Play that funky music, white girl.
There's not too many vanilla sisters who get over in the world of urban style. Wait a minute - there aren't ANY who get over. Not since "Rapture" by Blondie has a pale female broken through the ranks successfully, and that was almost two decades ago. There was a brief surge of white female rappers such as Tairrie B and Icy Blu in the early 90's, but they were mostly dismissed as a hollow industry creation quick to cash in on Vanilla Ice's success; and they were just as quickly tainted by his downfall.
Times change, attitudes change. Maybe the music world is finally ready for an artist like Ish! She certainly hails from the Debbie Harry tradition - lyrics that are mostly sung, but structured around a jazz/soul/rap groove of funky guitars and deep bass. The raps are few and far between, but the hip-hop influence is evident on the silky "Hard to Define", Bahamadia-esque flow of "On the Mic", and the Erykah Badu attitude of "3rd Degree Burns." She's not afraid to tackle hard topics either, as she proves on "A Modern Day Vampire (AIDS)." Sister has nothing to prove about being able to get down with the groove - she's "In Like Flint."
For better or worse though, Ish starts to come across as the artist you would hear playing at the coffeehouse on your nearest college campus - talented, obviously unafraid to be in the spotlight, but still a little raw and unpolished. The grooves are tight and the lyrics are alright but her voice almost seems to be stretched too thin. She is hit or miss with the funky resonance, as she hits a groove on the come-up tale "Street Architect" but can't quite get over with "Superhero" - Lil' Mo has nothing to fear. Ironically it's the tracks where her homies add raps that seem to showcase this phenomenon; such as "You Want it All" by Chan Epic. After his energetic vocal cameo you end up wanting to hear more of him than you do Ish!
There's no reason not to be digging on this album musically. The Timbaland style "Maybe" and the dirty funk underneath Ish's rap on "When Eyes Meet" both elicit a head-nod response, as do a great majority of the tracks. The funky (and or fucked up) thing about Ish! is that she's got a really nice funky white girl vibe when she does break into rhyme, but she doesn't do it near often enough. She plays her own guitar, and can handle that. She pens her own lyrics, and obviously can handle that. The singing unfortunately is just hit or miss. Ish! is worth checking for now and in the future, but a little less singing and more rapping might improve the mix - or maybe a little bit of vocal coaching to give her husky voice a nice Macy Gray lustre.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6 of 10
Originally posted: May 3, 2001