Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 6

Photo of Jazzy Jeff © Nick Digital

When I told my friend about my weekend, she flatly informed me with thinly-veiled horror that it was “bizarre.” I’m on the fence about the term. You, gentle reader, can be the judge. Let’s pretend the weekend started on Wednesday where I was eagerly awaiting a performance by Kid Cudi at Left Village bar Le Royale. The whole hourly-motel air makes my head hurt (where do establishments still get mirrored walls after 1978?). Anyway, I was excited to see Kid Cudi hit the stage because his MySpace page be poppin’ with his spacey brew of intergalactic hoodness. But live…wow. He rocked the crowd with all the vibrancy of a Saltine. His stage presence was desperate and inelegant. Overall, crappy. There was a lot of shouting out “peoples” that helped him through the struggle. Once again, desperate. The anti-climactic set wrapped up at midnight as the crowd unceremoniously filed out into the stinging cold.

The bizarreness really cropped up Thursday evening when I saw author and Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis interview Mos Def at the 92nd Street Y. Mos ruminated on everything from his childhood (“too much basketball” nurtured his interest in acting) to his reservations about the good life (using the complimentary Bentley shuttle at a snooty hotel was a trifle much). He spoke with candid wit, dazzling the crowd with low-key astuteness and even previewing a freshly recorded track from his upcoming album, The Ecstatic. However, the question and answer period devolved into bedlam as the restless crowd began to claw at lofty echelons of inappropriateness. Shouts of “next question!!” rang out as an older woman told Mos his music had changed her son’s life. A fan behind me kept screeching “Mos!!” arbitrarily (or perhaps for the optimal annoyance factor) in my ear. Brassy women began loudly interrupting each other, vying recklessly for Mos’ attention. There was a bit of a “WTF” factor watching grown people ready to wrassle each other for some eye contact with Mos Def.

Friday night, I hit one of my favorite bizarro events, Flavorpill’s One Step Beyond jump-off featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff at the Natural History Museum (Rockin’ next to rock formations just never loses it’s heady “where-the-eff-am-I” appeal). This time, instead of the usual infestation of downtowners it was very grown n’ sexy: lots of wizened uptown cats and fly broads who bought “Summertime” on vinyl. The vibe was much more “family cookout” than “tight pants competition.” Jazzy played it safe but his comfort hits straddled a gang of genres. There was Crystal Waters’ never-say-die dance jam, “Gypsy Woman,” Mims’ mind-numbing ode to braggadocio, “This Is Why I’m Hot,” and Dee-Lite’s sunny heart-pumper, “Groove Is In The Heart.” The brazenly cool, Retro Kids made an appearance, bedecked in parachute pants, split-level fades and jocular dance moves that made the early ’90s the hotness. Between the Kids, Jazzy and the tunes, it was like 1992 came back for a quick spin around the planetarium. I was entertained.

The actual weekend was a furious blur of hookah smoke, karaoke, Sparks and disco as my posse and I decamped to this loopy loft party in the Brooklyn. One minute I was chatting up locals in a plastic spaceship, the next precariously creeping down an iron ladder in my pin-thin stilettos and later screeching on stage to an oddly captive audience with my boozy pals. When we finally stumbled out of the rabbit-hole into the pale dawn sunlight, we cabbed it to my friend’s Midtown hotel and ordered $17 fried chicken. However, I wasn’t licked yet and spent Sunday afternoon with my artist friend, Alexis Peskine in Hoboken, NJ (aka Stepford. I mean, is that place serious?) who asked me to pose for a painting. It was slightly disorienting to discuss the tension in the “subject’s” face when the image was my own surly mug.
Since I went this far without sleep I decided to keep the party going by hitting up the 718 Sessions with Danny Krivit. If anyone is deserving of a loyal groupiedom it is Krivit. He spun my brains into jelly with tons of extended mixes of plucky disco and early ’90s Euro-house. As I bounced to the beat, I felt like I was in the New York you see in movies. Lots of dark corners, never-ending vocal house and people having moments on the dance floor. This wasn’t a pageant where everyone is casing each other but a party where people swayed to the music with their eyes shut. Bizarre must be another word for “damn good time.”

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 2

Photo of Kid Sister © NickyDigital.com

By Mawuse Ziegbe

Last month, The Natural History Museum hosted a gang of Chicago-bred, genre-blending upstarts from the Fools Gold label. It was a Flavorpill production that turned the site of numerous ennui-inducing school field trips, into an electro-hop playground. Hip hop tag team The Cool Kids, known for their musical-head-nod-to-the-old-school single, “Gold And A Pager,” busted on stage with their reliable bag of rowdy tricks. Then Kid Sister, in a shimmery disco-flapper ensemble, doused the crowd with super sass, performing body-rockin’ numbers like “Let Me Bang.” But the skinny jeans really hit the fan when Kanye West hit the stage with a surprise performance and dropped his verse from Kid Sister’s single, “Pro Nails.” Mr. West then put on a mini-concert with tracks from his latest album including “Good Life” and “Stronger.” The party made a few headlines which mostly gushed about Kanye’s impromptu performance. But the real story is the hip, young artists who made the party possible. Kid Sister and The Cool Kids have the swagger to pack hundreds into a sprawling planetarium on the upper west side and are tossing out online releases met with bubbling critical buzz. Even with delighted critics and rapturous fans, including Grammy-winning rappers, some kids, through no fault of their own aren’t going to hit big. So, instead of list of artists who will hit big in the ’08, I’ve compiled a list of kids who should get gobbled up by the masses but are simply too cool for mainstream consumption (Also, while reading these predictions, please take note of the tongue in my cheek).


Photo of Santogold © Mel D. Cole.

Santogold
Santogold, the dub/rock/electro project fronted by A&R turned rock-star Santi White, has been popping up on “Next Big Thing” lists from the BBC to Rolling Stone to The Fader. She’s showstoppingly adorable. She sits comfortably at the popular kids table, collaborating with artists like M.I.A., Mark Ronson and Spank Rock. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s wicked talented. She had a hand in the production of singer Res‘ debut album 2001 How I Do. Her latest music is laced with the same dubby, wafty tones and rockin’ urgency as the Res’ project. Producer Switch is helming her full-length.
Why She Might Go Bust:
Her esoteric lyrics and genre-averse sound might make it hard to brand her for the Wal-Mart crowd.
Why She Might Go Big:
Homegirl’s music is downright loveable! Angsty but with the most feathery vocals. Refreshing combo and with the proper co-signs by her friends in fly places (M.I.A. Mark, et al), she could be a contender.

Kid Sister
The aforementioned Kid Sister is bringing back sass in a big way. Her style is reminiscent of legendary b-girls Salt-N-Pepa and she counts ‘90s girl groups like Xscape and Total amongst her influences. On wax, her delivery is punchy and her rhymes are real – she goes off on everything from horny guys (“Telephone”) to hooked-up nails (“Pro-Nails”). While she definitely bring the girl powah, what really sets her apart is her refreshing humility. In her live performances she genuinely seems happy to be there. There’s a lot of, “thank you guuuuys!!” and kissy-faces to her boyfriend/DJ A-Trak (bless them for taking the Ashford & Simpson approach to hitmaking).
Why She Might Go Bust:
Her sound is fun and “serious” and “significant” stars aren’t supposed to be fun. She’s gotta pick up some pesky drug addiction or make electro-driven funereal music to turn the tide.
Why She Might Go Big:
She’s got swagger like Kanye, off and on the mic, but her ego is considerably more manageable. In a sense, the anti-Kanye.

Wale
DC has a soul history but not many hip hop stars boast a Chocolate City pedigree. Wale could potentially make his city pop his nimble lyrical action. I guess you could peg him as an East coast Lupe Fiasco in terms of skill level but he takes himself a lot less seriously. And thankfully too because that means droppin’ rhymes over anything that’s kicky from J.U.S.T.I.C.E.’s tinkling disco gem “D.A.N.C.E.” to Mark Ronson’s velvety instrumentals (he’s signed to the producer’s Allido label). He brandishes his envy-inducing rhymes skills with a swaggerlicious ease that pop music could use right now.
Why He Might Go Bust:
There are only so many songs you can make about your footwear (Meh, at least the kid has a hobby).
Why He Might Go Big:
He’s intellectual without being depressing. And he’s got that innate hipness that the masses flock to Pharrell for. More a tastemaker than a taste-chaser.
Whether or not these artists and many more like them lock down endorsement deals and receive gilded mini phonographs this year is fairly irrelevant. Pop success isn’t even all that appealing anymore since scandals and psych wards are what seems to keep people in the news these days. In a perfect world, we’d be making it rain on stars like the aforementioned up-and-comers. But since we live in the real world, perhaps the least we can do is give these artists little green pieces of paper in exchange for a few minutes of fun.