PHOTO BY DON FLOOD
Kid Sister's debut, Dream Date, was supposed to arrive in late 2008, but the album was scrapped for not being upbeat enough. A year later, Kid Sister (born Melissa Young) has found optimism in Ultraviolet (Downtown/Universal Republic Records), a mix of fast breaks, witty raps with a dark twist.
She has big brothers in Cee-Lo and Kanye West, who contribute guest vocal spots on
"Pro-Nails" and "Daydreamin'," and A-Trak, who produces. Kid Sister spoke to us from a salon where she was getting her weave done. With dogs barking in the background and music was pumping (at 11 AM), she tells us why Ultraviolet is a revolutionary hybrid of electronic music and hip-hop.
MICHAEL D AYERS: I was a fan of Dream Date, then I had to wait like a year...
KID SISTER: Yeah, about that... I'm glad that you liked it, but I had to get some kinks worked out....
AYERS: What are the differences between Dream Date and Ultraviolet?
KID SISTER: It's a more cohesive body of work. We took the mid-tempo songs off and added up-tempo songs. It was all over the place before, which is fine because my brain is all over the place-but for someone coming into the album without knowing me or knowing much about me it was a little schizophrenic.
AYERS: Ultraviolet is less pop—
KID SISTER: Really!?
AYERS: It's more club-oriented.
KID SISTER: Well, that's where I live! Welcome to my home.
AYERS: When did you finish Ultraviolet?
KID SISTER: I finished on May 13, and I had surgery on May 15. I had this really crazy nerve problem in my right hand and elbow, so I had to have the nerve moved in my arm. Can you hold on a second?
[TO SOMEONE ELSE: Can you turn that down a little bit? It's distracting. OK. Thank you so much]
Sorry, I'm at a salon getting my weave re-done, and the girl who does my hair is my friend. She has the best playlist ever, but it's so good it distracts me, cause I'm like, oh shit, Ann-Marie, that is my jam! Um, so hold on, one second, there's like this crazy Swizz Beats saxophone in the background. Can you hear it?
It's like "bow, bow, put your hands up, put your hands up." I'm like, I don't want to put my hands up. I'm talking on the phone. I just realized that all my songs are about hands the other day. I was like, "right hand high" "5,4,3,2,1" involves hands, it's like "Pro Nails," it's all about hands. I'm like, I don't understand, but I guess that's why I have to keep my nails done all nice all the time, cause I'm always showin ‘em off. Painted myself into a corner with that one.
AYERS: So what happened with the nerve thing?
KID SISTER: They said that maybe there was some trauma that took place, because I was in a car accident in'99. The muscle in my right hand was so atrophied that it was becoming hard for me to write songs, and I just said to my label, "Yo, I'm gonna have this surgery on May 15. Mix it, master it, it's done. If I wait any longer I'm not going to be able to write any more songs. My hand is like turning into a claw."
AYERS: How scary!
KID SISTER: I don't have health insurance. I did this like Reebok campaign [in which she covers the Jungle Brothers "I'll House You"]. They paid for my surgery. Thank you Reebok! Feelin good.
AYERS: One of my favorite songs on the record is "Switchboard." Can you tell me about that one?
KID SISTER: That's so funny! I love that song because it just sounds like what I grew up with, like Duke and Ghetto House, and "Switchboard" is one of those songs that's unapologetically Chicago. I'm not being clever on it. It's just me being as Chicago as I can be.
AYERS: Is a Coke shake something that really exists?
KID SISTER: No, no, it's "coca cola shape with an onion in the back."
AYERS: Oh, I thought it was "shake."
KID SISTER: That's what everyone thinks. Doesn't that sound gross? A Coca-Cola shake with an onion in the bag? Coca Cola shape, cause that's how I get down, and I got a little onion in the back, so let your imagination go wild.
AYERS: I read that you were working on a mix tape or an 8-track.
KID SISTER: I've been working on a mix tape with Felix da House Cat. We grew up in the same neighborhood but we didn't know each other. He's like ten, fifteen years older than me. I was playing hopscotch and he was raving out. But whatever I do, Josh and Kurt from Flostradamus and Dave from Chromeo all have a hand in it, because we're like a musical family. We're always involved in each other's stuff.
AYERS: Despite the surgery, this year sounds like a good one.
KID SISTER: This is the first album to confront a new genre that's coming forth. It's a perfect mix between electronic music and hip hop. There's been a lot of music going that way in popular culture, you know, you hear like the Black Eyed Peas. Even Lil Jon is doing a techno album. What we do, me, A-Trak, Boss, Chromeo, on my label, it's not so different from what you hear on the radio, but I think it's more sophisticated and coming from an innovative place. I don't like to brag, but I think that this is the truth. It's a genre-defining album. There's not been an album to come out and say, "OK, this is the concrete evidence, this is the fought-after, this is the tangible thing to go with this whole movement." And I think that Ultraviolet is the first to do that. So I just want to state that for the record.