Page last updated at 07:13 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 08:13 UK

Kid Sister: False nails, petty theft and party anthems

Watch the video for Kid Sister's latest single, Daydreaming

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

Hip-hop is in a delicate state.

Edged out of the charts by Lady Gaga and her robot pop army, it is having something of an identity crisis.

Some acts - 50 Cent, Eminem - have retreated to safe ground, making darker beats and tougher lyrics to appeal to their hardcore audience. Others have shot for the sky.

Kid Cudi caused a stir last year with a nakedly honest album about his battles with depression, while Lupe Fiasco has rapped about the tension between his Islamic upbringing and hip-hop's degradation of women.

Now entering the fray is Kid Sister, aka Melisa Young, whose down-to-earth lyrics are not just a breath of fresh air, they're a wind of change.

Kid Sister
The 29-year-old studied film-making before launching her music career

"What really makes me happy is a final clearance sale," she raps on Let Me Bang.

"Or maybe a fresh box of doughnuts on a Sunday. Start my diet Monday... I'll get around to it one day."

Delivered with a cheeky wink of the eye, the 29-year-old's songs completely avoid the guns'n'girls cliches of hip-hop, something she puts down to her Chicago roots.

"Maybe there's something in the water," she says, "but there's a culture down there that's very unique. It's sort of hood but it's sort of wholesome."

"People aren't dressed to the nines with fake boobs and gold chains.

"There's no parties. There's a roller rink. There's the mall."

Chicago's hip-hop scene, she says, is different because it's populated by the "suburban working class".

She goes on to list about a dozen rappers, producers or DJs - Lupe Fiasco, Felix Da Housecat, Kanye West, Cajmere - who come from her neighbourhood, Richton Park, or went her school, Rich South High.

The young MC even worked in the same branch of The Gap as Kanye while she was trying to score a record deal. And the clothing store may have bankrolled her efforts more than they realised.

"I used to take that five finger discount, you know what I'm saying?

"I never took anything big, though, just body sprays and things like that."

Pyjama plan

Petty theft aside, Kid Sister was struggling to make ends meet. She had studied film at university, but there weren't any jobs back home. Consequently, she was working three jobs while trying to decide what to do with her life.

It was her older brother, Josh - part of local DJ duo Flosstradamus - who eventually showed her the way.

"He had just started doing these parties called Get Out Of The Hood, and they really cracked off and got massive," she recalls.

Kid Sister
I regret getting really long nails. I broke one of them and it started bleeding. It was very traumatic. The stupidest thing I've ever done
Kid Sister on the perils of Pro Nails

"And around that time I started writing these silly little lyrics - and I would play them for my brother in the living room in my pyjamas.

"One day, he invited me to play at one of these shows and people were like. 'Wow, this is pretty cool'. So I kept getting up there and trying harder and I honed my craft."

One of the first people to take notice was Kanye West, who took her ode to nail parlours, Pro Nails, added his own verse, and released it on a mixtape.

Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of people got the chance to hear Kid Sister. A record deal was secured, and the aspiring star got to work on her debut album.

But that was in 2007 - so why has it taken so long to get a CD into the shops?

"I had an album ready within six months," she reveals, "but it wasn't up to snuff".

"No-one could agree on the first single, and that was an indication that something wasn't right. So we went back to the drawing board."

"People are always like, 'oh my God, it took you so long' but honestly I was signed, six months passed, I turned in an album and a year later came up with another album. So I feel like people need to get off my back!"

Only two tracks survived the first draft, as the MC decided to ditch mid-tempo numbers and make an arms-aloft party record.

Kid Sister and J2K at the Coachella Music Festival, 2008
She still performs in concert with her brother Josh "J2K" Young

Musically, Kid Sister draws on Chicago's musical roots, mixing hip-hop with thudding house beats and big, old-fashioned R&B hooks.

Life On TV could be a cut from Daft Punk's lost rap album, while Big N Bad resurrects the riff from Yazoo's Don't Go and turns it into a strobe-lit dancefloor anthem.

The album, Ultraviolet, shares DNA with the Black Eyed Peas' recent work - but don't make the mistake of mentioning that to Kid Sister.

"Sorr-y, but no!" she scolds. "I think what we do is similar, but what I do comes off in a more innovative and sophisticated way."

Certainly, you wouldn't expect Fergie to rap about the nail varnish on her toes - but the quirky lyrics of Pro Nails have become Kid Sister's calling card, as have the intricate designs that adorn her fingertips.

When we speak, her nails are decorated with bow ties, complete with diamonds and chains.

She spends two-and-a-half hours every month getting her hands "done to the nines" - but it hasn't always been a success.

"I've been getting my nails done since eighth grade graduation," she says. "That's age 13 or 14."

"But, oh my goodness, what was my mother thinking? They were long and red and whore-y. I looked like Elvira or Cruella De Vil!"

Kid Sister's single, Daydreaming, is out now. Her album, Ultraviolet, will be released on 3 May by Downtown / Asylum Records.




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