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Hip-Hop and Comics: Cultures Combining Part 3

Photo by Daniel Rivera; Left to Right: Ron Wilson, Eric Orr, Kagan McLeod, Pete Rock, Adam Wallenta, DJ Johnny "Juice" Rosado, DMC & Jean Grae

In part two of this series I started to examine the relationship between comic and hip-hop. I’ll continue to do that in this part plus take a look into the genesis of hip-hop. In addition, the role of the female emcee will be showcased in this section.

“In the Marvel Universe who would you consider the Bomb Squad?” Pete Rock asked fellow panelist DJ Johnny Juice. Rosado simply replied, “I would say the X-Men.” He went on to explain the comparison of his group to the housed in Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters by telling the audience of the anti-hero nature the two shared. “We were kind of the outcasts. First of all we were from Long Island so it was a big difference.  Long Island changed hip-hop in every single way. We changed the way you look at things. And the X-Men changed the way you look at superheroes,” Rosado concluded.

If one is to look for another hip-hop artist who has changed the perception of viewers look no further than panelist Jean Grae. Grae has been altering the way how female emcees and producers have been seen for well over fifteen years in the hip-hop world while holding her own with her male counter parts. She originally began performing under the moniker What? What? However, after the dissolution of her group Natural Resource she switched her name in reference to the iconic female heroine renown for her intellect and mutant powers of telepathy and telekinesis.  As an artist Grae is anything but the norm in her genre; for the most part she is not been one to be marginalized as most female emcees can often become.

“I have a brother who is six years older than me. And my brother is obsessed with comic books. And we fortunately, and unfortunately for my mom, lived directly upstairs from a comic bookstore. So I was pretty much raised in this store,” the seasoned hip-hop star told the audience.  Grae insisted on telling he packed room that she felt it was “important to talk about New York and comics.” She continued to elaborate on her upbringing on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. “So to me looking at everything, this is Gotham! This is what it is. I live in the middle if Gotham! How cool is that?” said Grae. Grae shared that she felt the world of comics lent to a form of escapism for her since she felt grew up as an outcast. She told the crowd of the joy she had in discovering this world since it didn’t give her the feeling of being left out. Jean also revealed that her formative of her adolescence included an inordinate amount of time playing video games and reading graphic novels; her favorite being the  seminal classic Love and Rockets created by brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez.

As for the choice of her emcee name Grae had this to offer, “When I chose the name Jean Grae I didn’t want to pick Storm because it would be so obvious. I think I started to understand growing into the name with a little more age that there is a chance for rebirth.”

In part four of this series I will wrap things up and share with you one panelist’s bold thoughts on the story of hip-hop.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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