You Should Know Jean Grae.

I posted this on Feministing a while back, but it bears repeating. I can’t get enough of Jeanie.

As many of you know, the hip hop/rap scene is yet another arena dominated by men. Especially after Lauryn Hill disappeared from the scene, there have been only a handful of known female MCs. Brave & talented women have been doin’ their things without as much coverage and props as their male counterparts. One of these lesser-known ladies is my personal favorite– Jean Grae.

After an early career in groups like Natural Resource & collaborating with successful male artists like Immortal Technique & Talib Kweli, Jean launched her own career. Taking her name from the X-Men character, Jean has commented that growing up she didn’t play with girls’ toys like My Little Pony; she played X-Men. She has put out incredible albums and critics have called her possibly the greatest lyricist. Yet she isn’t well known, and doesn’t make much money.

Record companies have repeatedly fumbled, not knowing what to do with a female hip hop artist who isn’t trying to be a sex kitten, who is just straight up doing her own thing and trying to be the greatest emcee. Her albums have leaked on the internet prior to being released, and she hasn’t been marketed with the respect she deserves.

 She’s had struggles with her label and the people managing her. One of her tracks, “The Story” off the Jeanius album is an incredibly honest flow on her experiences with abortion. Yet her label wanted to go ahead and make a video, without her in it, and changed the vibe of the song. Jean has tried to fight it, remarking,

“You couldn’t have a more pro-choice song. So now, in essence, what you’ve done is taken the choice away for the video for the song called “My Story.” I think it’s the most disrespectful thing ever.”

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the barriers she hits as a female emcee:

“The interesting duality comes from being female and immediately being written off saying anything—it’s: “Oh, she’s complaining again. See? And that’s why bitches shouldn’t rap.” It’s an interesting place to stand. It’s sort of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Jean is ridiculously creative with her lyrics and her topics. She’s funny one second, and sensitive the next. Her songs are, to me, the most honest hip hop I’ve ever heard. She even did a song and video for sexual abuse/rape awareness that details a girl in high school attacking the school after continuous abuse that she endures:

She’s unique in the fact that she’s not interested in marketing herself as a sex symbol, but she doesn’t shy away from being a sexual person, with jams like “Love Thirst”: Okay, turn the lights out/no, turn ’em back on/Want you to see my backbone and my black tone / Start minimal, raise it to animal / please You’re no amateur / please me, I’m tangible

She has been pit against other female artists who have a “sexier” image but Jean remarks:

“If at the end of the day, you can rest and feel OK with yourself, that’s fine. Personally, I don’t do certain things. I read articles and they’ll pit me against Lil’ Kim like I’m going to smash them down. I never said any of that; I never said I didn’t like Kim or Foxy. I think the media places a slant on it: “Yeah, she’s so badass! She’s gonna beat them all up! She keeps her clothes on!” I mean, that’s just me. I don’t feel the need to do all that. That’s just not how I am. But if you’re comfortable doing that, that’s fine. I just happen to be doing some other shit. “

If there’s anyone who DESERVES to be recognized, and deserves to make a living off their flow, it’s Jean Grae. Jean is one of the most underrated artists ever. She’s smart, crazy talented, witty, strong, and sensitive. I HIGHLY suggest her music.

Other Jeanie quotes:

“It’s cool to have the naked girl if she wants to be the naked girl. We should be able to express our sexuality. My only problem comes when it’s the naked girl and no other girl. I can be the girl with her clothes on, with the book and the glasses. Because people wear clothes. It’s cold outside.”

“America is racist and people know it. I find it interesting when people are more blunt about it instead of sweeping it under the rug. A lot of people are fucked up and wrong. Sometimes the things that they think about will come out of their mouths. I was just talking to my mom the other day about how racism is prevalent and sometimes you feel it real hard. Especially in NY, we’re like “it’s cool,” but everything is not fuckin’ cool. We’re more of a “sweep it under the rug” type of city – but when you go down south, you know that it’s out there. We’re kind of fakin’ it here. You still can’t catch a cab here. I think that sometimes we’re surprised by a lot of shit that we shouldn’t be surprised by.”

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