CMJ 2008 First Thoughts
What's up everyone,
So, KWUR's CMJ crew needed an inside man to get into 21+ shows. Apparently, besides DJ Meatface, I'm the only one over 21 on exec staff. This is indeed a disturbing universe.
Anyway, we arrived in town last night in time to catch the tail end of Thursday festivities. We went to Drom in hopes of catching some hip hop, especially if it's hosted by dudes like Pharoh Monch. The bouncer said the event was 21+ since the venue wasn't serving food (which would have made it 18+) - Dj DB, The Intern and Kenny bounced to get some food on a stick (NYC is awesome!). The only artist left on the bill at Drom was Empire ISIS, a female, North African (?) hip-hip/reggae MC who is in charge of so much testosterone on stage you'd think she manages gang bangs after her shows.
She had 3 male backup dancers, a drummer, bassist and DJ. Almost everyone was from a different country, which made the tracks interesting musically, and Empress Gangstress (as she is also known) engaged the audience well, as she is known as a good entertainer.
Ultimately, however, her performance fell flat, since Drom was thinly populated with people at the ends of their evenings. She tried hard to keep us from leaving, becoming "bored" performing her own songs. She also sounds like a cross between every female pop star's voices combined with a little bit of extra mask to blast your face. I think she could either sound smoother and less forceful, or she should have more female members accompanying her on stage.
Her music varied from bouncy, active, party hip hop to a slow jam she dedicated to all the "gangstas" all over the world. Another track was about female solidarity and fighting for a woman's right to party by her own rules. All around good message in her music, which was nice to hear compared to other female rappers who tell their listeners to bend over and get flexible for the next available cock.
A different message is welcome anywhere, and Empire ISIS is savvy, world educated (she's lived many places and even biked through 7 countries - read her bio), and not afraid to do as she pleases. Given the venue (what the hell does Drom mean anyway?) and her growing maturity as an on-stage performer, I'd give her show last night a 6/10. She's got good potential for the future (positive, emotional hip hop=win), but really needs to change her vocal sound. It is not attractive aurally, and probably strains her voice too.