowments. Jean’s powerful punch lines, entertaining persona, and magnificent mic skills have earned her both praise and collaborations from veterans in the game including The Roots(she appeared on their Tippin’ Point album), Masta Ace, Guru, 9th Wonder, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli(who allegedly signed Ms. Grae to his Blacksmith Music imprint).
Well way before Jean Grae became a household name in underground circles, she was only slightly famous for two things: being a member of the defunct group Natural Resource which ruled college airwaves in the 90‘s with the satirical “Negro League Baseball”, and releasing a impressive debut album that no one cared about (The Attack of the Attacking Things). But after honing her skills by making multiple appearances on a plethora of underground records which earned her the nickname “Cameo Queen”, the waterproof emcee dropped another solid project ironically dubbed The Bootleg of The Bootleg EP(Babygrande). The Bootleg … gave birth to a more introspective Jean Grae on ethereal tracks like “Take Me” and “Code Red”; and a more prolific songwriter on “My Crew” where she creatively laments the state of Hip Hop - the Cd’s most outstanding joint. You see, Jean doesn’t just complain about Rap, she proffers her art as a solution, ambitiously respecting the purest form. But the 2003 EP was only an appetizer meant to usher in the main entrée.
When Jean’s sophomore album, This Week (Babygrande) arrived, fans were pleased by the stellar production that had been absent on most of JG’s previous releases. Also missing in action was her signature run-on rhyme structure which made way for a more polished albeit conversational style flow. The Jeanius proved that she had the power to grow on every LP without stripping her sound …or clothes. Intelligent, witty and knowledgeable, Jean Grae is the paradigm of a virtuous woman, even if it's the same woman who daydreams about "beatin' up little kids like a stepmother".
All rise for the Jeanius
Jean Grae (Audios)
Jean Grae - Going Crazy(mp3)
Jean Grae - Don't Rush Me(mp3) - produced by 9th Wonder