The New Breed(s): Jean Grae

I know a lot of readers will see this and think "you're a couple years behind with this," but I am placing this woman among NEW breeds because she has been something that people are just NOW noticing - a true rebel. Jean Grae is so rebellious, she'll rebel against her own hiphop community to better herself.

I was in a meeting two years ago with my Hip-Hop Congress folks (I miss you all btw), and we were talking about our all-time favorite female emcees. I said MC Lyte, but the guy next to me insisted on saying Jean Grae was better than her. I was infuriated! When I asked him why, he said "No disrespect to MC Lyte, but Jean Grae has something that the Lyte lacks, and that's a backbone." I thought to myself that was a bold statement since MC Lyte is the epitome of badass emcees, hands down. He went on "yeah, MC Lyte started the women with attitude sort of style, but Jean Grae has taken that style to a whole new level. Dudes may have been afraid to battle MC Lyte, but dudes are afraid to even be in the presence of Jean Grae. The only one is probably Talib Kweli." At the time, he was right. Every dude that has collaborated with her didn't outshine the femcee.

This femcee is especially the future of all of hiphop because she is by far the most self-made AND well-known self-made musician of our time. Jean Grae's style of rhyme is totally prepared for battle, like if anybody had a problem with her should be ready to be rump roast! Her punchlines are deadly, making you feel as if you're fighting Mike Tyson after his release from prison in '95. She has rhymes you must listen to, as they are intelligent and strategically placed for you to think and figure out what exactly she is talking about. She is perhaps the most complicated femcee to decipher out of these new emcees.

Lyrically, she's the kind of girl you don't tread lightly, as she has an attitude that'll take you by storm. Yet, she whisks you away in beautifully written stories dealing with life and being a woman. Although her battle rap style rhymes carry heavy weight, so does her ability to tell stories about her life. She has told stories of just about everything from a woman's perspective - from being the only female on her label to late-night quickies and abortions. From her album she did with 9th Wonder called Jeanius, her song "My Story" had to be the most chilling yet telling story about going through abortion and having a miscarriage. She says

I was a failure at that too, bailed from the rap, then but fate took me back in.
Sin is a tattoo my fingers attached with.
Twenty-seven with three kids that I never met.
What if I was Catholic? Wonder if they hate me? 
Thinking how their mother could ever murder?
Well take me hell

She has the ability to take listeners on a ride that is both emotional and intelligent, something rarely seen in hiphop nowadays.

It's not only her lyricism that is rebellious, by nature, but her personality. She has given everyone the middle finger (metaphorically, but would be cool if she literally did) - even her own community. She faced a lot of scrutiny in 2004 when blasted XXL for blasting her in the "Negro Please" section of their magazine in regards to an interview with Fader magazine about postponing her wedding because her dad had cancer. In an column, she basically told them to "fuck off." You would think that was over, but she still had it out for the magazine in her last mixtape in 2008 Evil Jeanius, in which she says "And how the fuck I get a Negro Please / when speaking truth? / Apologize on your Negro knees (fucker)" on the track "Even On your Best Day". In 2008, Jean Grae posted a classified on Craigslist for songwriting needs and collaborations claiming "I figure, if everyones gonna make money offa me, why not make it directly to the people who love this shit anyway?" She surely knew how to push her label's buttons.

Although she claimed retirement, she has never left the rap scene. She's been featured with several hiphop artists such as Talib Kweli, Joell Ortiz, and Jay Electronica, on top of working on a new album, according to Talib Kweli. She will also be featured on Ski Beat's 24 Hour Karate School.

Jean Grae takes the Sista with Attitude "category" and multiplies by a trillion, making her a hybrid femcee of our time. But her personality and ability to have you listen isn't something listeners sleep on... at all. Overall, to me she's like a Sour Patch: first she's sour, then she's sweet. As long as Jean Grae doesn't stop Jean Grae, she will be on top of the hiphop world in no time.

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