'Vice' Squad

 Vice, perhaps the world's most offensive magazine, is finding new avenues to piss off the cool kids: It's starting a record label.

Vice Records is sure to make big noise with its first release, Original Pirate Material, by the white British rapper Mike Skinner, a/k/a the Streets. He's been generating raves overseas with his fierce combination of garage, hip-hop, and r&b and his straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is delivery. The rapper is in the running for the prestigious British Mercury Music Prize, with David Bowie, Roots Manuva, and Doves also short-listed.

The label deal came about when Vice was in talks with Atlantic Records for a possible TV show. But Vice publishers were miffed that Atlantic hadn't signed the Streets. "We were giving them a hard time," said co-founder Suroosh Alvi. "We said to them, 'Why'd you pass up this record?' "

Rapper's delight: strong island trio
Northern State
photo: Jay Muhlin
Rapper's delight: strong island trio Northern State

The label, like the mag, will not be "genre specific at all," said Alvi, and Vice's unique deal allows them considerable freedom. "We're only going to put out shit we feel really passionate about."

In addition to starting the label, Vice is launching a U.K. version of their mag in October. Is world domination around the corner? In addition to the label, Vice is marking its seventh anniversary with a book, The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, out from HarperCollins-Canada in the fall. "We've spent eight years plugging away with a mission. We were this indie mag going against the Spins and Rolling Stones. Our mission was to destroy those guys. Now we're at 82 issues and we think, 'How did that happen?' " The Streets will be hitting the streets October 22.


FISCHER WHO? If we remember correctly, Fischerspooner's much hyped CD #1 was supposed to be in stores right about now. After a vicious bidding war, the band finally inked a deal last spring with Ministry of Sound U.S. for $2 million and embarked on a media circus, playing exclusive, expensive shows in New York and London. But—like many other labels—MOS suffered financially and had to sack employees, leaving Fischerspooner in a sort of limbo. It looks like the label bailed itself—and the band—out; a source says that MOS has turned around and sold Fischerspooner to EMI for more than $2 million, recouping at least some of their investment. A Fischerspooner spokesperson would only say that "they are in the midst of signing a deal with a new label, and the record should be released next year."


Another shameless item intended to get Karen O to become my friend: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs pulled out of last weekend's Reading Festival in the U.K. Apparently, the band is still in the studio working on its first full-length. Their recording schedule also caused them to postpone their European tour.


If the world is a just place, Northern State will be rich and famous. Filthy, stinking rich, and astronomically famous. The three girls from Long Island named Hesta Prynn, Guinea Love, and DJ Sprout, who weave feminist raps around minimal, raw beats, make you wonder, Why didn't anyone think of this before?

They've only got a "demo" CD, Hip Hop You Haven't Heard, and yet they are collecting press clips like flies on shit. Our own Robert Christgau even gave them four stars in Rolling Stone. Said DJ Sprout of the accolades, "It's all going according to plan."

Their most recent gig was at the very un-hip-hop venue Makor, a Jewish cultural center. Also not likely to be seen at a hip-hop show: grannies and family members who barraged them with compliments. The ladies—who opened for De La Soul in Amagansett on August 23—are busy recording a "real" EP, and are courting record companies. All the interest is flattering—and expected. "We're psyched," says Guinea Love, "but we worked really hard. It's not like we're a band who isn't trying."

How many girls wanna grow up to be rappers? Not many, and not, apparently, the ladies of Northern State. "We were kidding for a minute," says Sprout. "We were just three friends goofing around. Then we started to get more serious. Once we made the decision it was no-holds-barred." The trio treats Northern State like boot camp—music meetings are on Monday, writing meetings are on Tuesday, Wednesday is for business, Thursday is reserved for press and interviews, and Friday is practice.

Like they say in one of their songs, "I don't have a job but I work all day."


tromano@villagevoice.com

 
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