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For Jean Grae is it truly deeper than Rap. The South African born, but New York City bred MC is known to provide the world an honest look at her life inside and outside the studio.

From her beginnings as one third of influential underground group Natural Resources to her solo efforts, Grae has always been one to watch. The Jeanius rapper’s pride about direct roots to South Africa are apparent in several lyrical references through her solid catalog and a recent trip back to Cape Town for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

With the recent passing of human rights activist Nelson Mandela, Hip-Hop Wired caught up with Jean to discuss Madiba’s legacy, his influence on her work and what we can expect from her before the close of 2013.

Hip- Hop Wired: What did Nelson Mandela’s legacy mean to you?

Jean Grae: I think his life in general is very representative of making sacrifices for the greater good of humanity. Being able to sacrifice yourself for the betterment of our people and just being selfless. I was always raised with a view to not do anything malicious to harm yourself but I think there is the ability to choose what self sacrifices you will make for freedom. My parents decided to come back to South Africa to have both of their children born there so we can understand where we came from. So I was born with the idea of appreciating the freedom that I have.

HHW: What about his 95-year journey had the most profound impact on you personally?

Jean Grae: I think the idea of letting things go and this is obviously on a smaller scale but I think in your personal life to not hold resentment about things. Let’s talk about it, see what happened and move on from there and see how we can evolve. I think everyone can take that into their personal lives and being able to do that allows you to grow so much more as a person.

I’m a definite firm believer that when people are sick that it’s a lot of people’s selfish wishes that “oh we want to keep him around longer” but he lead such an amazing full life and enriched humanity as a whole. I’m not one to put my own wants and selfish needs to be like “oh please pass onto the spirit world and continue to watch over us.” He’s done so much already.

HHW: Is there any part of his story that inspires you the most?

Jean Grae: In general just not giving up on yourself, your people or the idea that people have the ability to evolve and do better.

HHW: What can we expect from you in terms of music?

Jean Grae: Gotham Down Deluxe is coming out on the 14th [December]. I chose Saturdays as my release date. It’s a longer version of [the] Gotham Down [series]; a couple more songs and a couple different versions of songs. I definitely want to make it worth it and expand on the story.

On Christmas Day I have Holidays Ya’ll coming out which is a celebratory Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and Hanukah [project] all in one. I am to be equally offensive to all races and religions. So I’m excited about that. Also December 25th is going to be the first episode of Life With Jeannie, which will be on It’s been my baby ever since I was a baby. I’ve always wanted my own show, so I wrote and directed and starred in it.

HHW: Speaking of, do you have any special plans to celebrate the holiday season?

Jean Grae: I don’t know. Maybe get laid? That would be good.


Check out a recent Jean Grae interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC below. 

Photo:  MSNBC