CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA-born/NEW YORK CITY-based Rapper/Songwriter/Singer/Musician JEAN GRAE has released her newest EP project, #5!!!
#5 contains roughly eight bars of actual rapping.
The rest is an intimate collection of sultry vocals and sexy mood music that straddles the line between R&B, trip hop, and several extremely private letters you wrote the summer after your freshman year in college.
Here are some interview highlights of JEAN GRAE with Journalist NEIL DRUMMING for the PLAYBOY CONVERSATION:
How are you doing?
It's stupid outside and my brain is tired from thinking about this shit all week which I didn't know was actually going to do as well as it did.
As different as this EP is from your previous records, it's being well-received. So you have good problems.
Better than last week's problems. Last week's problems were horrible. This week's problems have almost solved last week's problems. I had no idea, like, "So, you guys want this thing more than you want the other thing...? Great! Why didn't you tell me before?" I've been making records for a long time. I've never had a first week in sales like this. Not with any single project.
Really? To what do you attribute that?
People like sexy things.
And welcome to the Playboy Conversation!
People like sexy things. I like sexy things. I waited a long time to not be weird about being a grown woman and rap and not feel super asexualized. It was really nice to be like, "I'm not going to do that anymore. By the way, there's fucking. And everybody likes f*cking. So take off your backpacks and be okay with that."
For most of your career you've let your sexuality take a back seat to your considerable skills as a rapper. That was intentional, right?
Yeah, but I think I've been slowly working people into being more comfortable with [me as a sexual being]. For the past, maybe, six years, just being like, "Hi! Hello. Yes, these clothes fit me. This is a dress. It's okay." I dress like that in normal life. I'm just going to be all the way who I am all the time. I think that kind of softened the blow for people... Heh, heh. The blow.
Even now, with this record, you're not playing into what people think of when they think of a hyper-sexualized artist.
I know what I like. When it's right, I feel like it's something that I want to play in my house on repeat. The first time I did that was with "You & Me." I was like, "Okay. Nailed it! I know the fucking formula." Whether it's sexy shit or not, I was like, "I want to make an album full of that. And I think I can do it." And for me, that doesn't have to include rap all the time. I like other shit far more, anyway. So, I made what I wanted to hear. And I presented it the way I wanted it presented. Even choosing the cover for it. I remember when I posted that picture on Instagram and people were like, "What?!? That's crazy! Are those your boobs?" I was like, "Yeah. I have a great set of New York boobs and there they are. Enjoy them." The more I've chosen, "I'm going to do what I want," the more successful things have been.
Rap will never find out.
You know what? It doesn't care. It's too busy doing other things. Staying late at work. Whatever.
You've been doing a lot of other things, too.
Doing some acting. Telling some jokes. The whole stand-up thing was very interesting. When I started doing it, I was like, "Oh, okay this is awesome!" Then I'd do a show and be like, "This is not so awesome. I should stop doing this right way." But, it was just a matter of me finding my voice in that, too. Maybe my thing isn't necessarily to get on stage and do an eight minute set. It's having Wyatt [Cenac] say, "Hey, come do Annie Vs. Oliver" and doing a 20-minute musical. It's been nice going into something and being met with open arms so much faster than with something I've been doing for 20 years.
Man, I'm really talking bad about rap! I have some rap projects coming out that are really good. I didn't mean it like like that.
Rap always forgives.
Rap does not forgive. Rap never forgives. I just want to make it clear that, unless you're trying to be Katy Perry or Pitbull or Flo Rida — did you know it was Florida? — you can make up your own rules along the way.
I know your process a little bit... Actually, I don't. I know that sometimes I see you socially --
-- and then sometimes I go away.
Right. You disappear. And, when you come back, there's a record. So, I can only assume that, during those blackout periods, you're making music.
I work better throwing myself all into it. That's it: Make the beat, write to it, record it, move on to the next one. Mix it, master it, drop everything in real time. I go away, do nothing but that. The second that I'm done with the mastering, it goes directly online. People will be like, "When did you do this?" I'm like, "Now. This record is about everything that just happened."
How long would you say this album was in production?