Thursday, October 27, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Rye Rye (20)

Quick, name all the current female rappers you can think of. Yes, that's one... Okay, so I'm going to go out on a limb and guess most of you who don't catch 106 & Park (and probably all of you who don't know what that is) came up with fewer than two. Pop music being in a time when collaborations are common and often great ways to help artists gain exposure or reach across genres, the fact is that for the foreseeable future, where there's pop, there will be rappers. Nowadays this basically means any song with a rap feature has a dude either talking about booty and ho's or making a big deal out of how he's not talking about booty and ho's, or Nicki Minaj. As tempting as it sometimes is to say "Oh, just put Nicki on everything!" this is sort of problematic. Nicki only has a certain amount of wig colors. But with Lil' Kim lusterless after her stint in the slammer and Missy Elliott taking her sweet time being amazing and fighting disease and such, we're in a place where if Nicki has to call in sick or something, we're fucked.

Enter Ryeisha Berrain, the 20 year old Baltimore rapper known as Rye Rye. She first came to many pop listeners' attention (mine included) when she released the single "Never Will Be Mine," which samples the hook of Robyn's all-time best song (IMHO) "Be Mine" and is themed accordingly. The single and its video, in which Robyn gamely appears and does a few of her by-now signature dance moves and looks generally fabulous as usual, are remarkable for the subtlety of its high-cult prowess: I mean, Robyn on a track is like lamb blood on the door, showing European listeners (and, more importantly, producers and djs), American hipsters and pop-leaning snobs you're in on what's up with popular music right now instead of embedded in an increasingly insular R&B scene. The video, which comes in both the main mix as well as the Krazy Kat dance remix (which is quite good - see video below - and the version I prefer), the R3hab remix (also good) isn't exactly action-packed, but it's a fashion and emotions video (and look! Robyn!).

In "Never Will Be Mine" Rye Rye doesn't curse or say anything about deep throating soda cans; it's actually pretty middle school girl-friendly, which is maybe why she came to perform the song live in with Robyn, who was opening for Katy Perry in Los Angeles. As one who has seen Rye Rye work in a live setting, I have to say she seems like the real deal; she delivered the often rapid-patter verses with the sort of accuracy and precision for which Robyn is known, and was engaging, comfortable, and seemed like she'd been born performing in evening gowns for thousands of screaming teenagers and shame-faced gay men.

Rye Rye and Robyn have a lot in common, actually. Both are uniquely talented women whose skills translate whether in the studio, on screen or on stage. They both know the importance of having some more universally accessible material to attract an audience but also how to create and execute such without compromising their artistic aims. They both look really cute and nice and innocent and typically genre-specific. And they both have crazy club/dance/techno/electronic sides and do whacked out stuff with Diplo (both), M.I.A. and Blaqstaar (Rye Rye) and Röyksopp and Savage Skulls (Robyn), none of whom you'd want hanging around your middle school daughter.

Rye Rye's debut album, Go! Pop! Bang! has been pushed back countless times after being "ready" in March 2009, December 2010, February and September 2011, yet now it's back to no-man's land. There are a few cool tracks out with Rye Rye's name on them for the impatient, including her first two M.I.A.-featuring singles "Bang" and "Sunshine" (which differ greatly from "Never Will Be Mine" because...did I mention M.I.A.?), the first Blaqstaar collab "Shake It To the Ground," a nifty feature for Teenage Bad Girl on "X" and a new tune with Far East Movement, "Jello," which is rather kickass.

What is M.I.A. doing other than living up to her name when her imprint N.E.E.M. should be getting this incredibly dance-oriented hip-hop club star in the making out to shine? A hip hop album with production by M.I.A., Diplo, Blaqstarr (who produced her breakout single "Bang"), the Neptunes, and more... aren't you curious to see how that turns out?

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