Yo Majesty - Futuristically Speaking... Never Be Afraid
When initiating conversation about female innovators in American hip-hop during the last decade, debate invariably starts at Missy Elliott. Just as invariably, it ends at Missy Elliott. It's not that she's the only one who has been dropping fresh rhymes and sounds; the more likely scenario is that, in a male-dominated world of guns, bling and - of course - hos, the original female voices the genre has so desperately been craving have been suppressed deep underground. Well, viva revolution! Yo Majesty and their debut record are here to give hip-hop the shakedown it needs. Boys beware: not only are they chicks, they be God-fearing lesbian chicks with a whole lot of something to say. Their sexuality is worth noting when the No. 1 pop song of the summer is all about hetero women going gay - these girls kissed a girl and actually liked it enough to not make a gimmicky one hit wonder out of it. Nope, Jwl. B and Shunda K are the real deal, and in more ways than one.
You may have heard current single Club Action if you've had some club action yourself this past month, but it's very doubtful you've caught it on the radio. It almost redefines 'expletive-heavy' which is a shame because such an infectious track deserves to be heard. Not that we would want to censor Yo Majesty - in fact, I doubt that's even an option. A screech of 'Do you wanna fight meeee?' provides the album's cold open; it's the first line from Fucked Up which sounds akin to an angrier, more potty-mouthed Peaches. From about five years in the future. Stuffed with high-energy should-be club bangers (perhaps too many, the last three or four tracks contributing to a slightly bloated feel), Futuristically Speaking... lives up to its name by marrying invention with a curiously old-skool flava. Think Salt N Pepa produced by Spank Rock, and you're about a third of the way there.
It works too, often gloriously. The likes of Night Riders and Don't Let Go are fantastic dancefloor belters but its the rapid-fire delivery and hard edges of Never Be Afraid that proves their hip-hop mettle. Even weaker links like Leather Jacket won't fail to get you dancing, while the obligatory down-tempo moment Buy Love surprises by being one of the highlights. One hopes this is the type of record that is a slow burn with the masses, meaning that an anthem as feel-good as Get Down On the Floor will be blasting out of car stereos in summer 2009. Not since M.I.A.'s emergence in 2005 has a female-fronted dance/urban crossover hit the spot so frequently. Although it could do with a couple of tracks being culled, this is without a doubt one of the party records of the year.