While she's waited for her music career to take off, 28-year-old rapper Melisa Young, a.k.a. Kid Sister, has sold everything from baby clothes and scented candles to reasonably priced lingerie. But it took a song about fake nails (and a video featuring dancing fingers) to turn the Chicago native into an overnight sensation. Channeling the spirits of old Salt-N-Pepa and J.J. Fad, Kid Sister makes hip-hop that is funny, smart, and seemingly tailor-made for a bonkers house party or a backyard dance-off. Despite the sudden avalanche of media attention, a number of big-name collaborations (she's got Kanye West on speed dial), and a highly anticipated debut album due out this month on Downtown Recordings (tentatively named after macaw-toting WWF wrestler Koko B. Ware), Kid Sister still just thinks of herself as the girl next door-especially if that girl "got her toes done up, with her fingernails matchin' " and appreciates the joys of a silky weave.
T. Cole Rachel: What did you study at college in Chicago?
Kid Sister: I studied film. I feel like everybody does that, and then they're like, "Oh shit, I need to do something else." So that's basically what I did-something else.
TCR: When you got out of school, did you wonder, Okay, now what?
KS: Oh, my God, I was scratching my head. My father is black, and so the black side of the family was like, "Yay! You did it! Walk yo crazy ass across that stage and grab that motherfucking diploma-you did it!" And I'm going, "Aw, all right, you do know I got a degree in film, right?" Like, they were expecting me to get some crazy job and buy a car-just really live that kind of glamorous lifestyle. There's not really a film industry in Chicago. I looked for any kind of job I could get and all I could do is work as a production assistant on Starting Over. A fucking reality show! I don't think it's even on the air anymore.
TCR: Oh, my God. That show was so crazy.
KS: You think so? I thought it was really boring.
TCR: The show was weird. Obviously there was a lot of created drama, but then they would say something like, "I want you to sit outside in this cardboard box all day and think about the things that are keeping you in a box."
KS: Like, "I want you to lie facedown in this pool and drown yourself because you're drowning in your emotions." [laughs]
TCR: As far as your music career is concerned, it seems like things happened superfast.
KS: Yeah, they did. I never like to brag and say, "I rose like a shooting star!" 'cause that's lame. [laughs] But it really does feel like a miracle happened to me. I was like, "Oh, my God!" Do you want to know how many retail jobs I worked before this? It was as if I worked for every store in America. I worked at the Limited and Bath & Body Works and Gap and Victoria's Secret. When this started happening to me, I just looked at my schedule and went, "Damn, now this is what I do for a living. This fucking rules!"
TCR: I remember when your song "Pro Nails" emerged online. It was one of those things where, within three or four days, probably 20 different people e-mailed me about it. It quickly went from being this sort of underground thing to being a phenomenon.
KS: I was exclusively playing parties back then. It was just me and my brother [J2K of the hip-hop duo Flosstradamus], with me jumping on a couch with a beer and a mic. You know what I mean? Rocking a full set on a sofa. It's not the same anymore.
TCR: You should just bring a sofa on tour with you and have it onstage.
KS: It's like when R. Kelly did his tour and everyone was looking at this crap on the stage and they're thinking, What is that? Oh shit, it's a closet! [laughs] Trapped in the closet!
TCR: How has your life changed lately?
KS: I've played with Akon. I've played with Kanye. I've played with Shawty Lo. These big shows are so weird to me: A) because I'm playing with these huge people, and B) because it's a completely different demographic. It's not black folks, it's country-southern, white moms and teenage children and stuff. It's like, I'm reaching you? Awesome! There are so many hipsters making new music that comes with so much pretension. I don't believe in that. I think that even if you're making music that's a little bit different, everyone should be included. I used to be the fat girl, and I'm biracial, so I know how it feels to be something that's other-and it doesn't feel good. I don't want anyone to feel they're not invited to the party, because everybody has an invitation.
TCR: The record is tentatively called Koko B. Ware, and it's named after an old WWF wrestler. Were you obsessed with pro wrestling as a kid?
KS: Oh, my God. Okay, so me and my brother are best friends now. Best friends-besties. But it was not always that way. We use to be archenemies. We hated each other because he was all cute and adorable. I was a fat child-fat and overweight and a little jealous. He was just adorable, and I hated him for it, so we used to kick each other's asses all the time. But the one thing we could do that did not entail kicking each other's asses was watching other people kick each other's asses. So we watched WWF, and Koko B. Ware was our favorite wrestler. He had a bird!
TCR: Why do you think that there aren't more lady MCs out there?
KS: 'Cause it's hard! You know what I mean? It's hard, and it takes guts. I grew up around so many boys, and I was basically raised by my father. My mom was more my friend, and my dad was like, "I am here to instill some knowledge." I was raised to think that there's never anything a boy can do that I can't do. It wasn't even discussed.
TCR: Did you ever have a Kid Sister doll?
KS: No, I never had one. It was too expensive. I wanted one, though. I still want one!
TCR: They're really scary-looking.
KS: They're not that scary. They're not like Chucky. Actually, the reason we picked the name Kid Sister is because it's as if we're thumbing our noses at everything. Calling myself Kid Sister, picking Koko B. Ware as the title of the album... It's like, "You know what? I don't give a fuck." Things are either going to go well for me or they aren't. I will be damned if I don't have a good time while I do them.
TCR: Your songs are perfect summertime jams.
KS: I know! With the top down and the rays bangin' on my face! I make my music for people to roll around inside their cars, for teenagers and people in their twenties like me to roll down the windows and turn that shit up.