Northern State, Polyphonic Spree

Girls are different from boys, example No. 926: all-gal rappers Northern State vs. old-school fools the Beastie Boys. Both groups come from New York (although the State hails from the mall-ridden sprawl of Long Island, while the Boys are from the mean-ish streets of Brooklyn), both have three very white MCs and both devour pop culture as if it were filet mignon. But here's the difference between the two acts: The Beasties penned lurid, sophomoric lyrics such as "She'd drop to her knees/ If we'd only say please" on their early records, while on its debut, Dying in Stereo, Northern State whips out clever lines about being pro-choice, loving fat bottoms and eating bean curd in a fast-food nation.

This is not to suggest that the State gals don't like to party (see the appropriately titled "At the Party"), but it's unlikely they'd put up with doing the dishes and the laundry, as the Beastie Boys suggested on 1986's "Girls." After all, MC Hester Prynn once worked for Hillary Clinton, MC Guinea Love got a degree in women's studies from Oberlin and DJ Sprout has worked as a kindergarten teacher.

Certainly, times have changed since the late '80s; even the Beasties developed a social conscience eventually. Still, it's encouraging to see an all-girl group get signed to a major label (Columbia snatched up the State, several months before Dying came out) by name-checking feminist icons such as Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Plath and, um, Cynthia Plaster Caster, while rapping lyrics like "You say that I'm beautiful under your breath/But you're not looking at my eyes/You're staring at my chest." And if more girls peep Prynn's vocal style—a self-described "banshee shriek"—and the crew's slinky, utilitarian hooks, Northern State might become the female Sex Pistols (sex-organ irony intended).

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Dan Strachota

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