Country Rogue

She's with-with the band

"What hip-hop do you know that has a Kansas country girl singing?"

Mynce, the turntablist for local hip-hop group the Smob, asks me this over beers the day after the band's CD-release party.

The answer is none. I don't know of many female artists in local hip-hop, period. That's what is intriguing about the Smob. But it's not just hip-hop — it seems to me that most of the girls I see performing music around here are either singer/songwriters or in punk rock bands (often with other girls, which seems to marginalize them further). There are exceptions, I'm sure, but few that rival Miss J's prominence in the Smob. She's not a backup singer, and she's not just harmonizing or singing the hooks. She writes her own shit, sings it, and — in a group with three male MCs — she even has her own songs.

It may sound misogynistic, but I don't normally enjoy female musicians a hell of a lot, at least since the riot grrrl movement ended more than a decade ago. But I can't help but be impressed when I see a girl like Miss J (who didn't know shit about hip-hop until she joined the Smob) bust out.

The Smob consists of three MCs (Kreechr, 1IB, and Stoic), one turntablist (Mynce), and a vocalist (Miss J). They grew up together in Durango, Colorado, moved here a couple of years ago, and started the group about eight months ago. They've been trying to make a name for themselves ever since. It's obviously working — the Smob's CD-release party a couple of weeks ago featured underground hip-hop giants Zion I and Tajai from Souls of Mischief as guests, with legendary icon Kurtis Blow serving as event MC. It's hard to fuck with that.

On the new record, I Hate Your Face, the production, as well as the rhymes by the MCs, is solid. It should be — three members are graduates of audio engineering schools; they know what shit sounds good. Even so, what stands out is the strong presence of Miss J's vocals, especially on the track "Leave," which is all hers except for the beats.

The ties between the members are obviously strong. Actually, Miss J is Kreechr's "step-aunt," because her older sister is married to his father. "Miss J got into the group because she just has an amazing voice, and we wanted to mingle that together and bring her out as a main act," Kreechr tells me.

"Growing up, I kind of led a sheltered life. I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of MTV," Miss J says. "I grew up singing country. I sang a little gospel growing up, so I knew the full-bodied singing. It was a transition, but I'm the kind of person where if you give me the chance, I'll take something on 110 percent. I just started learning and really became absorbed in the scene."

"Miss J had no knowledge about any underground hip-hop," Mynce tells me. "As things progressed, I'd love to look through my iPod and find stuff to show her. She lights right up. It's so good to see people who grew up country to find hip-hop."

We're all laughing when he says that, but it's interesting to me that in a genre that's so male-centric, if not misogynistic, a country girl who grew up in Kansas and small-town Colorado would be the most prominent female hip-hop vocalist around town.

The strangeness is emphasized for her when they're playing out. In Los Angeles, after the bar where they played closed, she helped load out, and a bouncer didn't really get that she was in the band. "I said, 'I'm with the band.' He said, 'No, we're closed,' thinking I was a groupie," she says. "They think I'm one of the guys' girlfriends."

Even the boys realize what an anomaly they've got on their hands. "We knew Miss J would be a hell of an asset," Kreechr says. "She came in and we had pre-written stuff. But she'd be, like, 'Check out what I wrote last night.'"

"Kreechr was, like, 'If you can bring something to the table, bring it,'" Miss J says. "That's when I started writing. From that point on, the lyrics I sing are all mine. It helps me; the one thing I've had my entire life is expressing myself through the music."

The Smob's dynamic is definitely unusual, and it leads to exactly what you would expect. Miss J is a pretty girl, but she says, "I'm not half as attractive before I get on stage as when I come off. Guys will pass me on the street and say nothing. Then they see me on the stage and they're, like, 'What's your name, sweetheart?'"

"Dudes are tigers," Kreechr says. "They see a good-looking female that can sing, and that's it."

Still, I wonder why there are so few girls rocking hip-hop around the 'Nix. It's obviously not the most female-friendly genre around, but when girls participate, it scrapes that stigma away. So my favorite thing about the Smob and Miss J's involvement is that it may inspire other girls to jump in.

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13 comments
Elizabeth Todd
Elizabeth Todd

You are the best Lace! You shine on the stage and look so natural up there! We are all very proud of you that you have followed your dreams and put in so much time and hard work into your vocals and your group. It shows how dedicated you are and how bad you want to succeed! Keep it up and it will all pay off in the end!

joann
joann

Congrats to you all....

Stella
Stella

It is nice to see a group with a nice flow and lyrical substance...keep rocking!

Merle Heard
Merle Heard

Saw Smob up in Durango and were very good and up coming band.

Muta of all Muta's
Muta of all Muta's

Thanks Phoenix New Times for a great write up! Sorry I missed the show guys & gal! I love you all, since the days when I watched you moon walk in the kitchen! Can't wait to hear the new Cd. Love ya, Muta of all Muta's

Gambo
Gambo

i'm not too much into hip hop, but went as a favor for Miss J. I'd never heard her sing before and was blown away with her power and presence. even with the sometimes overwhelming music, her voice carries clearly. i'm looking forward to hearing her solo.

Amanda Barber
Amanda Barber

Props to a country Kansas girl, who has found herself out of Kansas doing something amazing with herself. What a talent....

Jade Waterman
Jade Waterman

I've seen the Smob a handful of times now, and I totally agree that Miss J puts on a great show. It's nice to see female hip-hop artists break out in a male dominated industry.

Mynce
Mynce

I dont know bout the rest of the smob but the DJ is hott......

Jersey Girl
Jersey Girl

I love The SMOB - when are they going to grace the East Coast with thier presence??

Johnny
Johnny

I've seen the SMOB many times now and have to say I'm impressed. Miss J is amazing and not bad to look at either!

Dysfunktional
Dysfunktional

The Smob is the Shit one of the best crews to come out of AZ in a minute

Deborah Jensen
Deborah Jensen

You go girl! Kansas can produce more than just corn, wheat, milo and cattle! A beautiful, loving and talented young lady that knows how to rock.

 
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