Jean Grae thrives on creative control | Cultural Festivals | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Jean Grae thrives on creative control

The MC-turned-mogul never stops working.

click to enlarge Jean Grae thrives on creative control
David Ochs
Jean Grae: "I record myself, I make my own beats, I mix it, I master it."

Since the mid-1990s, Jean Grae has been one of the most prolific female MCs in the game, a mogul as head of her company KAGD, an inspiring role model and a fashion icon. Born in South Africa and raised in New York City, where she still lives, Grae has rapped and produced as an independent artist since day one: "I record myself, I make my own beats, I mix it, I master it," she says. "Full creative control." This freedom has allowed Grae to release her own music and work with major hip-hop artists like The Roots, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and so many more. In the last few years, she's moved into video production and acting, and has created her own web series, Life with Jeannie

She's even moved into theatre. With Detroit rapper Quelle Chris, Grae writes and performs live plays. "They're basically the sequels to movies that we want to see," she says. So far, they've produced Ghostbusters 2 1/2 and most recently The Goonies II: Luck of the Die: "Sloth becomes a parent, Mikey has erratic and violent outbursts due to roid rage, from overuse of his inhaler, there's a vampire, there's a robot," she says. "We have a great time. Next up is The Warriors: The Musical in March. 

For Halifax Pop Explosion, Grae will perform on Friday after presenting Thursday at a conference panel for HPX called "In Conversation," where she'll promote her polymath lifestyle and experience: "And boys, gum, and why the Jem and the Holograms movie doesn't look like it has anything to do with the story of Jem and the Holograms," she says. Her hard work never stops, and she finds daily inspiration in New York City. "Whatever isn't afraid to be different. And not manufactured different, but honest and vulnerable difference."

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