As a run up to their respective show dates, here's two cd reviews/ interviews with Chicago MC Psalm One (who can't quote Psalm 1:1) and pint-sized UK grime rapper Lady Sovereign (who can't drive a car).
Lady Sovereign Public Warning Island Def Jam Stream it at her myspace page Does your fourteen-year-old niece need a role model for Christmas? Then keep her the hell away from Jay-Z's latest protégée, tiny English rapper Lady Sovereign, who returns to the Bay Area next week. This pasty 21-year-old resident of North London projects dropped out of high school with dreams of making music pay. This week she releases Public Warning, her first American album, backed by lots of product placement through Verizon and Adult Swim. Public Warning could kill in the suburban tween market for three key reasons: Sovereign squeaks potent anti-intellectual, ghetto fabulousness that disaffected suburban kids lap up; it's dance music for a Dance Dance Revolution generation; and the five-foot-one Teen People cover girl looks like one of them. The track "My England" shows her distancing herself from English tea, cricket, and the queen, with raps about budget living, smoking weed, and playing PS2. "Blah Blah" redefines vapid teen jargon with a chorus of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. "Random" is the UK analogue to the hyphy motto "Go dumb," wherein Sovereign instructs listeners to get stupid!/get random! If that weren't trouble enough, she reps the UK grime scene, which means ridiculously simple melody supports stomping, insistent bass and her hoo-de-hooo! Four of these songs clock in at nearly 240 beats per minute - DDR speed for the Adderall-addled.
Lastly, Sovereign's incredibly young, aggro "just trying to be real" image plays well in cul-de-sacs. The album's single "Love Me or Hate Me" tells potential haters to go fuck themselves, because she's going to keep doing her thing. It's partly a pose. She is nervous about her debut on a huge American major label. "I know I got fans, but at the end of the day I know how it works. If your shit don't sell, 'bye-bye,'" she says. Then the Lady chimes in: "But I know that I'm special and this album's a classic."
High School Musical, you're on notice.
Lady Sovereign plays the Mezzanine in SF with Mickey Avalon and Young Love Tuesday, November 14. 9 p.m., $10. MezzanineSF.com
Psalm One The Death of Frequent Flyer Rhymesayers Stream it at her myspace page here
Who wants to pass on the first competent female rapper to blow up without dropping her pants? Not the Midwest's Rhymesayers label. It won an underground-label battle in 2005 to sign 26-year-old Southside Chicago native Cristalle Bowen on little more than a few singles. Bowen, aka Psalm One, pulls into the Bay Area again this week, supporting her first LP The Death of Frequent Flyer and its standout hit "Rapper Girls," which attacks the Lil' Kims of rap while demonstrating the difference between her and the rest of the skindustry. The former University of Illinois chem major grew up singing in church choirs and playing piano, saxophone, and other instruments. By 2004, she had traded in her original rap name Psalm 65:11 for Psalm One because kids could never remember it. Ironically, she can't remember Psalm 1:1. "Something about God," she says. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful," goes the verse, and it fits Bowen. "Beat the Drum" and "Macaroni and Cheese" show her dedication to getting booties shaking, but she does it with classy samples and (gasp!) positive messages. Chemistry's feeding me Â´cuz I charge much less for my two EPs, she opines in "The Living," her day-in-the-life rap from her stint as a food-chemistry tester. Bowen has ditched the safety goggles thanks to excellent production by Overflo, V-Traxx, and Madd Crates, who lock onto midtempo, vintage-inspired hooks with a little horns here, a little piano and organ there. None of it detracts from her clear, insistent, intelligent, and layered delivery - a rhymesayers' trademark. - David Downs Psalm One opens up for Del tha Funkee Homosapien at the Fillmore Thursday, November 16. $25. LiveNation.com