Kid Sister

If you haven’t noticed, it’s paradigm-shifting time. Regime change, if you will. Popular culture is undoubtedly feeling its share of growing pains, but there are some who are beginning to emerge and champion this new culture, new thought, and quite frankly, new musical styles. Enter one bouncy Chicagoan: Kid Sister. Despite how unlikely it may seem (she might not see it yet either), Kid Sister (née Melissa Young), is at the head of the class. She’s blatantly honest, like Abe Lincoln, but also suggestively progressive, like Barack Obama. As intelligent as she is fly, she speaks with a certain “of-the-people” eloquence that only she could pull off. After a two-year campaign of tightening her grip on the underground, Kid Sister is finally readying the release of her debut, the inspirationally titled Dream Date (Downtown), available in March. Ironically, the woman who single-handedly breathed life into long-ass nails being relevant also provides some of the most subjective insight into contemporary society.

“[Hip-hop] used to be cutting edge groundbreaking shit and it wanted to be mainstream so much and make the ever-powerful dollar that something was compromised at the end of the day, and it was the edginess of hip-hop that was compromised.”

Format: What’s going on in the world of Melissa Young?
Kid Sister: You actually caught me in the middle of buying underwear and bras for my dancers.

Format: Nice!
Kid Sister: [Laughs] I’m like “So, is it a 32 or a 34? Now it’s a 36?” And I don’t really know about these tiny bitches [laughs]! But anyway, I’m trying to get it done for my show that’s tomorrow. Hopefully I can get it together, but I think I’m good though.

Format: Are you in NY? Chicago? Where you at?
Kid Sister: I’m in a Target in Chicago – my favorite place! You can find me here several days out of the week. Target is so addictive!

Format: Now, from what I’ve seen, your personality has many layers: artistically inclined, a bit tomboyish yet playful, and always witty. Were you always this way?
Kid Sister: I’m a tomboy that loves to shop. I can’t explain it, but I have to say, ogres are like onions, they have layers [laughs]. I just want to take this opportunity to quote the great movie Shrek ‘cause it has a lot to do with my personality. I’m just kidding, but I do feel that it’s important to have a lot of different aspects to you personality, not to keep any one of them hidden. [Not] to enhance your career, or for any other reason. I think it’s important to be yourself, ya know? I don’t want to use the term “spread out,” but you appeal to a wide range of people. Not to compare myself to Barack Obama – but since he’s the most visible and obvious example – but biracial people… we’re black and white, and have both of those sides going for us, so I think a lot of people in the same position are able to relate to both sides just as well and make connections with both communities. Know what I’m saying! [Laughs.]

Format: Imagine if you were tri-racial, that would be crazy!
Kid Sister: Well I kind of am! My dad is black and my mom is white, but my dad has some Native American, so I look a little bit Asian. [My dad] looks straight up like one of his parents is Filipino. I just feel that it puts me at a unique advantage to be able to reach more people and it makes me happy because I’m doing something positive.

Format: Have you had this perspective since you were younger?
Kid Sister: Yeah, absolutely. I had to go through the motions – go through school, and figure out what my place was socially. Once I did that, it was easier for me to be more confident, and easier for me to vibe with more people. Like going to college, there were a lot of other events in my life that helped shape me.

Format: You were a choir member during your Catholic school days.
Kid Sister: [Laughs] I was in choir, used to be bustin’ all kinda notes, yeah! I mean I was a choir dork, in musical theatre, all of that.

Format: If I’m not mistaken, you also studied musical theater and have a degree in film, so you must have always had an inherent interest in the arts since childhood. Has being in the music industry helped that interest expand, or has it hindered it?
Kid Sister: Yeah it’s helped for sure. It’s helped me figure out where I want to go and where I want to be [artistically], because I’m really immersed in it now. I didn’t used to be. Then, I was interested in arts, but when I was working three jobs, I really didn’t have time to do anything artistically related because all my energy was being put into those stupid ass jobs. I hated them so much! Now that this is my full-time thing, I just feel blessed. I feel like “Wow, its finally my turn.”

Format: Funny you say that, because it works out for you in this way: due to the way the music scene has evolved over the past 2-3 years, artists with your originality and freshness have become a novelty. What is your stance on the way things have changed?
Kid Sister: Well yea of course, I’m helping give hip-hop a much-needed facelift. Hip-hop got so gosh darn boring after a while and so formulaic, its almost like hip-hop became a victim of itself because for so long people that made hip-hop music wanted it to become mainstream and it wasn’t. It was this fringe music that was only okay for people from urban settings to like. Like, only Puerto Rican folks and black folks [laughs]. If you liked hip-hop and were a white boy from the ‘burbs you were called names and looked at a certain way. Now, hip-hop has finally gone completely mainstream, which happened in the late ‘90s, with Missy Elliott, and Timbaland, and of course Diddy. Puff was the main reason all that stuff went pop, and it went so far pop that I think people were like, “What the hell is this gimmicky bullshit radio commercial cheesy…this isn’t even edgy anymore.” It used to be cutting edge groundbreaking shit and it wanted to be mainstream so much and make the ever-powerful dollar that something was compromised at the end of the day, and it was the edginess of hip-hop that was compromised.

Format: It definitely has lost a lot of its integrity. But do you consider yourself a hip-hop artist first and foremost?
Kid Sister: Not really. I don’t consider myself anything. I consider myself someone who likes music so much and got lucky. I’m not trying to be like, “Come on man, you can’t put any labels on me” [laughs]. I’m trying to take the cheesiness out of professional music. Everyone is so full of themselves, with the egos, and it’s so silly! I think only a woman can do that! A woman is going to be the one to put a new face to things because with you men – and I love you all, so much – but with all the egos, come on! It kinda has to be a woman to make that pivotal change.

“My dream date would be with Barack Obama on November 4″

Format: Are you that woman?
Kid Sister: I am that bitch [laughs]! I don’t know, could be, maybe, hopefully!

Format: I think so.
Kid Sister: Well, thanks!

Format: As someone who identifies with both the electro/new wave scene…
Kid Sister: Oh for sure, that’s from living in Chicago. It comes part-and-parcel with living in this city, no matter who you are, even if you’re the hardest ass dude, you will have some house, maybe even a mixtape! I found an orange-ass mixtape the other day in my tax files, and I was like “What is this?!” It was from when I was like 18. Show me the hardest ass dude, and I guarantee that you will find either a radio recording, or mixtape.

Format: Well if you go to DC, it’s a similar dynamic – hard ass dudes that listen to go-go.
Kid Sister: It’s a little different than DC, but I do know that in Chicago, you can be a convicted gang member, like convicted of killing someone, it doesn’t matter. You will like the gayest house ever. All that neck poppin’ stuff. It’s a very strange phenomenon but it’s part of living here.

Format: Do you think that hip-hop segments (two distinctly different sets), do you feel that they can coexist?
Kid Sister: HELL YEAH! That’s what I’m saying. I think a woman needs to be the one to do it ‘cause there’s no ego. I’m not going to take anything anybody says personally, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I’m not going to be deterred or affected by anything anyone says, I’m going to do what comes naturally to me and, like I said, I’m bi-racial, and I think that has a lot to do with showing that there’s only one side to things no matter what. [Long pause.] I’m sorry I just saw some polish that would look really good on my nails. I got sidetracked!

Format: Are you that bridge?
Kid Sister: That’s my life mission; to make sure that [different genres] can coexist. Then the challenge of growing up bi-racial is seen on either side, black or white, people currently have these preexisting notions that maybe they can’t coexist, or that there always has to be tension. For them, I’m here to say, “That’s not true, and quite the contrary!” That’s what I’m here to prove to people.

Format: How long do you think that will take to accomplish?
Kid Sister: After your first album… I don’t know, I mean it’s not even about albums, to me it’s my life’s work. If I wasn’t doing it through music, I’d be doing it through something else. If I was working at Bath and Body works still, I’d be preaching this stuff there. [Laughs.] That’s how I feel. It’s always been a passion of mine. I think that if I weren’t doing music, I would be studying for my Master’s in Sociology and trying to become a professor. ‘Cause that’s just what I like to do. I will never tire from it, but if I ever do, I don’t know what I’d like to do.

Format: That being said, it’s apparent that it adds a certain depth to your music.
Kid Sister: Well yeah, and thanks. People think that all she does is talk about partying and while that’s true, I don’t pretend to be anything else other than that. There’s a reason why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it made me… [sidetracked again]. Hell no! I bought all this shit and now it’s on sale. I’m sorry! I’m like, “What is this red sticker?” I really feel that, um, I feel that… I lost my place again because I’m at Target. The most distracting place in the world.

Format: All good! I’m still here with you!
Kid Sister: I’d probably work in film again, and would be writing scripts about this experience that I’ve had and how its enlightened me in this society. I feel like I have this heightened understanding of the key to relating well with others and it’s not something that’s hard to learn. Let me ask you – are you a Halfie?

I’m not going to take anything anybody says personally, I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”

Format: Um, yeah! I’d like to say that I’m happy!
Kid Sister: No not happy, I said a “Halfie.”

Format: Oh a half-breed. Well, I’m Puerto Rican, so I’m like a thousand different things.
Kid Sister: [Laughs] you’re like the ultimate Halfie! And it’s not half-breed, Halfie! Let me chill, I’m not trying to offend anybody in Target tonight. So yeah, the music is obviously important, and I do it because it’s fun, but I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night and be at peace with myself if there wasn’t another reason behind me getting these ideas out.

Format: You’ve seemingly taken a minimal approach to promotion, and haven’t saturated the web or mixtape circuits with an immense amount of music. But from “Pro-Nails” to “Switchboard” to “Family Reunion,” we’ve seen three different styles – electro, juke, “feel good” hip-hop – as interpreted by you. Are you going to continue to experiment?
Kid Sister: Well it’s not really experimenting, it’s what comes natural to me. It wasn’t, “Let’s experiment writing to this kind of song,” or, “This is what I should write to this.” It just comes naturally to me. So as long as I keep getting beats that I feel, I’m going to let whatever comes out come out! And what’s great about what I’m doing is that on the album, all of these songs can not only coexist… It’s the same philosophy I have about people that I have throughout my album. Not only do these coexist, but also they complement each other. It’s going to be the new thing, the new wave approach. The way it’s going right now is pretty sad. It’s boring, and it’s been boring, but I think it’s taking a turn for the better.

Format: Well I think there are some exceptions to the rule, Kanye being the most apparent, but I agree that where we’re at isn’t the best representation of what hip-hop is. How long before we make that turn?
Kid Sister: A month, a year, I don’t know I couldn’t tell you. All I can tell you is that I can’t make any promises. I’m going to do what makes me happy and hopefully I’ll make other people happy too. Seriously, that’s the great thing about my story and my case is that I feel like I’m the girl who just didn’t try. I did what came completely natural and made me feel good, and it came across and that people just got it. It was just me and my friends getting together making music that made us happy and that we felt was cool, and people were like, “They really don’t give a fuck. They’re doing some crazy shit and something that’s never been done before.” I mean, look at my album. I have David Banner and Kanye on these tracks, and on the next track I have this obscure French electronic producer. That has never happened in music yet! People look at it and are like, “Wow!” To us, it’s just about chemistry, because everyone that’s working with us is so invested in the project that we’re working on, and it’s not fake. It’s friends helping friends and I think that comes across.

Format: Being affiliated with Kanye and even more closely affiliated with A-Trak, how has being surrounded by talented, forward thinking individuals affected you and the creative process?
Kid Sister: It’s always encouraging to have Kanye saying, “That’s dope.” It’s always encouraging to hear those things. It’s a boost to your ego, and I must say that my ego is not crazy. I only have one, but before the Kanyes and the David Banners and Pharrells, it was me, my brother and my boyfriend, and they influenced me the most.

Format: I’m sure their opinions hold the most weight still.
Kid Sister: Of course they do! It’s because we do what we do! It has nothing to do with outside influences. We started this by ourselves, but of course Owen and Josh and Kurt and Dave from Chromeo are the opinions that matter most to me. And everything else is like adding a cherry on top of the sundae. It’s true!
 

“I’m trying to take the cheesiness out of professional music.” 

Format: You, Janelle Monae, Santogold specifically have ushered in such an empowering new perspective on women not only in pop music, but pop culture in general. How do you feel about that?
Kid Sister: We’re like it’s okay to be weird, and it’s not even that weird. It’s okay to be smart and strong, and decisive, I think that’s how we look at things. Well let me just speak for myself.

Format: What’s your forecast on what’s going to happen with this onslaught of female talent?
Kid Sister: I can’t tell you! I worked at bath and body works two years ago, and this music thing is very new to me. I can tell you where I hope it goes! I can say that I hope I continue to work and continue to have opportunities and go all the way to the top. But again, if its not music it’s the sociology professor job, I’m going to be able to do me and do what I have to do regardless. But yeah, it would be good if this could keep going on. But nothing’s forever. I only plan on doing this another two years and then do something else.

Format: Because you get bored with things quickly?
Kid Sister: I think that life is all about change and you need to change it up, at least I do. I’d like to do television and film and stuff, in the future.

Format: Not to put you on the spot, or ask the generic question, but the album’s name is Dream Date. Why did you title it that and what does your Dream Date consist of?
Kid Sister: [Laughs] Oh! I haven’t gotten that question at all before. Um, I titled it that because I was out to dinner with one of my friends and we heard the WWE wouldn’t let us use [previous album name] Coco B. Ware. Which for the record totally crushed me because I had my heart set on that title, but we were sitting around this bar talking, thinking what we should name the album, and thought, “Let’s name it something silly from our childhood, reference something funny, something girly.” Super electric mall madness [laughs]? I was like, “That’s cool!” But it was too long. And then it was like “Girl Talk,” but that’s the name of the MP3 player guy. But we just kept thinking of girly board games, and then it was, “How about dream date?” Yeah! At the time, it was supposed to come out on November 4th, so it was like “Yeah! Barack Obama! Dream Date! My Dream Date,” but to make a long story longer, my dream date would be with Barack Obama on November 4th. He’s my husband! But I feel like my real dream date would be with my real husband, DJ A-Trak. We never get to go out because we’re so busy, and we would go to Six Flags or something like that. Something real trashy, like, “Baby, take me to Magic Mountain!”

Format: That’s what it is. Pleasure chopping it up with you!
Kid Sister: For sure! Chop it up all the way! Ginsu fever! Take care!

Richard Cruz

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3 comments

  1. Man, when you were talking about go-go I think you got us confused with B-more dudes and that club nonsense, haha. But otherwise, good interview.

  2. Chicago in tha house!! kid sister doing her thang, and from how the interview went down, she’s very intelligent with a good head on her shoulders..shes exactly what we need in hip hop, hate itORlove it..F.L.O.

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