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Ho-hum hip-hop from three
Long Island gals

Northern State - Can I Keep This Pen?
(Ipecac Recordings)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 5, 2007
Northern State

Review by Tony Bonyata

Similar to the Long Island highway they're named after, Northern State's debut album, Can I Keep This Pen?, can happily breeze along before coming to a halting gridlock. Northern State consists of three NYC-based female hip-hoppers (Julie "Hesta Prynn" Potash, Correne "Spero" Spero and Robyn "Sprout" Goodmark) and while the trio mixes in elements of guilty sugary pop ("Away Away," "Cowboy Man," "Cold War" and "Better Already," the latter which was recently featured in an episode of the hit TV show Grey's Anatomy), their primary influence and sound is hip-hop, which, unfortunately, they're only able to pull off occasionally here.

While comparisons to their hometown heroes, Beastie Boys, abound, in actuality there are very few similarities between the two - other than the fact that both are Jewish rappers from The Big Apple. Where the Beasties Boys have always pushed the boundaries of hip-hop - injecting elements of heavy metal, jazz, R&B and funk into their music, Northern State's more urban leanings sound more like The Go-Gos being remixed by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Songs such as "Things I'll Do" and "ILuvItWhenYa" have the beats, but lack any real sou,l as the girls sound like they're just going through the motions with their lackluster, obligatory rapping style.

There are a few moments that stand out here, however, as witnessed on the two tracks produced by Beastie Boys' AdRock, where he adds a cool sleazy vibe to "Sucka Mofo" and a welcome silly groove on "Oooh Girl." And while the trio falls flat on their faces with the sappy balladry of "Run Off The Road," they manage to stand back up and brush it off with the dreamy, atmospheric album closer "Fall Apart," which features the seductive percussive guitar stylings of Kaki King.

All in all, though, Northern State's mix of lackadaisical hip-hip and candy-coated pop is more style than substance. So, yeah, gals, you can keep the pen... and this record as well.

Watch Northern States' - "Better Already" video

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