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Northern State | Dying In Stereo (Wichita)
Originally conceived as an imaginary band by three Long Island girls at a party, Northern State became a reality once Julie Goodman, Correne Spero and Robyn Goodmark realized they had the necessary rhyming skills to actually make something from their spontaneous idea. Adopting the pseudonyms Hesta Prynn (Goodman), Guinea Love (Spero) and Sprout (Goodmark), they took to the stage for the first time in Manhattan's Lower East Side in 2001. The place went ape-shit.
Fast forward two years, and 2003 sees the release of Northern State's first attempt at an album, albeit an eight-track, thirty minute long mini-album. 'Dying In Stereo' is the result of spending time on the road with bands as diverse as the X-Ecutioners and Le Tigre, and it's fantastic. It's hip-hop for people that don't usually listen to hip-hop; rap for folk that prefer Out Hud to Outkast. It's music for music fans, regardless of genre preferences.
The obvious referential point is 'Paul's Boutique' era Beastie Boys, and it's easy to view Northern State as a female take on the Beasties once they'd ditched their frat party-loving snotty attitudes and seen the bigger picture. There are three of them, they're from in and/or around New York, and they interchange lines with the fluidity of liquid mercury through a sieve. But they're more than mere clones. They're something that hasn't been seen or heard of before. Rolling Stone proclaimed them "everything you want underground hip-hop to be, everything you want white hip-hop to be and everything you want female hip-hop to be". Rolling Stone wasn't wrong.
The girls have issues beyond most rappers. There are numerous digs at the American government, as you'd perhaps expect from such a clearly well informed, globally conscious trio, but they're delivered with eloquence rather than expletives. "This goes out to the government who bomb Baghdad / to the founding fathers that ravaged this land / open your eyes and re-write your text / because there's a lot you can learn from the opposite sex," goes Vicious Circle. With lessons as interesting as these eight gleaming examples of contemporary hip-hop, the best heard since Sage Francis' 'Personal Journals', it'd be hard for even those with absolutely no interest in the genre to not learn something from the 'Dying In Stereo' experience.
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003