Brooklyn native and resident hardcore-soul queen, Tamar-kali, wields her pen and guitar with equal ferocity. Her hard-rocking brand of outsider art leaps from every track on her 2005 solo EP, Geechee Goddess Hardcore Warrior Soul, enchanting you with its melody, while delivering a swift kick to the gut with its incisive emotional core. Her first full-length release, Black Bottom, packs an even harder punch as audiences are invited to gaze deeper into the recesses of this urban warrior's mind. Her tales of revolution and love may seem contradictory, but the two worlds are inextricably linked by this powerful artist who grasps for the truth in both ideals.
Tamar-kali travels a lonely road of independence that finds many artists of her caliber overworked and underappreciated. Her album title is no mere piece of alliteration, but a reflection of where she found herself after a particularly disheartening period. "I was in the 'Bottom.' I felt like a shark with no teeth." But after some soul-searching, she came to a pivotal realization, "I don't have to fight for a right to exist - I do exist." From there, the piercing Black Bottom sprang forth and each track drips with the frustration, passion and conviction of an artist on a mission. Her longevity proves that she has what it takes to appeal to hipsters, punks, hip-hop heads and soul/jazz aficionados without compromising her individuality to kowtow to anyone's expectations.
The uninitiated may have discovered Tamar-kali when she appeared in James Spooner's award-winning Afro-Punk documentary, with clips of her incendiary performances putting the world on notice to her unsung talent.
Others saw her dynamic energy support artists like Fishbone and OutKast on the group's acclaimed sophomore album, ATLiens. A whole new audience will feel her full force when Black Bottom her first full length release hits the streets this summer.
The cathartic, orgasmic emotion Tamar-kali brings with every song leaves her peerless above or underground. One thing to remember with Tamar-kali's sound is, as with any good piece of drama, there's a twist. Nothing is exactly as it appears and by the time you discover the trickery, you're uncontrollably writhing your hips and pumping your fists in the air. As she says in the pulsating "Warrior Bones," "These warrior bones ache for revolution/but the people ain't ready." How can anyone be ready for the aural assault Tamar-kali brings? For warriors and lovers alike, the thrill of the unexpected makes her music all the more necessary.
Jean Grae is a hip hop artist from New York.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa on November 26, 1976, the daughter of South African jazz musicians (her father and mother are the celebrated musicians Sathima Bea Benjamin and Abdullah Ibrahim), she studied Vocal Performance at the LaGuardia School of Music & Art before majoring in Music Business at New York University. She also did some modeling during her teen years.
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. 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.
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, and Immortal Technique among them.
Jean has recorded an unreleased album with celebrated North Carolina producer 9th Wonder, of Little Brother fame, entitled Jeanius. This unfinished record was leaked on the internet, and subsequently work was stopped on this album. However, at the release party for 9th Wonder's Dream Merchant Volume 2 album she stated that Jeanius was still going to be released. This album was eventually released first through Zune Live Marketplace two weeks before its disc release on July 8, 2008. The album features the track "My Story", about the abortion she had as a teenager. Her rapping on the album was described by Robert Christgau as "remarkable for its rapidity, clarity and idiomatic cadence. The writing has a good-humored polysyllabic literacy." Elsewhere, it's been reported that her proposed fourth album, provisionally titled Phoenix has gone into production. It has been reported by several camp insiders that 9th Wonder will handle the lion's share of the production duties with unknown UK producer Passion hifi and NY resident Clinikal providing a beat each.
Previously signed to Babygrande Records, she signed a deal in 2005 with Talib Kweli's Blacksmith Records. On 28 April 2008, Jean Grae posted a blog on her MySpace page saying goodbye to her fans. She later cited disenchantment with the music industry and desire to start a family as the reasons behind the 'retirement' and said that she was working on new material and still wanted to continue in music: "You know what? I need that Grammy. I think I might be able to stop after that". In July 2008, Talib Kweli posted a blog explaining Grae's album, mentioning that she was not retiring. The blog ends encouraging fans to purchase the album, referring to Grae as "one of the last true MCs left." Grae returned to doing live performances later that year.
On September 18, 2008, Jean Grae posted a Craigslist ad offering her creative services for $800/16 bars. On her MySpace blog entry, she states, "I don't wanna complain anymore, I just wanna change some things about the way artists are treated and the way you guys are allowed to be involved, since it IS the digital age."
Detroit based Hip-Hop artist and activist Invincible began penning lyrics at the age of nine, shortly after moving to the Midwest from the Middle East and learning English by memorizing her favorite songs. She has performed on stages in clubs, community centers, campuses, pride celebrations, and festivals around the world for over a decade, both as a solo artist, and featured as part of the all female Hip-Hop collective ANOMOLIES. She started her own label and media company EMERGENCE and released her critically acclaimed debut album ShapeShifters in 2008. Several media projects accompanied ShapeShifters, including two docu-music-videos about resistance to gentrification in Detroit and colonization in Palestine ("Locusts" and "People Not Places") which have been featured in many film festivals including Media That Matters and South By Southwest. Her lyrics are deeply rooted in social justice work, reflected in a writing process that often involves community feedback, and interviews with community members. Her upcoming project will illuminate the connections between complex science, social movements, and Hip-Hop.
Born in Flames
The Born in Flames Tour bridges the worlds of hip hop and rock, and spotlights women who represent the best of both worlds, bringing together two crucibles of creativity—Brooklyn and Detroit. Featured artists Invincible, Tamar-kali, and Jean Grae are all highly-respected in their individual scenes, and their ever-growing fan bases will continue to elevate them into cult status well into the future. The name of the tour, Born in Flames, speaks to the pressure these artists feel from from a world that’s often at odds with their very existence, be it black/woman/queer/punk, etc.
The tour name nod is also a nod to the obscure 1983 sci-fi film Born in Flames. Each artist has their own connection to the title, from Tamar-kali's independent label Flaming Yoni, to Jean Grae's alter ego the Phoenix. And like the city motto for Invincible's home of Detroit, "Resurget Cineribus" (Latin for “From the ashes, we will rise again.”), all three of these dynamic performers are always rising up and pulling audiences up with them. The tour will be well documented for the third short film in Invincible's documentary series The Revival.
The Born in Flames tour aims to affirm that outsider artists can win in the music industry by putting on powerful, original, and authentic live show that attracts new fans, night after night. Through this multi-genre tour, fans of Invincible and Jean Grae will be moved by Tamar-kali's hard rock spirit and, in turn, Tamar-kali's fans will be reminded of the power of real hip-hop. Each artist will leave an indelible mark on every stage they set ablaze.
Check out this recap video of the Born in Flames Tour Premier at SXSW 2011:
Watch the trailer to Invincible's documentary The Revival SXSW
Watch interviews with Invincible and Tamar-kali at Brooklyn's Restoration Rocks Music Festival: