Jean Grae isn’t getting paid

In 2008, Jean Grae released Jeanius, one of the year’s best albums. Now the album’s follow-up, The Evil Jeanius (dig that subtle title), will drop Sept. 30, and Grae won’t see a cent from its sales.

Grae is your favorite rapper’s favorite ghostwriter. “More ignored than the homeless on a train begging for change/more credit due to me than a store that doesn’t exchange,” as she says. She who acknowledges her “dykey fans” on “Mean” and belongs on everyone’s top five emcees list, who shows up the great Talib Kweli on every track they do together, blew Akrobatik, Lif and El-P out of the water on the stunning “Post Mortem.”

This latest exercise in artistic exploitation comes to us from the Babygrande label, which previously pulled the same thing with The Orchestral Files, a deluxe double CD deal that Grae claims she’d never heard a word about till it was already in stores. I actually paid for the thing, in a misguided effort to support one of my favorite artists. Grae deserves support, so save your cash for Jeanius and get these rhymes some other way if you’re a “completist” (as you should be).

It’s been a colorful summer for Ms. Grae. According to an interview with the Village Voice, the label that actually does pay her decided that the track “My Story,” a brilliant and brutal autobiographical tale of abortion and miscarriage, would make a great video. The treatment they gave her had a bizarrely upbeat ending, and when Grae balked, they just shrugged and went on with the show without her:

The most hurtful thing being that it’s such an important song. The personal part of me baring my soul is fine. The political aspect of it — you couldn’t have a more pro-choice song. So now, in essence, what you’ve done is taken the choice away for the video for the song called “My Story.” I think it’s the most disrespectful thing ever.

Then she pissed off some people when she dared to point out the obvious, glaring absence of female rappers from the “Rock the Bells” line up. She took to calling the event “Cock the Bells” and hilariously elaborated on her critique at a recent, packed show at the Knitting Factory. To paraphrase: “If you wanna have a tour with people in colorful clothes doing a lot of cocaine, fine, but don’t call it ‘Rock the Bells.” Touche.

Then there’s the whole MySpace “retirement” business: vague blog posts expressing discontent and thanking supporters were construed by some fans as a retirement announcement, which they weren’t exactly. Recently she has taken to her blog again in an effort to circumvent label obstacles and get paid, offering to rap-for-hire over beats and asking promoters and venue owners to get in touch with creative show and party ideas.

Hopefully the direct approach will serve her, and her fans, well. Jean Grae’s material, and her live performances are life affirming experiences, not to mention extremely entertaining. The woman knows how to put on a show. I think everyone who sees her live falls a little bit in love with her, unless they’re too intimidated by her. No, then they’re probably even more in love with her, just sublimating it.