Dying in Stereo
I have to confess that most contemporary underground rap and hip-hop is an unknown entity to me. It’s not that I don’t like these types of music, it’s that I have no idea where to look for beat heavy music that doesn’t sound like a poseur’s shopping list or a dance club advertisement. Northern State’s debut is certainly neither of these things. At its best, on songs like “Vicious Cycle” and “The Man’s Dollar,” the group comes across like an equally feminist Sleater-Kinney or Le Tigre gone ’80s old school. At its worst, “At the Party,” they come off like a female Beastie Boys, which is hardly bad at all.
“Vicious Cycle” contains the following lines: “Who owns the wall space in this big city/the companies have billboards but that shit ain’t pretty/government busy scrubbing true art off the wall/the voices of the people and the freedom scrawl.” Finally! It’s such a breath of fresh air to hear angry, socially conscious lyrics like this in rap again. Especially when it hits just as hard as ’80s greats Public Enemy and Run DMC. I know that this type of rap never really died out, MTV and radio just quietly cast it aside. Ironically, Northern State is now the perfect packaged commodity for MTV: three white girls rapping about social injustice. It’s not quite as themed as the White Stripes, but it’s still a rare commodity ready to be exploited. Thankfully, Northern State seem to have it in their heads to stay away from the co-opting network. Which is good because it will help prevent them from getting lumped in with all the other denizens of commerical rap’s platinum plated gutter that they are rallying against.