Jean Grae is in my top 10 of dope femcees of all time! She’s from Cape Town (South Africa) and I’ve been following and a fan of hers since Natural Resource!
Grae was born in Cape Town, South Africa on November 26, 1976, the daughter of South African jazz musicians Sathima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim. She was raised in New York City after her parents relocated there after her birth. She studied Vocal Performance at the LaGuardia School before majoring in Music Business at New York University. She later dropped out after 3 weeks of class because she already knew what her professors were teaching her.
Early career (1996–1998)
After working with groups including Ground Zero, she joined a hip hop music group called Natural Resource in the mid-1990s, along with rapper Ocean and DJ James “AGGIE” Barrett. In 1996 they released a pair of 12-inch singles called “Negro League Baseball”  b/w “Bum Deal” b/w “They Lied”, and “Bum Deal (remix)” b/w “They Lied (remix)” b/w “I Love This World” on their own label Makin’ Records. She also appeared on singles by fellow Makin’ Records artists Pumpkinhead and Bad Seed, and on the O.B.S. (Original Blunted Soldiers) double 12-inch single alongside crew members Pumpkinhead, Bad Seed, and Meat-pie, and produced much of the material released on the label under the pseudonym Run Run Shaw. During this period she established strong ties with the Brooklyn Academy crew, with which she would appear throughout her career.
Solo career (1998–2004)
Natural Resource dissolved in 1998, after which Ibrahim changed her stage name from What? What? to Jean Grae, a reference to the X-Men character Jean Grey. Under her new moniker, she released her first LP—Attack of the Attacking Things—in 2002, and followed it in 2004 with This Week. Throughout her career she has also recorded tracks with numerous major hip hop artists, Atmosphere, The Roots, Talib Kweli, The Herbaliser, Da Beatminerz, Phonte, Mr. Len, Masta Ace, Vordul Mega, C-Rayz Walz, Mos Def, Styles P, Pharoahe Monch and Immortal Technique among them.