Jean Grae Picks Christmas Sweaters For Talib Kweli, Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch


Editor’s note: In Tweets is Watching, Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

Jean Grae is one of the world’s most talented twitterers. When not lighting up her timeline with talk about Christmas sweaters, the Great Yam Debacle and the folly of the many impending apocalypses, she’s readying up her assault on 2013: January should see the release of her Gotham Down album, Cake Or Death should follow later in the year, and she’s also filming the Life With Jeannie sitcom. Over early evening libations at Mission Dolores bar, we asked her to explain away her timeline, including the truth behind the very important Legend of CatBoar.

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You’ve been tweeting a lot about Christmas sweaters lately.
I have discovered that I have a great love for really horrible Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts. I’ve always been a fan of thrift stores; I was raised a block away from an amazing thrift store and my mom pretty much shopped for our whole closet there. My mom was pretty much a snazzy dresser. She had a great sense of style then and it still translates now. She moved to South Africa and left her closet with all this great shit in it. For Christmas sweaters, I bought about 10 of them in the past two weeks. Some of them are horrendous, like with gold ornaments on them — it’s probably nothing I wouldn’t have worn about five years ago. And people loved my sweater last night.

What’s the most garish Christmas sweater you picked up?
It’s one that’s got a lot of things on it, like a whole Christmas montage. There’s elves making presents and it goes around and they’re putting the presents on a conveyor belt and Santa’s finally taking the presents off it at the end. And it’s got a lot of gold in it.

Is there a cut-off date for wearing Christmas sweaters?
No. There is not a cut-off date. I would like to bring them around in summer. I may transform some of them into other things: Make one sleeveless, make a skirt, I could do that.

Sean Price also performed last night. What sort of Christmas sweater would you like to see him in?
Sean Price would probably do a grinch shirt, but I would not like to see him in a grinch shirt. A touching Rudolph scene would be nice, like Rudolph kinda being shunned and there’s Donner and Blitzen coming in trying to make it okay.

And Pharoahe Monch?
I would put Pharoahe in anything really shiny and with a lot of shit on it. Anything gold. [Motions to giant red bows behind the bar] I saw something like that giant ribbon, I think he’d look good in a big bow.

What about Talib Kweli?
We were remarking how Kweli had a lot of clothes on last night. I saw a picture of him earlier in the week doing a show and I made a comment on the picture: Seriously, what is it rappers, I know ’cause I’m on stage and it’s never fuckin’ cold up there! Why? Why the scarf, the vest, the coat, the hat, the glasses? You’re either really cold or in the witness protection program. So I would like to see Kweli in just a sweater vest. [Pauses] See, now I’m just designing with him in mind. A bright green wool sweater vest and then a red tree on the back that lights up.

Dressing rappers could be a new side project.
Put rappers in clothes! You could do paper doll cut-outs that you could mix and match. I would buy that. I might be the only person who’d buy that.

You’ve tweeted about the apocalypse. Do you believe in it?
No. Because it’s fuckin’ ridiculous.

Why do so many people believe in those sort of things?
Because people are stupid. It’s also because they don’t understand science and people are gullible. And people need something to believe in. It’s easier to give away all the responsibility than to claim it.

How would you go about persuading someone that the apocalypse won’t happen?
Oh, no, I wouldn’t. I’d hang out with those people! That shit is great! I think it’s wonderful.

Are there any conspiracy theories you believe in?
The moon. I’m actually clear that the moon exists, I just don’t think that the moon landing was real. I figure my basic idea is that we made a really big deal about going to the moon, it’s a huge thing, but it’s 2012 and at this point my options at new years should include Miami, going to Cape Town, and going to the moon. But it’s not. It’s not one of those options.

Richard Branson is apparently taking pre-orders for flights to the moon.
Yeah, and I believe Richard Branson, but we’re not going to the moon a lot. That doesn’t sit well with me.

What was the Great Yam Debacle?[Sighs]
I decided that a couple of days a week I’m just going to do sweet potatoes and be healthy. It was one of those cravings that I had all day and I decided I wasn’t going to eat until it was yam time, five o’clock. It’s nice, ’cause it’s just getting dark outside and I’ll bake them and my whole apartment will smell of delicious yams and it’s a really nice Christmas-y thing. I looked on my counter and I was cleaning and I had an Air Wick and I never buy them but I was feeling lazy. I went to the corner bodega and got this Air Wick spray and it was apples and I put it on the counter and also on the counter was a can of Pam olive oil spray. I wasn’t going to use butter ’cause I was trying to be good. And I was like, “It would be hilarious if I sprayed Air Wick but, you know, I wouldn’t do that.” So I’m on my phone having a conversation — a kinda involved conversation — and then I look at the yam and I’m like, “This smells good, maybe too good…” I was like, “Did I really just do this?” For five minutes I just looked at it. I was like do I Instagram it or not ’cause it really just makes me look like a fuckin’ idiot.

Did you try tasting the tainted yams?
It looked delicious and I considered it for a second. But I did not. That was my one yam and I didn’t want anything else so I had to go back to the supermarket and get a lesser yam. And then I used butter.

Cooking with butter is the moral of the story.
Right, don’t try to fuckin’ be slightly healthy!

What’s your favorite brunch spot in the city?
It’s my house now. But my favorite brunch spot — I think they’re still around; I shouldn’t assume just ’cause I don’t go there they don’t exist — is called Intermezzo. I was living in Chelsea and myself and my boyfriend at the time and my mom would go every weekend. We discovered that people did unlimited champagne brunches. It was like, you can drink for as long as you want. I was like, “For four dollars more than whatever I’m eating — so I can get steak and poached eggs, something really lovely — I can sit here and drink your cheap champagne for four hours, that’s what you’re telling me?” They said yes. So that became a tradition for a few years.

What’s the story behind CatBoar?
I wrote that to a friend of mine who’s a really amazing artist and he does puppetry and he’s in the middle of writing this epic Jim Henson-esque thing. He was like, “I don’t get why you sent me this.” I was like, “See, there’s a cat and there’s a boar!” I thought it would be funnier if I didn’t go into it. I was like, “No, that’s it, we don’t know any more.”

So there’s the opportunity for some CatBoar fan-fiction in the future
Take that Cat Boar and go somewhere with it. If you feel you need to draw it as a comic I might add on some things. But we will only do it in text and emoji, that should be the platform. If you can draw emojis out, make them super fine-art emojis. That’s probably something I would buy and frame and put on my wall. It would be lovely.

Do you ever delete anything you tweet?
I delete them if I do a terrible typo and it’s a really good tweet and I know it’s going to get retweeted. I have a thing. There’s a name for that. There’s a total name for being a grammar nazi. I think it’s some sort of a disorder. I specifically look for signs around the city for typos.

The MTA has some great ones.
Really, really bad. And I think how this must have to pass through so many hands before it gets through! I don’t understand what’s happening. Okay, you messed up, there’s a mistake, but all those people after that also signed off on it! How does that happen? So, yeah, I may have a problem.

Who is the most famous person that follows you on Twitter?
I got really freaked out ’cause Judah Friedlander followed me. I was sitting there, “Oh, I have to think of something funny to tweet, there’s a lot of pressure.” But my favorite follow is Judy Blume. We’ve definitely talked on Twitter and people are like, “Wait, is this really happening right now?”

Have you read her books?
Yes, all of them.

What’s your favorite Judy Blume book?
Deenie. She had scoliosis and then for years I was paranoid I had scoliosis and I made my mom take me to the chiropractor who was like, “Seriously, you don’t have scoliosis.” He told me one of my legs may be shorter. I was like, “Everybody’s legs are shorter, tell me about the scoliosis! Tell me about if I need the brace, ’cause I don’t want the brace.” That was a weird book to be inspired by. You should go get Deenie. Get all the Judy Blume books, Tiger Eyes and Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing. She’s my favorite follow.

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