Jean Grae: The Jeanius

posted November 14, 2005 12:00:00 AM CST | 1 comments

There is a curse that follows Jean Grae wherever she goes. In January of this year, I did my first interview with the New York MC when she came to Cleveland. Lets just say that this nervous writers first piece was made worse when the tape snapped. Coincidence? Or is it a curse? Jean has been hailed as one the games illest rhymesayers, critically acclaimed, and praised for her albums. Yet, she has not garnered mainstream success like Kim, Foxy, and Trina. Again coincindence? I think not. Even this interview had its complications as the computer fried, almost losing the contents of this piece [thank God for autosave]. Yes, believe it or not Jean Grae is cursed. But with every curse, comes a gift. This gift comes in the form of childhood friends, Talib Kweli and Cory Smyth. Together the duo formed Blacksmith Music and guess who they brought in to be down with the team? Ms. Jean Grae, of course. Another gift shes working on new music.

Jean Grae sits down with to talk about her future project, how she almost contemplated putting down the mic, and how she feels that NYC is kind of fakin it when it comes down to whats going on in the real world.

HHDX: Whats new in your world?

Jean Grae: Right now, my music is good. Its the love life that sucks. I guess it all makes for good music. The album Prom Night is on the way. My prom night was horrible. I went by myself. My friends left me. I walked home in the rain. With this album I get to relive it and do it the right way. Ive been thinking about doing a celebrity bake sale event and how it would tie into the album. I think that Ill build it around prom and High School.

The promotion of this album would be tied into prom. Id like to have a celebrity talent show or something like that.

HHDX: I could picture it now Mos Def singing Private Eyes by Hall and Oates [laughs].

Jean Grae: [Laughs].

HHDX: Youre now signed to (Talib) Kweli and Corey Smyths Blacksmith Music Label how do you feel about that?

Jean Grae: Good. Its weird. Im really happy about the fact that Im down with people that have a mutual respect for one another as artists and as people. Weve all been supportive of one another for a numerous amount of years. I have true creative freedom here at Blacksmith. I am excited and a bit nervous.

HHDX: Do you have any expectations with this new venture?

Jean Grae: I really think that I have come to a point where I dont have any expectations about anything. I just try to do my best and take it to another level. I think that were talking about hitting the feeling of where you cant do anything unless there is a machine behind you. Where you can put out an album after album because youll have something there backing you. But we dont have the money for that. I want to focus on the music as opposed to the marketing.

HHDX: What do you think led to you leaving Babygrande for Blacksmith?

Jean Grae: Ill plead the fifth on that one.

HHDX: You just came back from overseas whered you go and how was it?

Jean Grae: Yes. I went overseas. I went to Barcelona and it was absolutely beautiful. The people, the sights, and the food it was all gorgeous.

HHDX: So when its all said and done Barcelona is the place that you want to lay your head at?

Jean Grae: Umm Im not sure. I visited Australia and a few other places and thought that they were beautiful. My favorite would have to be Japan, right now. They absolutely love the Hip-Hop culture out there. We [Hip-Hop artists] affect the world.

HHDX: What do you think might be holding back the successes of such artists like yourself, Kweli, and others?

Jean Grae: I think that different people measure success in different ways. If I was looking at my career and thinking of my successes as purely financial, then I havent been necessarily as successful. But I think that I am successful as to the point that Ive been able to get my music out there and that people do buy into it. A lot of people dont get to go on tour or go to places such as Barcelona. My mom says that shes proud of me, so Im happy with that right now. Not to say that I dont want the things that come with this game the money, cars, yachts, fancy cars, and such. I think that I measure success differently than most.

HHDX: Youve been doing this for quite some time ever thought about putting down the mic and doing something else?

Jean Grae: Im thinking of doing something else right now.

HHDX: It doesnt have anything to do with any contents in a bottle, does it? [laughs]

Jean Grae: [Laughs] Not so much now. I wasnt trying to be as creative as much as I used to be. There are going to be days when youre not going to be as gung-ho as you usually are. I would never want to start out from scratch. So, I am enjoying what I have now. I have voice-overs and I still want to continue writing. I have done a few radio spots and commercials you may think that its me and not believe it but its me doing it.

HHDX: There seems to be a change of the Hip-Hop climate in the air what are your thoughts of the Roots signing to Def Jam [Left]?

Jean Grae: Yay!!! Let me say that again YAY!!! Im proud of The Roots. I dont think that theyll change their styles. They change with every album. I respect them for stepping out and being visionaries for their own work collectively. They dont do anything formulaic. Theyre incredibly respectable in the game and abroad.

HHDX: Think that Nas will sign also? If so, what does that mean for the Hip-Hop world?

Jean Grae: There are a lot of things that I have heard in the past week or so that will be very interesting. Since Ive been letting go of grudges, Ive realized that this is a business. Moves definitely can be made once you let go of personal grudges. I dont know if Nas will sign. If he did, though, itd be nice to see that people can look at this as a business and leave the pettiness behind. Im not saying that everyone needs to hold hands and sing kumbaya but if theres money out there, then lets all get it.

HHDX: The Jam that can be found here on is just that... the jam. How did the collabo with you and Khrysis come about?

Jean Grae: This was before the Phoenix album. Me and Khrysis had met when 9th (Wonder) and I were doing the Jeanius album. He did a few beats for that album. When I began working on Phoenix it was no question to get him on the album. Hes very unconventional. He has a wide range of selections for beats. It was before I had even begun listening to 9th. We went from 100 Khyrsis tracks to about 17 before I started listening to 9th. The Jam beat was still in his mix. I couldnt believe that no one had picked this beat up. I think that was when we had the thunderbird in the studio. He makes incredible shit. Hes funny and crazy. Im always going to work with him. Hes young and he loves what he does. Hes dope.

HHDX: Are you going to shoot a video for it?

Jean Grae: Yes! At my house. We were having a pajama jammy jam and we shot a video for the song. It just kind of came about. Its not going to be on Prom Night but itll be there to pre-empt the coming for the album.

HHDX: The press has died down about this subject dramatically, but what are your thoughts about Bill Bennetts comment about aborting black babies to lower the crime rate?

Jean Grae: 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, were like its cool, but everything is not fuckin cool. Were more of a sweep it under the rug type of city but when you go down south, you know that its out there. Were kind of fakin it here. You still cant catch a cab here. I think that sometimes were surprised by a lot of shit that we shouldnt be surprised by.

HHDX: Do you think that comments from folks like Bennett and even Barabara Bush will ignite a change in Hip-Hop?

Jean Grae: You would hope that it would, but truthfully and honestly except for a few select others no. No change in Hip-Hop from the mainstream.

HHDX: Why do you think that?

Jean Grae: Because people are more concerned with putting food on the table for their kids and making a buck as opposed to spreading the truth to the masses.

HHDX: Do you think that with your label situation changed that labels will be more willing to give you a chance to shine like getting on the big mixtapes or something like that?

Jean Grae: Pretty much that was the whole idea or else I wouldnt do the deal in the first place. Ive known Kweli since I was 14 and Cory since I was 17. Theyre going to give me the freedom to make the type of records that I want to make. Its been what I have been looking for for a long time. I have that machine finally behind me without me having to be a machine.

HHDX: Do you think that youll be forced to change your style in order to eat?

Jean Grae: No, I think that Ive learned a lot of things that made me be able to look at this as a better businessperson. But I pretty much change up my style ever two-three songs, anyway. I appreciate the fact that they [Blacksmith] are 100% in support of me.

HHDX: Thats good to know that they are holding you down. But my last question for you is is there anything that youd like to say to the readers and fans out there?

Jean Grae: For all those out there still listening, its going to be a great year. Please come out to see the shows. Im happy that I didnt quit and I do plan on being here for a while.

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