JEAN GRAE: Tough Cookie
Jean Grae’s name is no accident. She is a super hero and one hell of a tough chick.
Words: Angel Diaz
“I can kick everyone’s ass,” says Jean Grae, who, like her mutant counterpart, displays an uncanny ability to be better than everyone else—man, woman or child. She’s held her own with the likes of Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Def Jux and countless others. The sad part is that when it comes to mentioning female emcees, Jean is rarely mentioned.
Gone are the days of MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Bahamadia. Sex sells, folks. I mean, who wants a female spittin’ craziness over ridiculous instrumentation? Perhaps it’s that reality that drove her to the brink of almost retiring in 2008. Either way, Jean Greasy is an artist’s artist and a pretty dope one at that. Need evidence? Go listen to her brilliant 9-minute opus “Taco Day” from Mr. Len’s Pity The Fool LP way back in ’01. Better yet, drop a couple dollars and cop her collaborative album Jeanius with producer 9th Wonder, which packaged updated and remixed classic album covers. But mention to her that she’s among the last of the true emcees left, and Jean will tell you: “I accept this responsibility. I wish it came with gum or something, or a gift card. It fucking doesn’t though, in case you thought it did. I did; I thought that. You’re lucky, you have me here to tell you otherwise…now you know.” Oh, did I forget to mention her glowing personality and sarcastic wit that her fans and followers have grown to love?
Her rap style is that of a nerdy psychopath with a soft side. Gory stories of suicide and inspirational ones that enlighten are her staples, while using big ass words that’ll have you scrambling for your dictionary wondering whether Ms. Grae lives in a library? “That would be scary! Especially at night—nothing scarier than a museum at night. We all know that exhibits come to life in museums at night…I guess a library wouldn’t really be that bad. You could get injured by a lot of flying books or something. That wouldn’t be something I would like.”
She’s also trying to cash in on her exceptional writing skills through other mediums. “The easiest way to get an idea of the book is to head on over to my blog, Life With Jeannie. I started writing these short stories, which have become the base for The State of Eh, the book. There are about 10 chapters up there, I believe. Self-publishing seems to be the best option for me right now. I like money; I want to keep all of it. The blog/book is really also the foundation for the show, Life With Jeannie. I actually just finished writing the pilot episode. I thought it would be a lot easier, no way! Condensing layers and dialogue was a challenge, but I’ve learned a lot so far and hopefully it will only get better. Yup, so the show should start getting off the ground soon. It’s gonna be pretty funny as well as offensive. You know, like me.”
With a tour in the works, Jean’s trying to hit us with a couple of visuals from the dope as fuck Cookies or Comas, a special Gansta Grillz mixtape (a la DJ Drama) that should give us Being John Malkovich type insight into her sick and twisted mind. “I really hope we can get some things knocked out before we hit the road. I always write everything with the visual in mind. So Casebasket and I Rock On are what have been discussed. I think my manager is looking into the legal/safety issues we could possibly run into with the whole ‘Can we fit a horse into a hot air balloon’ concept. I mean hey, I go all out, you know?” And Jean might just be dead serious about it all.
But of course, this will all build up the anticipation for her long awaited follow-up to Jeanius, called Cake or Death. While the album has no set release date yet, fans can expect it to be out later this year or at the latest, early 2012. What we do know is, it’s done and it should boast some futuristic production, Jean says. “No Quincy Jones this time! I felt like that would be the obvious move and well, you know me! Never one for the obvious! M-Phazes, Fatin, Ski Beatz, Eric G, Kadaj…in addition to myself; it’s really been a lot of musical arrangement. That really falls on me, I’m annoyingly perfectionistic. I feel like that’s not a word, but…yeah, I’m very particular about doing my arrangements and mixing. In addition, there are so many live instruments and great musicians on this project. Kwame Brandt Pierce, Brady Watts, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno and Charly East…the songs are big, man. Ginourmous (also not a word).”
While we anticipate Jean Grae’s latest offering, the South-African born rapper is plotting world domination, sort of. “Yes, definitely. Well, okay, no. I’m not all the way through this Insanity program. I need to be in better shape. Then, yes.”