Hip-Hop Phenomenon Jean Grae Stirs Souls at the ’Sco

Abby Hawkins, Arts Editor

Several members of Oberlin’s own Wilder Hip Hop Collective warmed up the stage. The rapping talents of College sophomore Mike Braugher, College senior Rene Kamm (stage name Antithesis) and College junior Dominic Babb (stage name Dom Sirius) were followed by the psychedelic electro-melodies of College junior Daveed Audel and College senior Daniel Oshima.

After a significant wait, during which the crowd thinned noticeably, Her Royal Hip-Hop Highness finally took the stage to the electro-rock pump-up beats of DJ Mr. Len and a raucous crowd that, pardon my French, went absolutely ape-shit upon her appearance. In a skintight black t-shirt, voluminous ball-gown skirt, lacy combat boots and thick-framed glasses, Ms. Grae emerged with a stone-cold expression, arms in the air, ready to seize the mic. Without further introduction, she launched into “Uh-Oh,” a song she rapped on with Talib Kweli for his album Gutter Rainbows. She embodied the punchy aggression of the beat, pacing authoritatively around the stage and staring fans in the eye as she spat lines like “I murder rap, you learn it, confirm it and burn its audio / Music for your convertible, music for burning cardio!”

Grae chatted amicably with the crowd through the entirety of her show, encouraging everyone to “refill that drink, get another beer” between numbers and sipping her own throughout. She alternated between high-energy hip-hop tracks and slower soul-infused tunes off her new album, Cake or Death, for the rest of her time onstage, declaring, “Nobody writes a good hip-hop love song anymore!” For her last song, Grae called several audience members out of the crowd to join her in a two-step onstage, poking light fun at their moves while still making an effort to remember their names.

The artist seemed to genuinely enjoy herself ad her ebullient fans, rousing them to wave their hands in the air and two-step in unison many times before the night was over. She even delivered sincere words of wisdom from her pulpit. “Oberlin,” she murmured into the mic, “you’re in such a good place in your lives right now. … You need to just start focusing on what you love, and who you love, and push all the other shit away.”