Album Review: Kid Sister, Ultraviolet

[from MadeLoud, January 18, 2010]

Long before it became the Chinese Democracy of Chicago house and hip-hop, Ultraviolet was hailed as the next great evolution of feminist, dance-informed rap, which seems odd in light of Kid Sister’s penchant for what she calls “girly shit.” Indeed, throughout the disc, Kid Sister (Melisa Young) sticks to the playful and the light, generally to great effect, and the disc’s continual search for a good time repeatedly crushes any hopes for Young resurrecting the serious, confrontational female rapper. All told, this will probably be more a problem for the music press than for Young.

Even from the opener “Right Hand Hi,” A-Trak’s snare-and-synth-happy production gives Ultraviolet the feel of a dance album rather than of a rap album, and with good reason: all told, Kid Sister has many strengths, but rapping is not one of them. Yet there’s an ever-present awareness of this shortcoming that makes Ultraviolet more endearing than it would otherwise be. Rather than try to be something she isn’t, Kid Sister instead goes full-bore into what she is, namely a savvy young woman with lots to say.

Lots and lots and lots to say.

On “Big N Bad,” it’s a defense of the female form (with a synth line from Yaz’s “Don’t Go”); “Let Me Bang 2009” wrestles with the artist’s own struggles with both personal and musical self-identity over the sparsest of electric piano chord arrangements married to dueling, frenetic beats; “Get Fresh” compares fashion sense to social style, and so on and so on. Young may not have set out to make a rap record, but the tutelage and influence of fellow Chicagoan Kanye West certainly instilled an idea or two about constantly changing the subject.

In the end, Ultraviolet doesn’t come off as a new artist making an epic statement with their opening salvo or a scrappy young musician taking aim at the old guard, and with good reason: those are exactly the things Ultraviolet isn’t, and exactly the things it never aims to become. But as an indicator of things to come and as a foundation for an impressive career in dance floor anthems, Ultraviolet and Kid Sister knock it out of the park.