One of the most talked about A3C acts was the amazing, but elusive Jean Grae. The Brooklynite teamed up with her longtime collaborator, über producer, Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based, 9th Wonder, to rock during day one of the three-day fest. Fans packed close together in the top level of the Masquerade to get a good listen to the shining talent who almost quit the game.
“I’m doing my fireside chat now,” she said to laughter before launching into “2-32s” from her critically acclaimed third album, Jeanius.
Unlike many of her underground Internet-friendly peers who came to A3C, Grae didn’t waste precious time lamenting the current state of hip-hop or how wack other rappers are. Some weren’t quite sure what to expect, especially those who had not followed her career closely in the past few years. Indeed, she is not easily categorized, despite the industry machinations amidst the oft discussed dying breed of women rappers. She’s not an earthy, natural goddess-type, nor is she the commercially viable sex kitten, even with the semi-racy, “Love Thirst,” as a key component of her catalogue. On the stage that night, there was, fortunately, no mention of gender politics at all; she was simply an MC.
Grae made up for lost time by packing years of skills into about twenty minutes. By her own admission, about five years had passed since her last show in Atlanta. She immediately connected with the audience through personal anecdotes on her life, mostly on the craft of making music in a way that was both funny and engaging.
Her lighthearted demeanor and vocals – yes she sang on “My Story,” removed the sting from the song’s painful subject matter of abortion and attempted suicide.
Toward the end of her set, when she led a humorous two-step, she succeeded in fully moving the crowd – many of whom had worked earlier in the day at a 9-to-5 or the festival itself – from start to finish.
Hip-hop must have more moments like this. Not because Jean Grae is the token female that so-called true school should rally around. Stand up for her because, to paraphrase L-Boogie, she’s “truly genuine” and the game needs her, like it needs every smart, sophisticated, lyrically inventive MC. Now like never before.
Check here for a special A3C video interview with Jean Grae.
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