Like an embryo in its final gestation period, Jean Grae is ready to force her way into the Rap world by any means necessary. In fact, she has been for awhile now. Many consider her one of the best lyricists in the game - forget the gender separations. She initially kept her exquisite rhymes to herself, secretively jotting down lyrics and performing in front of her bathroom mirror.
Last time Jean caught up with us, she was fresh off "The No Turntables Tour" and enjoying the comforts of home. Hoping to get to another side of our resident editorial voice, AllHipHop.com burrowed deep into her mind for her thoughts on Hip-Hop feminism, self-image, moving weight, and...Michael Jackson. As usual, Jean provides infinite brain food.
AllHipHop.com: We met for the first time for an interview at Nuyorican Poets Cafe last summer, I don't know if you remember, but it was pouring outside.
Jean Grae: Ohh, yeah...the rain. How are you?
AllHipHop.com: I'm good. I know you've been busy moving, right?
Jean Grae: Yeah, I just moved a little while ago. And moving, I don't think it matters even how far you move, moving is just ughh.
AllHipHop.com: Bigger place?
Jean Grae: Um, definitely a bigger place, and a more personal rearrangement in life, I guess.
AllHipHop.com: When we last spoke, you mentioned that image is a huge factor in why you haven't had a breakout record yet. Is that still the case?
Jean Grae: I mean, think about the fact that you've seen a lot of male nipples.
Jean Grae: I didn't ask to see them. They're just there. It's not just females, you know. Everybody's got their shirt off. And hey, sex sells, and it's not necessarily just in Rap. It's the media, it's TV; it's movies, you can't get away from it. Sex sells, and in society, that's what people are looking for, that's what people are intrigued by, that's what people are drawn to. But I think there's a vehicle or should be a vehicle for something else. We all have sex, we all enjoy sex. Yay, sex is great. I'm not anti-sex, but I don't have sex all day. I tend to do other things in the day. [Laughs] I just don't see why there can't be an open market for that, some sort of balance. Have that, and have something else in your life.
AllHipHop.com: Well, with people like Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, the sexy image is what they themselves put out there, but somebody like Lauryn Hill, who didn't come out with that type of persona, or even Missy Elliott, they were still accepted.
Jean Grae: I mean, they have songs that are about sex. They're having sex as well, and it's always viewed differently. Even women who are putting stuff out, who are like, "alright I'm sexy" are really writing some deep, heartfelt s**t. All that gets put to the side and all you see is sex. There should at least try to be an open vehicle for people opening their minds just a little bit, a little bit, little by little. If it doesn't work in the next 10 years, hopefully it'll work in the next 20.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think female representation in Rap is a huge issue?
Jean Grae: I think there [are] a lot of really talented females out there. Interesting enough, I had a pre-nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance, so you know I have an album out [This Week]. I mean, obviously I didn't get to make it into the top five, but it was nice to have a chance to even get in there a little bit, you know. But yeah, interesting enough is that I've never heard of that happening even if I wanted to win, I couldn't even have possibly had the chance.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, it's probably going to be a while until they recognize female rappers.
Jean Grae: Well, I hope they put it back next year 'cause I'm planning on winning.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think there's a female right now who's really at the top of her game?
Jean Grae: I like a lot of people. I would love to hear stuff from Ms. Jade again. Meeting Remy [Martin], she's a cool person. She's a very cool person, and she definitely speaks her mind. We don't necessarily agree on everything, but I can respect her hustle and what she does, and what she's coming from. I want to see Foxy put some ill s**it out. I think that you got people that are still under the radar, like Invincible. I think Invincible is incredible. But she's fighting a whole other fight, which is, "I'm a female rapper, but I'm a white female rapper." And it's so crazy 'cause she's so dope. Tara Chase...there's a lot of really, dope female MC's.
AllHipHop.com: You once mentioned that you used to be a drug dealer yourself but you couldn't cut it because you got high off your own supply.
Jean Grae: I mean, who pretty much, ask any people that I know that I've grown up around, who hasn't? I think a lot of us went through the period where you try anything, you hustle, and you do what you gotta do. I probably figured out that I would be a better artist than doing anything else.
AllHipHop.com: Does the drug dealing ever come up in interviews? I haven't read about it.
Jean Grae: No, no. I mean, seriously, it wasn't serious like that. [Laughs]
AllHipHop.com: I ask because it tends to give certain rappers so-called street credibility.
Jean Grae: It's definitely nothing that I would even try to use for street credibility. I mean, I did what I did. I had a friend who gave me the opportunity and I was like sure, I need to make some money. Nah, trust me. It was not Tony Montana to any extent whatsoever.
AllHipHop.com: Some people see you as a tough, intimidating person. Would you say you come off that way?
Jean Grae: I hope not. I hope not. Somebody actually told me the other day somebody that I know really well that [I] can be very intimidating, and I was like, wow. I really don't think of myself as that at all. I think the media has a tendency to pick up on the things they want to and kind of hype you as that. Like, okay you're the badass, tough, rebel girl.
AllHipHop.com: Right, the angry
Jean Grae. Yeah, turn you into an angry Black, badass woman, which is pretty much them needing something more than you. You know, the media will always push what their perception is, and as far as always pitting me against like, "Oh you're here to end the Lil' Kims or you're here to end the Foxys [Brown]" and I'm like, I never said that. There's no reason why they can't be there at the same time that I'm there.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned reading, what have you been reading these days?
Jean Grae: I just read a really ill book called Angry Black White Boy, which I really, really recommend.
AllHipHop.com: What's that about?
Jean Grae: It kind of looks at race relations in a very interesting way, and especially as a New Yorker, I can very, very much appreciate it. [It's about] someone inside the culture of Hip-Hop, whose grown up with it and grown up trying so much to rebel, kind of getting people to open their eyes but not really going about it in the right way. So it pretty much sounds exactly like what the title is, Angry Black White Boy, so I do recommend it. Can I ask you a question?
Jean Grae: Is Clover Hope your real name?
AllHipHop.com: Yes it is. Everybody thinks it's fake. [Laughs]
Jean Grae: That is great...I'm taking it! I'm no longer Jean Grae, I'm Clover Hope.
AllHipHop.com: Since you have an interest in journalism, I want to get your thoughts on some current events. What do you think of the Michael Jackson trial?
Jean Grae: Oh, Mike. Yeah, I think Michael definitely has some issues, which is obvious to everybody. He doesn't seem to be doing really well right now. I can't possibly imagine I think the first time it really, really struck me was on the Remember The Moonwalker?
AllHipHop.com: Um, no I don't think so.
Jean Grae: Moonwalker was the one that had it was like a whole movie and then he turned into the crazy robot at the end and he had this song in the video on there called "Leave Me Alone." It's like, he really, really went there, but it was a parody of himself, like showing himself dancing with the elephant man. He was an entire roller coaster and everyone was taking a huge ride...I feel bad for him.
I think it's difficult for people to be able to separate what you love of someone's music from what you think is their persona 'cause none of us know Michael Jackson. Everybody can have their opinion and do this and do that, but you don't know because you don't know Michael Jackson, stop it. You know his albums. That is not who someone is. That is the music that they make. And partially them, but it's like having the same conversation with someone over and over again. You can't get to know someone. I personally don't think Mike did it. I think he has some issues, and I think he missed out on childhood, and I think he's definitely been used. But I think there's still a sense of innocence there that makes it difficult for me to believe [that he's guilty].
AllHipHop.com: And have you been following this whole Terry Schiavo situation?
Jean Grae: I have. I just opened my MSN and looked on it and saw she died...I've said it in a song [that] "I don't ever want to breathe if it requires assistance. Shut down my system, please. I think it was really selfish of those parents. I understand that it's your loved one and you want to keep your family around you, but at what cost? She wasn't living, she wasn't living. I know personally, for myself, I don't ever wanna be on a life support machine, but I think at this point in life, maybe that's difficult to say. I don't have children. I don't have anyone else who relies on me like that, so...
AllHipHop.com: Do you want to have children?
Jean Grae: Very much, very much. Hopefully soon.
AllHipHop.com: Really, do you think you'd be a good mother?
Jean Grae: I hope I'll be a good mom. I think I have a good blueprint to work with.