Gaming Made Me: Jean Grae

By John Walker on September 11th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun was recently honoured to find itself referenced in the latest track from hip hop artist, Jean Grae. Kill Screen, a track initially inspired by the documentary King Of Kong, includes a web of intricate references to all manner of subjects, frequently referring to gaming and comic culture. (You can hear it at the bottom of this post.) Which intrigued us to learn more. So we spoke to Grae to find out about the role gaming plays in her life, and how it influences her music.

“It’s really hard for me not to play a lot!” laughs Grae, as I chat with her over Skype. I had wondered whether gaming might be a nostalgic thing for the artist, something she no longer has time for, but it seems that it’s quite the opposite. “When I’m working on projects, and new games come out, I’m like, ‘If I get this, how much of my actual career am I not going to get done?'”

Jean Grae is the long-time moniker of the New York-based rapper, previously known as What? What?, and born Tsidi Ibrahim in Cape Town, South Africa. Moving to the States shortly after her birth, Grae grew up with a brother six years older, ensuring she was playing games from the earliest possible age. Living next door to a comic shop, and with two Atari 2600s in the house, Grae explains that as a little girl her life was pretty much videogames and comic books.

“I guess I was competitive,” she reminisces. “I still am very competitive. And I think that’s really what drove me. A six year older brother, a brother who’s trying to murder you all the time, it was my way of being, ‘I can totally fucking fight back this way, if I win!'” When I ask Grae which games she remembers especially fondly from that time, there is no hesitation. “The Atari was all Q*bert, Othello, Adventure and Pitfall!”

The passion for gaming was consistent with Grae, and in her teens she found a love for fighting games, especially Tekken. It became an important game for her, breaking down barriers she would encounter as she entered the rap scene. “When I started recording stuff, going into studios, you usually had things like Tekken or Virtua Fighter. Me walking in, it was my ice-breaker. Grabbing the controls and being like, ‘I’m going to fucking whoop your ass.’ So immediately I’m able to step in on a different level. They say, ‘Who is this?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, also I’m going to rap now, and I’m going to kick your ass at that too.'” Gaming had changed its role, it became a means of establishing relationships. “I think in my late teens, early twenties, it became something different for me,” she adds. “It became an interesting dynamic.”

As Grae talked, I got the impression there was a sense of more than gaming simply being something she had in common with other rappers. There also seemed to be a sense of glee that she would win. I wondered if she ever hustled. “Definitely,” she enthuses. “Most definitely! There was this pool hall called La Cue in New York, and they had Virtua Fighter in there, and that was definitely one of my favourite things to do. While I was hustling pool as well.”

Gaming now seems to have changed its role for Grae once again. It’s something she does in between work, and something that absorbs her when she should be working. “I get so into the game and try to finish it,” she explains. “I get stuck in role-playing games.” And they get stuck into her as well, it seems. “Whenever the Grand Theft Autos come out I just go away for a long time,” Grae tells me. “When you start playing games like GTA you go outside, and everything looks like the game. It’s really difficult to not look at things and think, ‘Wow, I could do a really good rampage here!’ Or there are cities I’ll drive through, and I’ll see an alleyway and I’ll be, ‘Please, let’s check if there’s some armour or some health in the alley, because it looks exactly like there should be.'”

Other games have similarly occupied her. “For a year or so I got really, really addicted to the Sims,” Grae continues. “I would be outside looking at furniture not for my home, but for the homes I was building in the game.” However, this isn’t something that so successfully worked in reverse. A couple of months spent with Second Life didn’t integrate quite as well. “I enjoyed living my own little life,” Grae explains of the multiplayer world. “But I didn’t want to talk to people. And I thought this probably defeats the purpose.” She wouldn’t talk to anyone else, and in reaction other players decided they disliked her. “I’m being socially awkward in Second Life. So, that’s not going to work out! I thought, okay, well, that’s the end of that. You can’t be socially awkward in a videogame.”

The name Jean Grae came from the Marvel X-Men character Jean Grey. I wondered whether creating a stage persona shares any similarities with creating an RPG game persona. It’s actually more involved than that.

Jean Grey’s X-Men adventures was a story arc Grae liked, and one she has been spotting similarities with in her own life and career. “As years have gone by, in life progression, not even musical progression, I’ve taken a lot of things from the entire story, and seen how they correlate to my life,” she explains. And a big part of that is the motif of dying and being reborn. “I’ve come to understand it more as I’m getting older,” Grae adds, at only 35. “But gaming characters are more like rap characters, or the character I have to get into to be able to perform a song. I really go into things wanting to know motivations. I go into their back-stories, what their childhood was like, even if I’m just doing it in my head.”

Jean’s tracks seem to divide into two distinct types. Those she describes as ultra-violent, where she’s more heavily in character, and those that are “super-honest and vulnerable, and a hundred percent me.” But both are portrayed through characters. Her next album, Gotham Down (from which Kill Screen is taken) will go further into the darker places, but is actually the continuation of a more personal story from the as-yet unreleased but completed album, Cake Or Death. “It’s interesting,” says Grae, revealing just how much of a backstory there is to it all, “because it should be the album that comes after Cake Or Death, storyline-wise. It’s super-dark – it’s set in New York in the not-so-distant future. It runs from 2013 to 2020. If you haven’t heard Pharoahe Monch’s Assassins, I’ve taken the character from that song, and these two albums are based off of that character – which is me. Me going through, in Cake Or Death, love and relationships, learning to find yourself and deciding to become this superhero.”

But before we get there, we’re going to find what happens next, first. Grae continues the story of this character – “Going into Gotham Down, she’s finally becoming this superhero, but finding something goes horribly wrong. She becomes an assassin, decides she wants to rebel against them, goes rogue, and the story goes completely dark.” It eventually will reach a sort of temporal redemption, employing a recurring theme in Grae’s work of not accepting the linearity of time. This fallen hero will have the ability to go back and live her life differently. It’s hard not to associate these themes with those of all manner of games and comics.

I asked Grae whether there’s a stigma that comes with being open to discussing gaming in her lyrics. Whether labels like “nerdcore” are ultimately unhelpful. “Yeah, any labels are just fucking stupid to me,” the rapper expounds. “Just let it be what it is, let people enjoy it. I looked at Complex Magazine, and the headline was, ‘South African Nerd Rapper’. I wrote back to them and said, ‘That has to be the funniest thing I’ve seen all day! What now makes me a nerd rapper? Are you serious?’ And then I was like, I guess it’s not “femcee” so… fuck it!” It seems this touches on quite a passionate area for Jean Grae. “Labels in general are retarded,” she adds. “I think people have got to the point where they are so diverse that even in their hobbies and their loves and their TV shows and gaming… it’s always been retarded, it’s more retarded to do it in 2012, and part of my – maybe my only mission – is to get people to stop doing that.”

However, it seems a lot of the time this can be to do with media coverage just looking for an angle. Hello! Grae believes that listeners just listen, and don’t so quickly distinguish. “I think it gets weird when it gets to media, and journalism, and they turn it into something else. I never felt any different from my peers until the journalists started saying, ‘This is what it is, this is what she talks about, these things are different,’ and I’m like, they’re not really. You should just diversify your friends.”

Instead, referencing gaming and gaming culture in her music is part of Grae’s philosophy of their being no rules in life. (“I don’t wait on line. I’m the person who travels with zero photo ID. People ask, how did you get on the plane? I’m like, just because you can. You’ve gotta try harder!”) Making an exception for baking (“Because you can’t really switch up the ingredients. Keep that traditional.”) the same applies to what’s in her lyrics. “I think ignore the audiences for everything. Especially being a black female, a woman of colour, it’s not really thought about [the fact] that I’ve been watching King Of Kong, or that I want to talk about other things on records. I think it doesn’t have to be one target audience, it can cross genres, it can cross boundaries, and cross continents. That’s the way I like to deal with life, and I guess it translates to the music.”

Right now for Grae, games are on a hiatus. She needs to get the albums finished, and is currently fighting off the urge to buy games that will distract her. They’re the reward for when she’s done, she explains. “Then I can veg out and be like, nobody talk to me, nobody call me, I’m going into my world, leave me alone!”

But in the meantime, Grae’s taking hits where she can get them. “I went over to my friend’s house, it was kind of a date-esque thing, and he was already playing Batman, and said he’d turn it off. I said, ‘No! No no no no no! You can leave it on, I’m not that kind of person.’ If I can’t get to play it, at least I get to watch it. So let me enjoy it like a movie, and then let me figure out how much of my life I need to set aside to be able to buy this game.”

I wonder whether once there’s time again, whether there will be games from the past she’ll also go back to. “I’m a Tekken girl,” she says with pride. “That’s been my plan as soon as I finish this album.” But Grae also plans to go back further than that. “I want to take my Atari 2600 out of storage and bring it back to my living room. It’s not the most intricate, and it’s not the most complicated, but I’m going to sit for hours and play Pitfall, because it’s going to be fucking awesome. I don’t know what conditions my joysticks are in, that could be a problem. I don’t know – I can see my childhood bedroom when I start playing games like that – it’s like comfort food.”

You can listen to Jean Grae’s latest single, Kill Screen, right here:

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103 Comments »

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  1. fishdinner says:

    This was awesome, and thanks for introducing me to some new music, I needed something to listen to today!

  2. Zanchito says:

    Thanks for broadening my culture, RPS!

  3. Firkragg says:

    This is why I don’t subscribe to gamer mags anymore, thanks RPS :)

  4. RagingLion says:

    Huh, I’d weirdly seen her name before. One of her albums was produced by Blue Sky Black Death who I’m really into – it’s been sitting starred in Spotify for a few months waiting for me to listen to it. Interesting to hear some of her story and how gaming is just a normal strand of her life – shouldn’t really expect any different I guess. It’s what a lot of people have grown up with now and so it’s a part of them.

    • Barnaby says:

      I’m very happy somebody mentioned this. I love Blue Sky Black Death, and the collaboration with Jean Grae is much better than lots of the other collabs BSBD does. (If you haven’t, check out the solo albums of just BSBD and no vocals. S’mah favorite.)

      Really glad RPS took the time to do this interview. Dunno what to say other than awesome and good job to all parties involved. :)

      • RagingLion says:

        Oh, I know those :). Late Night Cinema could be my favourite album and Noir is no slouch either.

    • Srethron says:

      Love BSBD as well, although I prefer the instrumental versions of their songs. I have a rap tolerance, but it is quite low.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lumberjack_Man says:

    For those that would like some more Jean Grae, or rather her earlier incarnation as What? What? may I offer this track she did with The Herbaliser:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvvgN7R4sHs
    Some of her more comic book influenced lyrics….

    • Premium User Badge

      AlwaysRight says:

      I was just going to say that my first encounter with Jean Grae was on The Herbaliser album ‘Take London’.

      She’s worked with The Herbaliser, loves games and has an article on RPS… shes awesome.

      Edit: Which member of RPS do you think is the most ‘street’? I reckon John can spit a mean lyric.

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        phuzz says:

        Shit, I knew I knew the name from somewhere! Not sure how I didn’t recognise her voice either, all good stuff :)

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        Morlock says:

        Nathan.

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        Lumberjack_Man says:

        The Sherman, as he can say things like “y’all” and “dipset!” without sounding all cream teas and English.

      • Zanchito says:

        Cara. I know she’s not “officially” RPS, but man, she grabs you by the guts when she writes.

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        AlwaysRight says:

        I once saw Tim Stone or as he likes to be called ‘Tee Stizzle’ spin on his head for a full minute.

    • Ayam says:

      Loved this tune back in the day AND NOW, it’s the chorus that gets me feeling cool and complex: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1PaSn60KSw

      Keep representing Jean, come play a coop game with me some time, would hate to play versus, you’d kick my arse!

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      Spottswoode says:

      Shit, it’s her!

      She’s also on “Blow Your Headphones”, and is responsible for the phenomenal “The Blend”:

      Edit – Ayam: whoops, missed your post somehow. Great minds and all that…

  6. Ian says:

    Nice to see somebody from outside the gaming industry talk about it and not give it a bad rap.

  7. fearghaill says:

    I’d say that there is a French rock band that she should do a collaboration with, but on further consideration that would only lead to her music taking a darker, angry turn and her eventual burnout and disappearance from the scene.

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    AmateurScience says:

    Can I take this opportunity to request more Gaming Made Mes please? Probably my favourite series!

    Edit: the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed this one was hopefully implicit in the above :)

  9. Shortwave says:

    Cool to see a music based article on here. Love it, she’s awesome.

    Thanks dude.

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    barelyhomosapien says:

    Great article, I’m going to check out her material when I get home! She seems like an awesome woman judging from the interview :)

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    tomeoftom says:

    It’s a really great song.

  12. ulix says:

    This is beyond awesome…
    Two of my favorite topics combined: Gaming and Hip Hop, specifically Jean Grae, one of my favorite MCees on this earth.

    WHEN’S YOUR ALBUM COMING, JEAN?

    Why is is it done but still unreleased?

    • John Walker says:

      Special treat for you:

      RPS: What led to the Cake Or Death delay.

      Grae: Initially it was just label stuff, and then I think I started to really understand what I wanted to do with it. Definitely going back and doing a lot of live instrumentation. I’m glad it waited until now, as it wouldn’t be the project that it is now, that I’m super, super proud of. And I honestly don’t think there’s a time limit to it. I like to think I make timeless music, so it doesn’t matter if a song I recorded in 2009, I can still put it out in 2013, and it wouldn’t break because it’s trendy. If you’re making quality product like that, it’s okay to decide I don’t have to put it out that year. Unless I’m just saying “2010” on every song. “Hey, remember what happened yesterday?!” Um, no? These are not current events! I make it a very clear habit to not refer to a lot of current events, unless I know it’s coming out immediately, because that’s dumb.

    • mrbeman says:

      Word! Infinite love for Jean Grae, and I’d had no idea that she did things like play the sims, that’s crazy. I just loved her for her music, but now I’m like “wow if I met her maybe I could actually talk to her,” whereas before I always just kind of figured she’d be like… doing whatever it is cool people do.

  13. Im_Hit says:

    Jean Grae is a fantastic MC. Talib Kweli named her one of his top 5 female MCs. You all would also love MF Doom, who also raps as King Gheedorah and Viktor Vaughn. Absolutely my favorite MC. Talks about comics, video games, genetically modified foods, how nasty strip clubs are and so much more

  14. MistyMike says:

    People who wear ‘nerd’ style glasses usually are fooling nobody.

    • Bhazor says:

      Wish someone would explain why the “6 year old girl playing dress up in her moms wardobe” look seems the in thing at the moment among hip hop artists.

      • Radiant says:

        hey if dudes want to see what they can wear let them.

      • mrbeman says:

        because she looks fucking awesome?

        look I mean I don’t really dress too crazy, but having anything other than respect for the people that put the time and effort into developing their own style – a style that’s outside the mainstream – get respect from me

        And you WISH you could look like this: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m61g5rKEoz1qbljc9o1_400.jpg

        Or this: http://www.allfemalehiphop.com/uploads/jean_grae.jpg

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          So you’re a hipster or you respect hipsters, basically? I mean, that’s not an issue for me, but call it what it is.

          • mrbeman says:

            I think I’ll take my retort from the freaking interview: “any labels are just fucking stupid to me”

          • Smion says:

            I think at this point even my grandmother would be considered a hipster by some people.
            This really has to stop

          • Davie says:

            It’s gotten to the point that just tell people I am a hipster, simply because the term really doesn’t bother me and I just want to be able to listen to music and dress the way I want without people being all “lol hipster”. The word had a definable meaning at one point, but it’s been misappropriated to death.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Sorry, guys and gals, but this is the kind of rap music hipsters love to listen to. And by “listen to”, I mean “talk about”.

            Hipster is still a viable stereotype, especially if you live where I do in an area that’s populated by trying-hard-not-to-fit-in-by-fitting-in adult college students and artsy coffee shops.

          • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

            I’m sorry that you have to live in such apparently hellish place, but those people’s tastes don’t affect my ability to enjoy legitimately good artists and they shouldn’t affect yours!

  15. sinister agent says:

    “Yeah, any labels are just fucking stupid to me. Just let it be what it is, let people enjoy it.”

    Sold!

    Yet another album to add to my list, though. Goddamn it. My life would be a lot simpler if hip hop was as shit as Viva et al make it look.

  16. John Walker says:

    I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t ask her about Busdriver. But I’d add him to the list of recommendations here.

  17. gritz says:

    Great story. We talk all the time about the narrowness of gaming culture and what to do about it.

    Well, this is what you do about it. Remind everyone that gaming culture isn’t as narrow as you think: it’s actually full of awesome people.

  18. Bhazor says:

    You know. I’d give her more credit if it wasn’t for the fact that the track is just another brag albeit with some gaming references.

    When good rappers just go on about how they’re good rappers in every frickin track I lose all interest. Same happened with Azelia Banks, fantastic skill, great producers, brilliant beats but almost every track is about how hot she is and how shes going to fuck my girlfriend.

    Kanye gets a lot of shit, and deserves it, but at least he is willing to say he’s a bit shit. The last album in particular is just an hour of him lying in a heap on the bedroom floor listening to Dark Side of the Moon and crying.

    • Radiant says:

      That’s what makes rap good!
      It’s roots are in the competition ‘whose track is hotter?’ ‘who has the better fluidity’ ‘who can insult whose mother the most?’

      That’s what makes gaming with other people good too; that same competition.

      It’s all right there in the interview.

    • mrbeman says:

      have you listened to *anything else* she’s done?

      Like her songs about her attempted suicides, her hatred of herself, failed relationships, anxiety and nightmares, every kind of vulnerability

      did you skip over the rap persona part of the interview, or indeed the rap persona part of hip hop culture, or hell, literary culture?

      unreliable narrators are a thing

  19. RandomEsa says:

    Wait a minute… A female gamer who is in to gaming and actually doesn’t try to use sex-appeal to try and attract basement dwellers so she can gain fame and advance in her career? ( *cough* Olivia Munn, Jessica Chobot, Felicia day *cough*).

    Too bad I don’t really like rap. At least I still have the protomen…

    • mrbeman says:

      oh my god what is wrong with you

      did you seriously just say “she’s one of the good ones”

      wtf

      a) what does “using sex appeal” even mean
      b) why do you think it’s somehow bad
      c) I don’t know the other two, but fday, seriously? she’s just being a person and she works hard as fuck

      If you don’t like what a person makes that’s fine, wtf ever. But don’t pull this misogynist “I’m going to judge and dismiss women for a unique women-only thing” bullshit

      christ

      • DrGonzo says:

        I don’t understand your response. Did you read his comment? Sounds like you just read something completely different.

        As someone who isn’t into rap, an outsiders perspective. Most of the genre seems incredibly misogynist, he was saying that Grae is a breath of fresh air because she doesn’t seem to be. At least that’s how I interpreted it.

        Also, a) look at my tits, I’m a woman and I’m just tits and arse – example, 90% of hip hop videos and lyrics.

        b) it’s not bad except when it’s only sex appeal, as in woman are ONLY tits and arse, again, see 90% of hip hop videos.

        c) Felicia Day is only explainable because people fancy her I would imagine is his point. She is completely unfunny and really quite annoying. she makes mediocre shows but makes vague references to gaming and has boobs. But that’s entirely subjective obviously.

        • mrbeman says:

          I read the comment where someone dismissed and denigrated a bunch of womens’ achievements as being lesser because they “used their sex appeal,” a line of reasoning that is never, ever applied to men except as a rhetorical device whenever someone says “hey, no one ever accuses men of that.”

          It’s stupid horseshit.

          Maybe you don’t like fday – sure, whatever, who cares. But trying to say she hasn’t worked hard for what she’s attained is straight up, bare-faced misogyny. And also trying to say that the only possible reason people might like her is because they want to fuck her is just… dumb. She’s very (very) popular among straight women, and although I don’t love her like my boyfriend does, it would be pretty weird for a gay male couple to ‘fancy’ her.

          p.s.: asserting that “90%” of “hip hop culture” or whatever – a fragmented and fractious artform if ever there was one – is one way or another is just ridiculous.

          Sure, a lot of mainstream/top 40 hip hop is as misogynistic and fucked up about gender as the rest of our culture, but zeroing in on that and trying to pretend like you have stats about it or that you’ve encapsulated “the majority” of a scene you are obviously ignorant of is not going to score you any points.

          ps it’s also almost certainly pretty racist!

          tl;dr you have shitty reductionist opinions based on made up non-facts that expose your petty prejudices far more than they say anything about the outside world

          have a good one

          • boxfish says:

            mrbeman, you said everything I wanted to. Cheers.

          • Ztroskotanec says:

            More props for posting the best comment on this article, mrbeman.

            Jean Grae is sick, I heard her on the Herbaliser albums and then rediscovered her thru her tracks on Midnight Club. Her stuff is sharp as hell.

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          ffordesoon says:

          @DrGonzo:

          I like Felicia Day and her work just fine, I actually don’t find her particularly attractive, and I’m a straight dude.

          I also like hip-hop quite a bit, and find the idea that “ninety percent” of hip-hop videos are nothing but T&A utterly repellent. The only people who think that are people who only watch fake rap videos in movies made by white people and judge the whole culture based on those false exemplars of it. There’s casual misogyny and homophobia in hip-hop because there’s a lot of casual misogyny and homophobia in society. The only difference between hip-hop and any other musical style is that you can curse in a hip-hop song and still get an edited version of it on the radio, which, it could be argued, leads to the use of more epithets targeted at specific groups of people. Even then, though, it’s very much a case-by-case thing.

          Try listening to a country station sometime; they rarely go beyond PG-rated swears, but the men and women in a lot of those songs wouldn’t exactly get the Gloria Steinem Seal Of Approval. And it’s roughly the same with all other styles of music.

          Oh, and I’m using “hip-hop” as a blanket label just because you did, but it’s kind of like calling Europe a country. There are almost as many strains of “hip-hop” as there are hip-hop artists.

          In other words, your “outsider’s perspective” is in fact an arrogant display of willful ignorance on your part. At best.

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      ffordesoon says:

      @RandomEsa:

      I don’t like Olivia Munn or Jessica Chobot at all, and I still find your comment (which I really did just mistype as “vomment,” because Freudian slips are a thing) astonishingly repulsive in its implications.

      Even if it’s true that Chobot and Munn do exactly what you say they do and nothing more (which neither of us can know for sure, because we weren’t there, but I would like to categorically state that nobody in the entertainment business who doesn’t pay their dues and put in the work ever ascends to Chobot and Munn’s level of prominence without rich parents), so what? They found their niche in the marketplace, and they’re serving that niche, just like any other entertainer. I don’t see the problem.

      Is it that they may not actually be as into the things they’re hawking as they act like they are? Because I’m pretty sure Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t sit around reading Iron Man comics all day. Does that mean he shouldn’t play Iron Man, in your opinion? Or is he allowed to just be the guy who plays Iron Man? And if he’s allowed to play Iron Man, why can’t Jessica Chobot play Geek Girl?

      As for Felicia Day, the idea that she’s getting by on her sex appeal is particularly egregious. Why don’t you try writing and directing multiple seasons of a wildly popular internet comedy? Which you now can, because Felicia Day paved the way for you to do that. And before you say Dr. Horrible was what proved the market existed, note that Joss Whedon has repeatedly credited the success of The Guild for proving to him that making stuff on the internet was economically viable. Oh, and she was in Dr. Horrible too. Oh, and she now has her own internet portal, where she’s launching and producing multiple shows celebrating nerd culture in addition to continuing to write and direct The Guild.

      You may not like any of that stuff, as is your right, but to say she’s coasting on sex appeal is a bald-faced lie.

  20. Radiant says:

    What a wonderful interview.

  21. Planet9 says:

    I’d like to add Brother Ali and Aesop Rock to the sanctioned list. Give ‘em a listen.

    • mrbeman says:

      Anyone from the twin cities hip hop scene:

      Atmosphere
      POS
      Sims
      Dessa (another woman and another favorite of mine)
      Basically anyone in the Doomtree collective
      Grieves

      It’s weird that so much amazing hip hop comes out of Minnesota

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        grieves is from my city (seattle), he’s just signed to rhymesayers.

        • mrbeman says:

          woops!

          Sorry, Grieves.

          Hopefully the fact that I think he’s a talented MC will take the sting out of my trying to appropriate him.

        • ulix says:

          If we’re talking Seattle though:
          – Blue Scholars (Sabzi & Geologic)
          – Common Market (Sabzi & RA Scion)
          – Luck One (originally from Portland, I think)
          – Macklemore

      • HothMonster says:

        The solid local hip-hop scene in Minne has always confused the fuck out of me.

      • xaphoo says:

        Don’t forget this fantastic Twin Cities contribution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk . Best rap song of the summer.

    • John Walker says:

      Especially this Aesop Rock track!

    • Unaco says:

      Anything associated with Def Jux, I’d add. And anything to do with Ninja Tunes on this side of the Atlantic. Also…

      Roots Manuva.
      Murs (and the FELT albums in general).
      Del tha Funkee Homosapien.
      Saul Williams (though nothing he does these days can ever match Amethyst Rockstar… Reznor is good, but he needs to work with Rick Rubin again). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HerpGwbLSM8
      And, Baba Brinkman… He’s an ‘Academic Rapper’, who came to attention with the Rap versions of the Canterbury Tales. He’s done a lot of work with the scientific community and scientific rationalists, and released albums on Evolution and Human Nature. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAYVY2eLMck

    • Unaco says:

      I forgot to add…

      Cadence Weapon. Nothing too explicit in regards to video games, but he’s made use of the Silent Hill theme before ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrEB0x2_Mbo ). As well as some Mario inspired beats ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMW4uOQulE0 ).

    • Premium User Badge

      AlwaysRight says:

      cLOUDDEAD

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb_MZkbG3UY

      Their first album was actually better but less accessible.

      • John Walker says:

        Everything cLOUDDEAD did was amazing. And I continue to love Why?, in whatever mood/genre his albums wake up in.

        • Quinnbeast says:

          Both are great albums for different reasons. I likes me a bit of rhythmic blending.

          I’ve had a lot mileage out of Book of Bad Breaks by Thee More Shallows. Definitely worth a squint if you like the anticon vibe.

          http://www.myspace.com/theemoreshallows

      • Premium User Badge

        lasikbear says:

        doseone is currently working with Vlambeer for Gun Godz. Not sure what exactly he is doing, but I would hope they get him (and jel and Odd Nosdam) for the soundtrack. To everything.

    • ulix says:

      Something you probably haven’t heard about (who outside of NZ has?), but actually my Hip Hop album of the year (and, for me, as someone NOT from NZ, the best Hip Hop album since 2007s “Below the Heavens”):

      Home Brew – Home Brew

      http://homebrew.bandcamp.com/

      Spread the word!

      Also hot this year: Substantial (new LP produced by Oddisee!), Jack Flash & Wizard (from the UK), Saukrates (from CAN), House Shoes, Has-Lo, the NEW Blu & Exile joint (when the fuck is the new Emanon: Aloe Blacc & Exile LP coming?), Pacewon & Mr. Green, Young Zee & Mr. Green (Mr. Green = awesome), Wordsworth, Killer Mike (produced by El-P!), Ron Artiste (Chali 2NA & Roc C), I Self Devine…

      Oh, and best Hip Hop scene at the moment: Detroid!

  22. Sic says:

    Did you probe her a bit more about fighting games?

    There are a few good questions that could be asked (for instance about what she thinks of the “recent” discriminatory issues, and of course her main in Guilty Gear).

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Yeah, because she really needs to pass a fighting game literacy test before she can talk about things that actually matter to her.

      Christ.

  23. Tom Walker says:

    I’m not sure you were referenced as such. I think she may have just nicked your joke.

    Good article anyway.

    • John Walker says:

      Grae: I said Kill Screen was full of Easter eggs, so many things go from one line to another with double-entendres, triple-entendres. So when I was coming out of the line before it, which was “Boundaries, no I’ve got none,” then it led into saying my idea of playing rock/paper/scissors is, no, rock/paper/shotgun. Sometimes when I write – it’s weird. It’s a process that goes like, I write backwards from the future. So I wanted to include Rock, Paper, Shotgun in the song at some point, and what happens with me is I’ll have a thought and it instantly clicks, and I’ll get really excited. I’m like, “Aw, yeah, just said that! So now I can use it as a double-entendre!” I wanted to include things and have them have a lot of meaning at the same time, and for people who would pick up on it. I didn’t know if you guys would pick up on it or not! I didn’t even think you would hear the song – so it’s super cool. And again, yay, comprehension! People listened!

      • Tom Walker says:

        Good Lord, you deleted half my comment. I’m off to start a conspiracy blog.

        Anyway, I stand corrected on that point. My bad.

  24. Jenks says:

    “Labels in general are retarded,” she adds. “I think people have got to the point where they are so diverse that even in their hobbies and their loves and their TV shows and gaming… it’s always been retarded, it’s more retarded to do it in 2012, and part of my – maybe my only mission – is to get people to stop doing that.”

    http://www.myfacewhen.net/uploads/2089-retarded-interesting.jpg

  25. BestFriends4Ever says:

    Guess I’ll be the guy who thinks that this track is really bland.

  26. SexualHarassmentPanda says:

    She sounds like a female version of MF Doom or Tyler the Creator.

  27. Jarl Hamburger says:

    Thank you RPS for picking somebody who isn’t a straight white male. As someone who is none of those things, it’s good to see someone else represented for once. Because too be honest, I’m sick of straight white males being in pretty much everything in my hobby and we need more diversity that isn’t shit.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Typical RPS comment.

      Personally I like to think RPS interviewed Ms. Grae because she is an interesting artist and person who also has ties to gaming, not because of some misguided attempt at tokenism.

      • Jarl Hamburger says:

        I understand that RPS would pick Jean Grae because she has ties to gaming. But actually seeing a gamer who is not a straight white male is also a nice bonus.

        And so what if RPS wanted to include minorities? That’s not a bad thing to be doing.

  28. radiofireworks says:

    This is such a great post. Man, I love this site.

    I’d never heard of Jean Grae, but this interview coupled with the fact that she has an album called Cake or Death makes me want to marry her. Definitely going to check out her music.

  29. Baal_Sagoth says:

    Well, so this is the moment to finally make an account here and add to the chatter.
    The article is such a good read, fantastic and unique premise, wonderfully detailed and simply interesting on all fronts. I’m glad to be able to read such a well executed piece on the gaming habits & philosophy of a lady I’ve been listening too for quite some time with pleasure. Very well done!

  30. Droopy The Dog says:

    Damn, I really need to find the time to sit down and try out some new music.

  31. TaroYamada says:

    Oh boy… RPS.

  32. PopeJamal says:

    Amazing. Judging by game trailers and the like, I would have thought the RPS crowd only listened to Heavy Metal, Dub Step, and Deadmaus (or whatever the hell his name is).

    Color me impressed…