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Buzz Machine: Kid Sister

By The Beachwood Buzz Desk

Chicago's Kid Sister hit it big in 2009, landing on many critics' best-of lists as well as the radio and TV. Let's take a look.

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"In three years, Melisa Young went from public aid to rapping with Kanye West," Chicago Public Radio reports. "From growing up on the southside, to gracing stages at Pitchfork, Lollapalooza and Coachella, 'Kid Sister' as she's known in the music world, achieved serious cred before she ever released an album."

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"So, there she was during a recent interview with 77 Square, pulling out of a car wash in Chicago's Logan Square juggling dog, purse, coffee, cell phone and driving ("People who make bad traffic decisions, I don't criticize them for it - but if they're going to do it, they need to get it done with!")," Madison.com reports.

"Kid Sister, aka Melisa Young, also never set out to be a rapper. She studied film in college and spent years working low-pay jobs in retail. Her music career - at first a hobby that percolated up from her deep involvement in the Chicago club scene - just seemed to happen organically.

"About four years ago, she started hosting dance parties with her younger brother Josh, aka J2K, and Autobot of the DJ duo Flosstradamus. Her popularity mushroomed beyond Chicago after a single with Kanye West in 2007 ('Pro Nails'); she released her debut album Ultraviolet last month."

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"Well I grew up listening to classical music until I was 11," she told True/Slant. "I guess it was right around 11 that I switched from listening to classical to listening to pop, Chicago house and Chicago hip-hop. And not Chicago hip-hop mainstream like Common, but it was a grimier stuff like Do or Die, Public Announcement, R. Kelly. And that's not hip-hop, we're getting into R&B. But I was into a little bit grimier, less conscious side [of music]. And also house music like Jamie Principle, Paul Johnson, Felix da Housecat, Cajmere now known as Green Velvet. [It was about] listening to them, and also listening to that tapestry of hip-hop, and putting them together to make a really cohesive sound. To most people, that doesn't seem natural, but for me it came super organically."

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"The paradox of Ultraviolet is that despite Kid Sister's realness, her music is built from the same indestructible neon-pop stuff as Kanye West's or Lady Gaga's," Jessica Hopper writes in the Reader. "Her luminescent club bangers have plenty of polished surfaces. She's got distinguished cameos - Kanye, Estelle, Cee-Lo - on several cuts, any one of which could be a hit. The entire album is pure pop craftsmanship, straddling the line between credible club rap and hypertweaked million-dollar radio fare. There's even a little R & B-mo ('Daydreaming') and, for the locals, a manic juke anthem ('Switch Board'). She'll take any fan base that'll have her.

"By combining pop savvy and shine with a nod to the parts of life that pop usually conceals, Ultraviolet transmits a new kind of glam earnestness from the pleasure center of the dance floor. Kid Sister, like anyone raised on the radio, knows that pop is meant to be escapist, even decadent, but what ferments over the course of Ultraviolet is the idea that this attendance to excess is untenable - or even, as Lily Allen's 'Everyone's At It' also suggests, dishonest."

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On Sound Opinions.

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In 2008, Jim DeRogatis tabbed Kid Sister as one of the year's best newcomers:

"The buzz is that she's one of the strongest female voices in hip-hop since the glory days of Yo-Yo and Salt-N-Pepa, and fans are eagerly anticipating her debut album, tentatively titled Koko B. Ware.

In 2009, DeRogatis ranked what became Ultraviolet instead as the third-best album of the year:

"In terms of capitalizing on her debut single 'Pro Nails' to become the pop superstar she deserves to be, Chicago's Melissa Young didn't do herself any favors by letting nearly two years pass as she endlessly tinkered on her first full album. But it was worth the wait: Here is a batch of songs every bit as great as that first hit, and a musical merger of electronic dance sounds, retro-'80s synth-pop and a fresh female perspective that hip-hop has sorely needed for the last two decades."

DeRogatis's profile of Kid Sister here.

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"She's collaborated with artists such as Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo Green, all of whom requested to work with her," Greg Kot writes. "She made her first network TV appearance a few weeks ago on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, showing not a hint of stage fright as she frolicked in the audience while performing an energetic version of her single 'Right Hand Hi.' Already a veteran of main-stage appearances at festivals such as Coachella in California and Lollapalooza in Chicago, she is now preparing for a new year of heavy touring worldwide.

"Through it all, Young remains unfazed, a budding pop star who still remembers very well where she came from: a blue-collar upbringing in suburban Markham, Ill., and years of trying to squeeze music making between shifts clerking at retail stores. At one point she was holding down three jobs and catching catnaps on breaks while fending off warning notices from utility companies because she couldn't keep up with her bill payments."

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 14, 2010


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