Home > Bargain > Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen?

Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen?

Ipecac Recordings, 2007

An old friend once exclaimed that Northern State was her new favorite group, but of course, I was too busy waddling in something that the Shins dripped up at the time.  Therefore, I could only vaguely remember her words (like an inner echo from far away) when I thumbed this out of of a nearby bin full of forgotten indie releases.  Its bright, pastel cover and rather normal-looking band members gave me little insight as to what kind of pop music I was going to be listening to.  As it turns out, this record is a whole lot of rap with varying degrees of pop!  I therefore declare Northern State as the pioneers of pop rap … or prap.  And yes, it’s better than countrified rap if you know what I mean.

The three girls of Northern State combine a few influences that I can think of on their bouncy third release.  The first that came to mind was the quick, comedic lyrics of some early Beastie Boys from “Licensed to Ill”.  With smirking lines like “I heard your mom drives an ice cream truck” and “I’ll be coming like Joan Rivers and the fashion 5-0”, it’s hard not to compare these three ladies to the three guys who gave us the poetic “Brass Monkey”.  Like the Beasties, the ladies don’t spend too much on fancy vocabulary from verse to verse, but that’s besides the point if the music is catchy and a grin is induced once in awhile.

However, unlike the vocally unique Beastie Boys, Northern State’s ladies all have a rather monotone delivery.  This reminds me of Jimmy Pop from the Bloodhound Gang or that guy from Cake, which in both cases get a little dull from repeated listen.  Thank goodness for the music, then!  Nearly every song has the expected beats needed to keep a rap song going, but Northern State also does a good job blending band elements like guitar and bass in each song.  The song “Away Away” actually comes off as a moody pop song that has very little of anything that could be construed as rap.  Hey, what gives?!  Thankfully, Northern State mostly sticks to the bumpin’ goofy stuff, so tunes like “Good Distance”, “Oooh Girl” and “Sucka Mofo” keep it light and head-bobbing.  Although the group does sometimes hint that they want to turn into softies once in awhile, this record is mostly an energetic flow of enthusiasm on the microphone.

Check ’em out on their website which has a few songs (“Mic Tester” and “Sucka Mofo” in particular) and the lyrics that you need to know.

I definitely admit to enjoying anything that has a great sound and humor, (note: Weird Al and me are like THIS) so Northern State combines much of what I can really appreciate about some groups.  Unfortunately, I don’t understand why Northern State aren’t even bigger than they should be.  What is out there that could top three rapping, clever females with some really catchy songs?  Apparently, the world isn’t entirely ready for them.  Hopefully the three years since the release of this record means that they’re working hard on their masterpiece.  Heck, I’ll take their “Hello Nasty” if that’s what’s coming up.

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