Jean Grae says it happens after every album.
It starts with a fit of frustration mottled with rage, often vented on hip-hop Web sites in articulate rants. It culminates in a vow that she'll quit for good.
"It's one of those, 'Do I want to go ahead and do another independent release, considering how hard it was this time around?" says the 28-year-old rapper, who entered the game a decade ago as emcee What? What? in the group Natural Resource.
"But I think I know that I'm not done, that there are other topics. I have more things to talk about."
Grae gives up a piece of her mind tomorrow night at Rothko, 116 Rivington St., where she performs songs from her latest album, "This Week," lyrical vignettes that take place over seven days.
Unlike raunchy female rappers who rely on X-rated lyrics and clothes (or lack of) to match, Grae opts to keep covered.
"It's cool to have the naked girl if she wants to be the naked girl. We should be able to express our sexuality," says Grae, the daughter of legendary jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.
"My only problem comes when it's the naked girl and no other girl. I can be the girl with her clothes on, with the book and the glasses. Because people wear clothes. It's cold outside."
At that, Grae erupts in a laugh, hinting at the sense of humor that sparked a split with a label that wanted to sign her (she joked that she was a pre-op man en route to a sex change; the label thought she was serious and got cold feet).
Born in South Africa as Tsidi Ibrahim, Grae moved to New York as a child. At 13, she was the youngest person to be in Alvin Ailey's second dance company. She was a vocal major at the High School of the Performing Arts.
Grae lives in Williamsburg with her fiance/manager. On one of the red walls in their apartment, right by a bar that doubles as a deejay booth, a sign scrawled with New Year's greetings declares, "WORD, '05, NAWMEAN?"
"There are a lot of club bangers and hot songs and dime-a-dozen rappers, people who sound alike that you can't pick out of what I call a rap lineup," says Grae, who drops verses on The Roots' most recent album, "TheTipping Point."
"Everything is so focused on making that catchy hook that they've forgotten about good music. I am trying to have a hit career and not make a hit song or hit album."