Someone needs to tell the three gals in Northern State about the existence of dressing rooms. Before a show, rapper-producers Hesta Prynn, DJ Sprout, and Guinea Love hang in front of the club chatting with writers, old friends, their parents (whose folding table holds their equipment); afterward, they’re in front of the stage for an hour, modestly deflecting praise from new riders on the Northern State. For once in hip-hop, what you see is what you get.
The trio’s logo-less (except their own) shirts and gym sneakers translate into a form of hip-hop as fresh and homegrown as the whitefish salad at Russ & Daughters. Friends since their Half Hollow Hills High West days in Dix Hills, Strong Island (exit 42 off the Northern State Parkway), Prynn (born Julie Potash), Sprout (Robyn Goodmark, who baby-sat Potash as a toddler), and Love (Correne Spero) are multi-culti in the Nassau County sense—two Jews (one part-Comanche) and an Italian—and their voices grew out of the Island’s rich hip-hop history (De La, P.E.). Toss in a group fondness for Liz Phair and Joni Mitchell, and Northern State are just what rap music needs right now: young, female-centric insight and intellect that amuses as it amazes. “I can’t even describe the feeling when women come up to us after a show and are so jazzed and positive about what we’re doing,” says Sprout. ” ‘Cause there are definitely days when I wake up and think, ‘Am I tripping that hard that I think I’m gonna be a white female rapper?’ ”
Here’s what Northern State don’t rhyme about: hair, bad boys, Gucci, Cristal, cars. Here’s what they do discuss: Bell Jar book reports, NYPD brutality, Ralph Nader, dental floss, Ayn Rand, veal meatballs. “I am not no Beastie Boy/I am not my boyfriend’s toy,” Prynn, 24, rhymes on “Attaché Case,” addressing the most common first reaction to three YWF NYC rappers. She later adds, “I don’t feel guilty about masturbation.” Sprout, 26, warns on “Rewind” of a “neon sign on my drawbridge that says, ‘No Fools Allowed.’ ”
By compounding their liberal-arts lexicon with a can-do approach to making beats (Love calls it “trying to deconstruct the singular, hegemonic male DJ”), these college grads are carving out their own hip-hop niche. “People come expecting either the boob show or some gimmick, and they’re amazed that we’re so badass and serious about what we do,” explains Love, 25. With a little help from their friends, including sound-chick/harpist Katie Cassidy, bassist Eli Schneider, and drummer Seth Johnson, Northern State self-produced the four songs on their promising if primitive debut EP, Hip Hop You Haven’t Heard, as well as the half-dozen cuts that are thus far live-only. (Minneapolis indie-beat queen Kittycraft produced a recent track.) The label sharks are already circling around the three cute chicks, but the trio, all of whom now live in the city, are in no hurry to take that plunge.
Instead, the band will spend this “summer of shopping” perfecting the collectively choreographed dance moves rooted in the gals’ high school dance-team days, refining their organic-synthetic sonic aesthetic, and writing more sharp-tongued lyrics in the vein of Prynn’s “Keep choice legal, your wardrobe regal/Chekhov wrote The Seagull and Snoopy is a beagle,” from “A Thousand Words.”
By creating that special Long Island basement ambience—the trio rotated between drums, bass, and turntables at a recent gig—Northern State are keeping the focus on fun, coming soon to a rumpus room near you. Are Foxy and Eve listening?