Born In Flames Tour at CMU: March 5

Jean Grae, Invincible, and Tamar-Kali have been cutting their teeth as professional recording artists since the late 90s. They should be at the point in their careers where their fanbases start fading away, but somehow the opposite is true. The first two are hip-hop artists. The last, Tamar-Kali, is a rock vocalist. All three are women. Tokenization as female performers is something that all three fight against. However, their identities as fiercely independent women may be what keeps drawing fans in — and what has kept them from the mainstream for so long.

All three artists will be performing at a free concert at Carnegie Mellon University on March 5, as part of the Born In Flames Tour. The name of the tour speaks to the pressure these artists feel from a world that’s often at odds with their very existence — be it black, woman, queer, punk, etc.

This multi-genre tour will cross over into education and activism, as the participating artists will host a workshop at Carnegie Mellon. The workshop, directed toward students and community members, will take a critical look into the marginalized impact of women, women of color, and queer folk in the history of music – from both artistic and business perspectives.

The workshop is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., in the University Center Building, Connan Room.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the concert, which will take place in the University Center Building, Rangos Ballroom.

RSVP and get more details on Facebook.

Born In Flames Tour at Carnegie Mellon is a production of The Arts Greenhouse at Carnegie Mellon. The Arts Greenhouse is a hip-hop education outreach program cultivating the artistic talents of Pittsburgh youth. More information is available at

Best known out of all three, Jean Grae rose to the top of the NY underground, trading verses on records with performers like Mos Def, Jay Electronica, Talib Kweli, Pharaoh Monch, Phonte, and Kool Keith. Jean is signed to Talib Kweli’s independent label, Blacksmith Records, and her last release was a critically acclaimed album produced entirely by 9th Wonder (Jeanius, 2008). Although she’s able to rap circles around most MCs with just wordplay and cadence alone, she can also reach deeply compelling notes when turning her pen around to personal topics. One of her most poignant tracks, “My Story,” received a video treatment that helps the track pulls heart strings out without resorting to melodramatic tricks.

Invincible hails from Detroit, and was supposed to be the next Eminem, before she turned down so many record label contracts that XXL Magazine called her, “an A&R’s worst nightmare.” Israeli by birth, Invincible’s family moved to Michigan when she was seven years old. She learned to speak english by writing down the lyrics to her favorite rap songs. An activist as well as a musician, her songs typically address on struggles (in Detroit and Palestine, or with addiction and alienation). The video that captures her approach and methodology best is 2008’s “Locusts,” which fuses together documentary style footage and interviews with raps critiquing the worst methods of urban re-development in Detroit.

Tamar-Kali takes her name from a Hindu god of war, and basically sounds like one. Although 2010 saw her debut release, she’s been performing as a solo musician since 1997. She first came to a national attention as one of the featured acts in the award winning 2003 documentary, Afro-Punk. With a powerful voice that can turn seductive snarl to warrior cry on a dime, Tamar-Kali has been featured on tour with bands like Fishbone, and as a backup vocalist on Outkast’s album ATLiens. Her song “Pearl” recently received a dancefloor remake with a verse from the aforementioned Jean Grae.