Purple Reign
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Grae Matters

"Not a thug, not a drug seller/ Not a gun shooter, not a stripper sex symbol or anything you use to/ Marketing nightmare/ I don't fit into categories/ I just rap, make beats and shit and sleep all of these stories . . ." -- Jean Grae

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Jean Grae
The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP

In 2002, Jean Grae was crowned b-girl rap's revolutionary sweetheart with her critically acclaimed debut CD Attack of the Attacking Things. On her unofficial sophomore effort, The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP, Jean continues spitting introspective narratives and metaphors galore over crafty productions that has launched her to underground rap stardom.

Jean is apocalyptic, funny and brilliant on the EP. Bootleg's standout is "My Crew," a matriarchic ode to her family -- the hip-hop community-- where Jean excoriates pedophiles disguised as music artists, and scolds rap fans who devalue hip-hop culture. Jean spits: "Rap's dead, rap sucks, but thanks to y'all for killing it/ Grilling it down and spilling it guts and filling it back up with trash/ Wait up, I mean cash/ But ain't the two synonymous/ With media politics?/ You know they love it."

Jean is not your politically correct rapper either. The bright rhyme-slinger talks about her own spiritual warfare with God on the melodic "Take Me," and on the incendiary "Hater's Anthem," Jean's inner bitch is revealed as her honesty outweighs being polite. She huffs in one verse: "I'm more necessary than violence on the Amistad/ [I'm] wrong like eatin' bacon at Ramada-n/ I'll piss on your shoes and make you clean them with your mouth/ Then tell all of your friends and send ya panties to your house." With a chorus that goes: "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you/ Hold up/ You fuck, you fuck, you fuck."

The highlight of the EP is the 45-minute mix of Jean Grae's hottest freestyles that would make 50 Cent proud. The mix showcases Jean's lyrical versatility: From a feel-good rapper, to a mind-numbing wordsmith, to a hardcore battle rhymer, to a navel-gazing lyricist looking for answers to the world's social ills. Among the treasured gems you'll hear on the mix include a bevy of crazy freestyles over Nas, Jay-Z and Scarface ("My Block") instrumentals, including Jigga's "You Don’t Know (remix)" track. Jean's preference in a man are revealed on her cover tune of Jay-Z's "Excuse Me Miss," titled "Excuse Me Sir." (A classic) Another gem is "Negro League Baseball," a throwback song (circa late '90s) of a then-witty 18-year-old Jean when she was with the now-defunct rap group Natural Resource. (An old-school classic)

Only one minor disappointment: Jean Greasy's sinister "Very Bad Things" didn't make the cut on the EP, which would reveal Jean as more diabolical than her fellow rap counterpart Eminem. (Yes, she is indeed the Real Slim Lady.) Aside from that, The Bootleg of The Bootleg is a tasty appetizer before the bountiful feast coming in 2004 -- Jean Grae's second full-length CD. I can't wait.

Here's what other music writers are saying about Jean's The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP:

Alvin "aqua boogie" Blanco of AllHipHop.com says Jean "Has the rhyme chops to hang with the big boys like Jay-Z and Nas." And that Bootleg [offers] "thought-provoking and technically precise lyricism with even stronger beats. Thank you Jean."

Online music writer madtheory believes: "Amidst a wall full of 30-watt light bulbs Jean Grae’s deft lyricism and resonant production radiates like a halogen lamp."

And Jon of HipHop Anonymous writes about Bootleg: "You would think Jean belongs in a psychiatric ward, but such containment would only keep her from cutting her teeth on the mean streets of New York. And you don't want to do that, because she'll bite you, repeatedly."