In 2002, the band's makeshift demo--the four-song Hip Hop You Haven't Heard--found its way into the pages of Rolling Stone, where it was given a four-star review. Suddenly, what began as a lark seemed like a calling, and Northern State's politically minded, funny-as-shit rhymes were drawing praise from everyone from beat-hungry hipsters to venerable hiphop elders, with both the Roots and De La Soul taking the band on tour as an opening act. Now headlining a club tour in support of their 2003 release Dying in Stereo, Northern State will hit the Croc on August 24. In advance of the show, I logged some quality phone time with Northern State mastermind Goodman, perhaps better known as her brainy, trash-talking just-don't-give-a-fuck alter ego, MC Hesta Prynn.
So, was there a moment you remember when things clicked, and you realized this was more than the three of you goofing around?
The first moment like that was the day we wrote our first song.
Is this song among your recorded oeuvre?
No, it was a terrible song! But for people who'd never written a song before, it wasn't bad. It fit together really well, it felt really good to write it, and we'd written a fucking song. But the moment when I first thought, "Wow, this is really happening" was when we played a show at Brownie's in New York and sold the place out. For people we didn't know--not friends or family or people we dragged there ourselves--to show up and pay to see us, that was a big deal. You're at work on your major-label debut. How does going pro compare with Northern State's previous DIY work?
We made Dying in Stereo in four weeks. We paid for the record by begging, borrowing, and stealing, and sometimes I can't listen to it because I hear all the things I wanted to change, but couldn't because we didn't have enough time or money. That's not happening this time around. We have more time, and we're going to be able to live with things for a while. And we're doing some collaborations that are dreams come true.
We'll be doing at least one track with ?uestlove from the Roots, and we'll be working with DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill. We also had a meeting with Pete Rock, which was the most exciting thing ever. We were all crying when we left.
Speaking of crying, a couple weeks ago I wrote something nice about your band and was bombarded with furious responses, all of them from unusually agitated males.
I thought that might be the case, but it didn't feel right to ask.
They're white, I promise.
What's the deal?
I think it took a long time for white America to feel like they have a place in hiphop, maybe even until Eminem. Now that white boys feel like they do have a place in hiphop, I don't think they're in any rush to share it with a bunch of girls. [Northern State] aren't the greatest rappers. We didn't wait until we could all rhyme like Jay-Z before we let ourselves try this. I think a lot of white boys would love to be rappers, but they don't, because they think they shouldn't, or they can't write rhymes, or they just can't get their shit together. And we went and did it with no shame.
What about the flip side? Did you ever have to defend your love of "hardcore gangsta shit" to female friends?
That was something I struggled with more within myself than with friends. Part of why I became a feminist before I knew the word for it was by listening to Doggystyle, which was my favorite record in 1994, and it's still one of my favorite records. When it came out, I listened to it incessantly, until one day it started making me feel sick, and I got rid of it. Then I bought another copy. I loved it so much, but I hated the message, and that's part of where Northern State's inspiration comes from. When I was 16, I listened to Snoop Dogg and Dre, because I loved them, and because that's who there was to listen to. If there had been Northern State when I was 16, maybe I could've listened to Snoop on Monday and Northern State on Tuesday.
Last question: Having already landed ?uestlove, do you have any fantasy collaborations for the future?
The Dixie Chicks. I fucking love the Dixie Chicks.