La petite mort. The little death. It’s a French euphemism for having an orgasm and not meant to be taken literally. However, this confluence of violence and sex speaks to much of the content in Jean Grae’s almost 20-year musical narrative. Whether she’s seductively caressing a spiked bat in the back of a cab for the “Love Thirst” video or playing out a tragic story of an assassin in love in “Kill Screen,” literal wars of the heart have been a staple of her catalogue. But for the uninitiated (or simply unaware) her latest release #5, an EP of her exclusively singing about love, lust and all the awkward moments in between, has awakened this awareness of her more carnal side.
“On #5, I kind of just really wanted to do a random project,” she tells WatchLOUD.com. “I think the idea of technology being where it is now is that I’m able to do anything that I want and then release it immediately to the public. I don’t wait for anyone’s approval, which is generally how I live my life anyway. So if I’m not inside of the machine I don’t have to cater to any of the machine’s rules.” And the machine doesn’t just apply to the recording industry. She was defying a rabidly loyal fan base that has inexplicably boxed her into being an asexual, rapping femmbot. But after three days of recording, mixing and mastering she unleashed the Kraken (another euphemism for sex she coined on Twitter one day) and let her love unfurl allover the internet.
“It was me saying ‘I’m going to do some other things now’ and you can like it or not…and I didn’t expect the response that it got. #5 has been the best selling first week of anything I’ve ever done. Which is crazy.”
Anchoring the collection is the purple haze scented “Underneathu” which now has a seductive and quirky visual set in an ‘80s Public Access show where Jean writhes on the floor fronting a band named ‘Everybody’s Pregnant.’ It’s kinky, comical, classically Jean and not nearly as out of the box for her as you might think.
“Hip-Hop has the kind of thing where it’s easier for them to not see you in that way,” she says. “I’ve gotten so many comments about people wanting to make my songs metaphors about hip-hop. No, it’s about Steve. Steve’s in the video. Why do you have to make it about music and not be able to see me as a woman? In hip-hop you have to be either hyper sexual or asexual. But that’s not the case here. I don’t ever get why I got classified as ‘conscious’ hip-hop. 90% of my songs are about boys and relationships and the other 10% are about murders.”
Ironically, the one time she did rap about hip-hop as a lover on Masta Ace’s “Hold You” it went unnoticed.
“That’s funny, that’s the one that nobody got. They thought that was a relationship song and THAT was the one about hip-hop. All the other ones are about boys.”
The denial reached a fever pitch years ago when Jean posted a photo on Myspace of herself in a bikini and one fan went all Annie Wilkes on her.
“I was in Miami at the beach, which is where you wear bikinis and this woman went off on me. ‘Are you selling out now? You didn’t have to do this.’ Im on the beach! And if I decided to wear that at anytime or on the stage…is it a wizard design bikini that would take my skills away? Just zaps my powers? What is it with you that I can’t do that and be dope at the same time and retain my skills from my job?”
It was the kind of thing that almost had her considering posing in celebrity skin mag KING magazine back in the day, but thought better of it.
“I think I was just young enough to not be comfortable with doing that. It’s also me wanting to do more things without fully going there. [I thought] If I do this now I’m never going to get to the other stuff.”
And that other stuff has included so much: Film, TV, web series, comic book appearances and giving out hugs. But best believe there will be more sexy time a coming and Jean doesn’t mind some fans being late to the party, as long as they bring liquor.