LIVE: Jean Grae, Drom, NYC

by Keya Maeesha

I remember the first hip-hop concert I ever went to. It was in 2005 in Washington, D.C.. A group of friends treated me to see Black Star because I was a huge fan of Talib Kweli and Mos Def. I’m in the front rocking out ridiculously hard. Enjoying the music, the energy of the crowd, everything! I was pretty much in music heaven. To top it off, it would be the first time that I got to experience hip-hop in pure form. Can you imagine me at 21 years old rocking out like I was receiving my own personal show? It was hilarious actually. My friends didn’t expect that kind of reaction from me. It was at this concert that my desire to be a consistent live show supporter was borne. It was also at this show that my love for Jean Grae was solidified.

The South African borne, New York bred emcee is nothing short of genius. She has put out album after album that not only showcases her raw lyricism, but proves that can rock with some of the big boys–maybe even out spit them. Her witty personality, coupled with her charm and her love the culture are evident when she picks up a mic. In laments terms–she’s dope. So after years of waiting for her to drop something magnificent, the time finally came for fans to quench their thirst. On May 24th, Grae took the stage at Drom in the Lower East Side section of New York City and reclaimed her position as one of the most sought after emcees in the scene.


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Mr. Len opened the night to the hip-hop feel that we true music fans know and love. With tributes to Beastie Boys and Chuck Brown, the night already promised to be one to remember. Drinks in hand and energy flowing throughout the venue, the crowd began to lose themselves in the vibe that was being set by Len. Although it was just for a while , this was just a preview of what was about to go down. Grae comes on to the stage looking as gorgeous as she knows how and greets her eager audience.

“Just for tonight…let’s pretend that we are at the fucking rap show that we’ve all wanted to go to. Can we do that?”

And with that, the beat for “Uh Oh” drops and folks went crazy. Grae was an excellent performer, as she kept her crowd engaged as well as her deejay. This makes sense though and wasn’t really a surprise to anyone. She continued to rock out (without her ___ out..but if she had one..I’m sure…well…you get the point) all her of memorable jams such as “Killin’ Em” featuring Pharoahe Monch (who was a surprise special guest), and “Watch Me”. To add additional genius to her set, she brought on the help of her friends Mela Machinko and Kwame Brown Pearson. If you have never heard Mela sing or Kwame play the piano, you missed out on a delightful treat. Performing “Love Thirst”, which happens to be my favorite Grae song, the night moved to a different side of the hip-hop spectrum. The spin she put on this song, coupled with Machinko’s transition into “Between The Sheets” by The Isley Brothers moved over the crowd in such a manner that you almost began to see new couples form that night. Leading to her upcoming album, Cake or Death, Grae previewed of few of her singles that provided a teaser to what may be her best album to date. Using a full orchestra to accompany her for the rest of the show, tracks such as “U & Me & Everyone We Know” as well as “This Morning” resided in the ears of the listeners. There was not one person in there who did feel the lyrics she presented. Before leaving the stage, Grae dropped this knowledge on the crowd:

“Take one thing you can change and change it in the morning..and you do it the next morning and the next morning until you become the superhero you are supposed to be…”

Jean Grae is more than just your average “femcee”. I wouldn’t even separate her from the men because she clearly fills out her own kicks. Cake or Death is going to be a dope album. She proved it that night. Again, I’m not surprised though considering who she is. While the music fan in me is growing impatient for the awesomeness, I’m forcing myself to wait. She’s worth it.
Special thanks to Corey Thompson of Photoleer Photography for the photos and Jamaal Lemon and Chris Barnes of The Sovereign Space for the dope video.