| Jan 17, 2005
| Jean Grae Finally Hits Baltimore
|ELEMENTS PARTY @ THE OTTOBAR January 14, 2005 featuring Baby Grande Recording Artist Jean Grae
If you came looking for pointless, booty shakin, hoochie-fied, sexually charged hip hop because you heard the headliner was a female, you came to the wrong show. In her one-woman show, Jean Grae showed the world that she is MOST definitely a woman, but she’ll still put on the gloves and weigh in with any of today's heavy hitters.
I must admit, I came into the show with numerous preconceived notions due in part to people’s inability to sum her up in a few words. It’s funny because it seemed like no one really knew how to describe her style or had ever really listened to her music for that matter. I got…
“Jean Grae is a political rapper. You know like Dead Prez”, “Jean Grae is a backpacker. She’s on some Talib Kweli stuff.”, “Jean Grae is a mellow rapper. She’s on some laid back sh*t”, "Jean Grae is sexy”, “She’s a Gansta”, “Jean Grae is real underground”, “Jean Grae this”, “Jean Grae that”, etc…
SSSSKKKKKKKKKUUUUUUUURRRRRRRHHHHH hold up!!! Pump your breaks.
I’m confused??? What is she, REALLY???
What I found out during my first Jean Grae experience is that she is all of these things and some.
The air in the underground music center called the Ottobar was too dark and smoky, the music was far too loud, there were far too many damn people in one spot to breathe, the performances were much longer than I expected…….AND you know what----I LOVED IT!!!!
Excitement was in the “ERE” (that’s air for my proper folk). Baltimore’s underground hip hop scene was in the place and the Ottobar was the place to be. A large portion of capacity crowd showed up early as many of the opening acts have large following in the area. It’s been a long time since I went to a show where the opening acts ALONE could have sent everyone home as happy campers. Elements Party DJs Krucial and P Funk kept everything moving in between the opening sets. First to take the stage was Tislam the Great with special guests Shambhala, ladies MZERI and Jameka and DJ Side FX. Those that prefer a conscious hop hop brew would have staggered out the spot quite drunk. With lyrics that are both introspective and relevant to the current state of the world, Tislam proved why his following is continuing to grow. Ogun and the R.O.P. family which included Profound, Ammo, Jitter BUG and EJ to name a few, most definitely let all of the out-of-towners know what the world’s been waiting for- “Bmore”. With a CD dropping on the same night, he had something to get off of his chest and was not going to let a little thing termed “being out of time” end his set. Breez Evahflowin of the Stronghold camp came through and graced the crowd with a sample from his arsenal of thought-provoking jewels. I’d never heard of him, but was familiar with the signature of other stronghold notables like Immortal Techniques so I had an idea of what to expect. He never disappointed me. Despite having lyrics that could no way be compared to the pop hop most of us are used to, his command of the audience was a testament to the respect he has gained after being in the game for so many years. He was magnetic. Although his lyrics are not what some would call “fun”, he gave us what some might say is needed in hip hop today -a healthy dose of reality. The Chicago native, Diverse, was the last of the openers to take the stage. With his plus sized vocabulary and heavy bass thumping beats, he was a lyricist lover’s dream. His word play was crazy. I sat back in awe of his command of the English language. His performance and melodic flow have made him an artist to watch in my book.
Backed by a DJ spinning vinyl, Jean exploded on the stage ready to rock around 12:35 a.m. Looking very stylish and comfortable, one look at Jean and I knew she was real-not some fake “wanna be”. I laughed to myself because I knew she subscribed to the female sensibility of “why try to be all cutie on duty when you have a job to be done”. It's like wearing stilettos and a mink to wash clothes- it just doesn't make sense. Besides, there is nothing worse than a female MC that uses sex to get over where her lyrics fall short. Dressed in a fresh pair of white on white air force one, jeans, and a blazer, she was dressed to work. I found the perfect place by the wall, leaned back and marveled at how she took charge of the show. From the jump, she proved that she is not quick to back down. Sparking a verbal tennis match with the crowd serving a loud “F you, F you, F you”, into a sea of nodding heads, she had the crowd so amped. We loved every minute of it.
On stage, Jean Grae seemed to be at ease. Her energy was a greater special effect than any pyrotechnic light show we’ve become accustomed to seeing at today’s hip hop concerts. In my time, I’ve attended many hip hop shows and I must say this was by far one of the best. The show was so up close and personal. Although most were not familiar with the words of her songs, her energy and command of the stage garnered our undivided attention. She was a guest in our town, but I was more honored to be a guest in her zone.
Known for lyrics that are hardcore to say the least, her new materials has not moved so far away from her trademark sound that fans will not recognize her. But in revealing other dimensions of her personality, she will undoubtedly begin to appeal more to those that choose to dwell in the valley of commercialism. She is on the level of any artist that is out right now. What she lacks in having big name backing and money she makes up for with her ability to appeal to that part of us that remembers when hip hop was ours- a time when hip hop was about drawing the lines between your experience and mine. She talked about love, loss, anger, loneliness, originality, 2nd chances- all things to which we can all relate. Oh yeah, AND……that beat for the new Ashanti track, “Only You” has been jacked. I shall forever recall Jean’s showing us what SHE would have done with the beat for the rest of my life. She “KILT” it!!!
What or who is she???
Is she political because she has an opinion about the state of the union?
Is she a backpacker because her music contains the 5th Element (knowledge)?
Is she laid back because she has a smoky voice and comfortable swagger?
Is she Gangsta because she can talk about being angry enough to kill someone?
Can she want to be respected as a MC (regardless her gender) and be considered sexy??
The answer is a resounding YES!!! Jean Grae is all these things and more.
The TOTAL PACKAGE- She is brains, strength, struggle, triumph and beauty combined in one package ready to explode all over the world. The reality of who and what she stands for is not really obvious. One must sit and listen to her lyrics to really understand that she is just like anyone else that has a dream. Her dream is expressed throughout her lyrics. Her pains and joys can be felt on her tracks and vicariously experienced through her live show. Not everything to come out of her mouth is profound in the “classic sense” of the word nor will her subject matter appeal to every listener. But one thing you have to respect is that she does “her” to the fullest.
Despite the numerous roadblocks of being a female in the male dominated world called hip hop, she is the strong leader of her own band of renegades. The army of what was “Jean Grae against the world” is growing each time she comes out and touches people’s lives with her essence. Like every strong leader, she possesses characteristics that will make people respect and follow. In fact, I joined the army that night. Jean if you are reading this- I got your back.
Oftentimes, women that exude both femininity and strength are improperly labeled. I am so glad that I decided to check her out and come up with my own definition of what is Jean Grae. In a day and time when female MCs aka Femcees are expected to come a certain way, Jean Grae dispels all myths. I left the show feeling proud to be a woman that reps hip hop.
Go head, Jean Grae wit cho bad self!!!
HIP HOP LIVES!!!!!! WATCHOUT NOW!!!!
For more details on the show or about Baltimore Hip Hop in general, hit me up! & JHcheck me out on MYSPACE @ www.myspace.com/clove
|posted by C Love "The Rap Addict" @ 1/17/2005 09:09:00 PM