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dynamic duo’s third release
The dynamic duo have released their latest album, Three. It might seem an odd name for two women to call their record, but it is their third, so that makes sense.
What dynamic duo? No, not the Indigo Girls. Nothing quite that familiar, that safe. Plus, of course, they have more than three albums out.
Not the Pet Shop Boys, either. Because, you know, they’re guys.
No, it’s God-Des and She, the hip-hop/pop/soul outfit that blasted out of Madison, Wisconsin, appeared on The L Word and took the queer music world by storm.
A quick refresher is in order. God-Des is the rapper, the emcee, the one who spits and rocks the mike like a Visigoth horde. She is the singer, the zaftig songstress who picks up the aegis of Martha Wash and Loleatta Holloway, opening her mouth and pouring out her heart.
Produced by Brian Hardgroove, the former bassist and bandleader for Public Enemy and the driving force behind the supergroup OverShine (with, among others, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and Tracy Chapman), Three presents an almost disconcerting variety of sounds, illustrating the depths of musical knowledge in the two women and their producer.
There are some electro sounds on “Radio Up” that are right out of a 1983 rap song, while “Blue in the Face” shines the spotlight directly on She and gives a little taste of what her old rock band must have been like.
God-Des has a tendency to sound like a more macho version of Missy Elliott (who might be girly, but doesn’t necessarily sound it), giving that sport-dyke swagger track after track, while She proves that the woman singing with a hip-hop act doesn’t have to be the guest star, she is an integral part of the collective.
This is the part of the review where we go track-by-track through the album, and I tell you what to like or dislike about each one. Feel free to disagree; you have the right to be horribly wrong.
“Love Machine,” the first song, is a party song, pure and simple. The video is available online, and it’s a riot. If the Black-Eyed Peas had not gone to hell in a handbasket, they would be weeping that God-Des and She recorded this song and not them. The lyrics are a witty come-on from God-Des to some sexy girl, and the video is a ’50s-inflected confection, full of Crybaby/Grease visual cues.
I am, quite literally, dancing as I sit here in front of the computer, listening to this song. She’s vocals complement God-Des’ rapping completely perfectly; it is nothing less than a sublime dance song.
Track two, “Respect My Fresh,” is God-Des at her most Missy Elliott, she is a woman who is not going to take any shit from someone who dismisses her talents, and this song slaps you in the face with a “Dirty South” vibe. It’s pure attitude, with the skills to back it up.
“What Would We Be” is reminiscent of half of the songs LL Cool J recorded, one of those explanations about why the person God-Des is rapping to should give her a chance. The goes over the good and the bad of the possibilities of a life together. “What would we be if we could be together?” belts She out on the chorus, and it strikes a chord in the heart--everyone has asked that question, although perhaps with slightly different phrasing.
“Blue in the Face” is up next, and it showcases She’s voice, singing in a more pop/rock style than on most of the other tracks. Hardgroove’s musical chops come through in this song; he’s a bassist with a rock edge, and there is an incredible drumline in the song that a half-dozen other bands would envy.
She is singing about history repeating itself, having to talk things to death, as she had in an earlier relationship. When God-Des comes in later in the song, it has the feel of a Nu Metal song, only not obnoxious. There’s a vague feeling of Evanescence or some similar band here, only with fewer pretensions of melodramatic angst and more genuine emotion.
The fifth track, “Radio Up,” was already mentioned, but it’s the traditional thoughtful hip-hop rumination on what exactly is wrong with the music industry at the moment. Everybody does one--Del, Common, any rapper with a brain. Oh, and God-Des does indeed have a brain, breaking out incredibly diverse music references and noting, quite sagely, that Music Television doesn’t actually play any music.
“Drum Circle,” the sixth song, is just about moving your ass to great hip-hop, and is a definite paean to the good old days, and making today the good new days. There’s swagger, there’s sexy, and all one can think of listening to it is sculpted bodies moving frenetically on a dance floor.
Track seven, however, is more of a how-to. “Spin the Bottle” is basically a step-by-step description of how to play the game, along with reminiscences of youth and first kisses. It’s really cute, and has this fun garage/Motown vibe to the instrumentation. Simple guitar riffs, some horns, it almost feels as though the B52s have been reborn. Had they come out in 2010 instead of around 1980, “Rock Lobster” might have sounded like this.
“Get Your Bike” brings back She’s rock side, although in that case she reminds one of an indie singer. The whole song feels like it should be on college radio, even with God-Des’ rapping. She is more light-hearted here, and again, she and She complement each other so wonderfully.
The penultimate track, “Great Big World,” is another She-centric rumination, an R&B track about acceptance and finding the things that connect people instead of focusing on the factors that keep them apart. The lyrics are so thoughtful, and She just tears the shit out of this song. When God-Des comes in, it’s a surgical lyrical strike--in and out, and back to She blowing the roof off of the studio.
Finally, we get to “Change,” which starts off with some dirty harmonica, and then God-Des comes in, slaughtering the line between rock and roll and rap. If the Rolling Stones had gotten really funky and started working with KRS-1 in the 1980s, they might have put out this song instead of “Harlem Shuffle.” Most of the time, it sounds like they’re singing about sex in this song, but occasionally there is the feeling that it’s about changing the world. Maybe they are advocating changing the world through the power of orgasms. It fed the aliens in the movie Liquid Sky, so maybe orgasm energy can remake our society.
All in all, it is a really solid album from these two incredibly talented women. Generally, one can find at least one track to criticize; but not in Three.
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