Last time AllHipHop.com sat down with our favorite – Jean Grae, she discussed Michael Jackson, male nipples, and even the prospects of motherhood. Jean had so many interesting things to say, that we thought now was as good a time as any, to update for the fans, stalkers, and inquiring minds that wanted just a touch of Grae. Hear why Jean may be Hip-Hop’s Martha Stewart, or why Nasir ain’t the only MC stacking rhyme books for days. Hip-Hop Appreciation Week continues with an insightful look at one of the purest artists doing it today.
AllHipHop.com: You wrote in your online bio that you fell in love with the English language when your mother used to teach you and your brother to read. What is it about language that you love?
Jean Grae: It’s being able to create imagery. It’s being able to see that movie without actually having to see it visually. And having to use your imagination. I think that’s a huge part that’s lost on kids today. You can prop them down in front of a TV and just let them watch, and I think they’re missing a whole lot. We had so much less, so we had to use our imagination to make it more. And books definitely came into play with that. It just showed me another world, like you could totally step outside of yourself and the better the language was and the more interesting the wordplay was, the better the images were in my head. So I guess that’s something that I really, really try to do—to play on the words so much to be able to create a picture without you having to visually see it. And it gave me—I think in some parts where I was a little shy, I didn’t care. I could get everything out. It was almost—it was an escape.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, definitely. So like, your love of language turned into a love of writing? Did you just start writing one day?
Jean Grae: I guess always in school, I wouldn’t mind when we had to do book reports and I wouldn’t mind essays. Yeah, I always wrote short stories and tried to develop—even when I wasn’t in school—just tried to keep going, like when I cut all my other classes, I would try to show up to my English class, and be like, okay I don’t mind being here.
AllHipHop.com: And do you write poetry—aside from writing rhymes?
Jean Grae: I pretty much consider it the same thing. I think there was a time before I tried structuring it as rhymes that I was definitely just writing poetry. I think more so, essays and sort of, like how you try to keep a journal of your life.
AllHipHop.com: So you have a book or books of rhymes?
Jean Grae: Oh, I have a lot of books. [Laughs] I’m not a packrat with anything else, but I really, really try to keep tons and tons of rhyme books. I try to keep all of that.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think a lot of rappers, being concerned with just making a hit song, miss out on the whole aspect of just writing to get things out?
Jean Grae: No, no I think there definitely needs to be the hit album out. There needs to be that club song because there needs to be that kind of balance. I think we started getting lost when we thought that that side was all of it, and anything beyond that is alternative or underground or backpack, which is really not necessarily the case. It’s about balance, it’s about moderation. Everything that pretty much your life should be about, everything in moderation.
AllHipHop.com: [Laughs]. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re alone?
Jean Grae: It really depends on the day and the mood. It could be writing, but I definitely found the space again. I think I was at a point where I was really writing just to write as a job, and I’ve gotten back to writing to write because I enjoy it. It could be watching Home/Garden TV.
AllHipHop.com: [Laughs] Jean Grae watches Home Garden?
Jean Grae: I do. I’m very Food Network, designer shows.
AllHipHop.com: Really, wow.
Jean Grae: Yeah, I cook a lot. That would be my—that was my other dream job, to be a chef. A friend of mine, who’s a chef, actually asked me the other day, she was like, “I’m catering this wedding.” We had just thrown a house party, so I cook for everybody in the house. I usually do dinner parties and invite people over. She was like, “do you wanna help me with the catering,” and I was like, yeah I made it, I’m good! They like it, it’s good. So, I’m a cook.
AllHipHop.com: Are you spiritual, religious?
Jean Grae: Not religious, but—
Jean Grae: Yeah, I think whatever you have within you that can get you through the day, whatever makes it work for you, and at the end of the day you can rest and be okay with yourself and your soul, that’s cool.
AllHipHop.com: [Laughs] Do you think things that happen in your career are destined?
Jean Grae: Yeah. I recently made a really good friend about a week ago, and the instant we met, she had walked in the house—she was coming over with another friend, and we were like, “hey, you’re in town, it’d be nice to meet you and how’re you doing.” And as soon as she got in the door, she was like, “I just heard in the cab that one of my best friends died.” So as soon as I met her it was just like, she just broke down. And [pause] I said, I think a lot of stuff that I found out this year and last year and just kind of growing up—you can make as many plans as you want and think that that’s how your life is gonna go or [plan out] your life and say, “okay I’m gonna do this. This is my five-year plan. This is my ten-year plan.”
But basically, I really don’t think you’re in control of as much as you really think you’re in control of. I try to make an outline and say I want to meet these goals for myself by that time…yeah, I think there’s definitely destiny and fate. I think there’s a road that’s been planned out for you and I pretty much think we’re along for the ride. You can do what you want to change it. I think you have different paths you can choose to go down, but don’t try to plan everything. You’ll only get disappointed. We’re not in control of this.
AllHipHop.com: Where do you think people go when they die?
Jean Grae: [Sigh] I stopped thinking about that…I think—well, won’t it suck if it’s just nothing?
AllHipHop.com: Yeah it would.
Jean Grae: Won’t it suck? [Laughs] I mean, I’d prefer to not know and I’d prefer to not question. And I think we all have a hard enough time with dealing with where the hell are we while we’re here, and what the hell are we doing, what the hell are we supposed to be doing while we’re here. I’ll deal with it when I get there.
AllHipHop.com: What do you think you would be doing if you were still living in South Africa?
Jean Grae: I’ve actually thought about that before, and I really honestly think it would be the same thing. [I have] a really supportive family who’s supportive about anyone who wants to be creative. Not everybody in the family is into music. My mom, my dad have a 20-year-old cousin who started producing his own stuff, like trying to make his own records, and he’s getting his stuff on South African radio now, so I think there’s sort of no running away from who you’re supposed to be no matter where you are.
AllHipHop.com: Do people in South Africa know about you?
Jean Grae: Very much so, and they’re very supportive. And it’s the most incredible feeling to get love. New York is my hometown, but Capetown is my home hometown, and a lot of love and a lot of support from them.
AllHipHop.com: So is Jean Grae just a persona to you or is she another side of you, like, who is she to you?
Jean Grae: Definitely another side of me. I didn’t know until I think the last tour that I did [when] everybody who was on the road with us was like, “you know you kind of blackout when you go on stage, like it’s just a totally different look in your eye.” There was an instance when we were in DC and someone had thrown a towel, like for me to wipe off my head, and apparently just in the middle of the rhyme, I caught it behind my back not knowing. And we talked about it afterward. I was like, “what are you talking about, that didn’t happen.” They were like, “yeah you did. You caught it in the middle of the rhyme.” I was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
So I think a lot of times when you know a person, their personal life, their normal, everyday, mild-mannered persona is not necessarily the way they are on the mic…For me, I think, yeah it is another outlet. It’s something that I can’t let loose like that in my everyday life ‘cause I’d never get anything done. That’d be crazy. I’d probably be in jail right now. [Laughs] For a lot of things that you just can’t do. Yeah, it definitely gives you another side.