Hip-hop music has seen its share of both male and female emcees. But when it comes to the women in the game the first thing that is often mentioned is their gender, not their talent.
Host Melissa Harris-Perry had the opportunity on Sunday to speak one-on-one with underground hip-hop artist Jean Grae about the perceptions of women and the challenges they still face in hip-hop.
“I get angry when someone puts my gender in front of my actual job,” said Grae, who is also a producer and writer. “I think it’s blatantly obvious that I’m a woman and I’ve never approached it as a handicap to anything that I have to do. If anything it’s a bonus,” said Grae.
Harris-Perry, fresh off of her Anna Julia Cooper Project’s Gender, Sexuality and Hip-Hop Conference dug deeper with Grae about the challenges that any Hip-Hop artist be they male or female may face when trying to sign with a major label.
Grae explained why she chose not to sign with a major label. “I need to be able to have a limitless imagination and creative force and so for me going the major label route was never really an option,” she told Harris-Perry.
Grae’s view about major labels versus independent labels was heavily influenced by her parents, especially her mother.
The daughter of two jazz musicians who hailed from South Africa, Grae got the opportunity to see her mother navigating through the world of jazz music which included her starting her own record company in the 80s.
“She never really put the idea forth to me that it was anything that was stopping her from doing that,” Grae said. “It was just me watching her do it and thinking I don’t have any limits or I don’t have any problem navigating this world. I just have to go through and do it.”