Saturday, November 05, 2011

Kufiyaspotting #9*6^_)3: Jean Grae

Thanks to John for this one. RCRDLBL_ says this about Jean Grae:

Jean Grae has been one of the most distinct and skilled voices in underground hip-hop for nearly 15 years. Her pitch-shifting, rhythmic, dip-diving flow and lyrics, heavy on allusive internal rhymes, was on display years before Nicki Minaj was picking up on it. On Grae's DJ Drama-hosted mixtape, Cookies Or Comas [get it here], you can hear this rollercoaster flow over and over again. The Boogie Blind-produced "Casebasket" is a sterling example [download here], with Grae's attitude-filled raps chipping into a chopped-up, funky drum loop, keeping it lean and mean.

What RCRDLBL_ doesn't tell you, and what I learned from this post about Jean Grae from Public Enemy Africa (also the source of the photo), is that Jean Grae is the daughter of famed South African jazz pianist Abdallah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand). She was born Tsidi Ibrahim in Capetown, South Africa, to Ibrahim and his wife Sathima Bea Benjamin, a jazz singer. The family went into exile in 1977, and moved to New York City. Holy Smokes, Batman!

She grew up in a household full of music, obviously. "At 13, she became the youngest dancer ever to earn a spot with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, the second company of the famed modern dance company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre." She has appeared on recordings by, among others, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, and The Roots. And has seven albums out under her own name. Why she is not a star, not widely recognized, I do not know.

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