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4 Things I Love About Kid Sister

1. She’s from Chicago. Represent!

2. Her nails! Check out the video for her song “Pro Nails,” where she aestheticizes and elevates working class women of colors’ femininities to something like high fashion:

Shit’s motherfucking fierce. I’m mindful of the politics here — there’s always something a bit problematic when somebody like me — white and middle-class — gazes from some remove at the bodies and practices of brown folks and pronounces them haut.  But I feel like this video mostly celebrates and is by-and-for those it represents. The nails  might be fetishizable but I don’t think they’re fetishized — it seems like they still maintain some connection to context and to the concrete realities of womens’ lives.

3. She values album craft. Kid Sister imagines her debut Ultraviolet as the summation and articulation of a current trend in hip hop & pop — a particular amalgamation of hip hop and electronica she believes began with her early singles, before going mainstream (and getting dumbed down) by recent singles from folks like the Black Eyed Peas. She wanted her album to hang together, to be coherent, to remain listenable as an album. Toward this end, she dumped tracks produced by some big-ass names, tracks that might’ve gotten her extra attention but would’ve messed with her album’s flow. As maybe one of the last folks who still believes in albums, I respect that.

4. Chicago House. Some critics seemed disappointed Kid Sister didn’t step into the role they’d projected onto her as the great savior of the female emcee. But what she’s actually created I think I like better — a hip-hop album grounded in Chicago House. House was an outgrowth of disco, and just like punks once reviled disco for its escapism and seeming apathy vis-a-vis the fraught political realities of the day, house music is party music, and maybe seemingly contrasts the righteous anger and despair of some early hip hop (itself an outgrowth of disco). But a refusal to directly engage inequality does not necessarily make the music apolitical. In recent years, folks have begun to call out the race, class and sexuality-related dimensions of the late-70’s dismissal of disco music, and, like disco, Chicago house is and was created and consumed by people of color/Queer folks/Queer people of color (one of the djs credited w/ creating house, Frankie Knuckles, once spun w/ the famed Larry Levan at the Continental Baths in NYC). House music is ecstatic, has been called gospel for the fallen. For folks who experience oppression, such celebratory escapism can be a survival mechanism. At its most ideal, the party builds community, brings folks together. In house dancing, this ecstasy happens in the body. House’s signature move, the jack, activates the core, the locus of the body’s energy. A kind of embodied spirituality. Where culture is concerned, y’all may be accustomed to thinking about Chicago as more a follower than leader, but house — house started here.

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