Rappers Want to Be Actors

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Neil Drumming writes about casting the incredible Jean Grae in his movie, and the everflowing conflict of casting MCs as thespians:


All that said, when I gave a draft of the script to Jean last year for her opinion, I secretly hoped that she would want to sign on. Partly, that was because of her music. Her lyrics demonstrated the same unabashed commitment to storytelling, language, and occasionally brutal, emotional honesty that I was striving for in this screenplay. (If you're not familiar with Jean's music, start at her website and work your way slowly back into a coma.) 

Also, I knew that Jean understood character. Like all rappers, there is something of a persona to Jean Grae--in case you were wondering, no, her parents did not actually name her after a Marvel superhero. But Jean is not stuck in the box she built for herself.

Neil links to the classic Taco Day. I was actually a little late to Jean. I first heard her rhyme on Mister Lif's apocalyptic "Post Mortem." The cut, in and of itself, is fairly incredible and worthy of its own post. But Jean's humor in the midst of everything going about as bad as you can imagine immediately stood out for me. There's a lot of great philosophy from Lif (like really profound shit) some searing memories from El-P, but Jean is just straight hedonism, and dark humor:

Death - faced with it - run to it - not from it 
Swallow all the pills in the medicine cabinet 
Chase it with a bottle of 151, hug mommy 
Head outside, smash windows in, trash my hotel lobby 
Break the grip off the time at last Find a kid to hem up, 
Wish I did more sinning Get a strap on run up in some women 
Lay in the middle of a highway wait for pain to hit me 
Steal a camera with people looting, screaming "come and get me"

I mean, at least she hugged her momma. Seriously, I fell in love with this. Her style is, perhaps, one of the foulest...


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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