The Internet, Kilo Kish
In September, Odd Future subgroup The Internet (producer Matt Martians and DJ/producer/engineer Syd the Kid) quietly released “Love Song – 1.” Already a pretty wisp of a track, Syd elevates it to remarkable. Her voice touches the notes the way you stroke a sleeping baby, and in a scant minute and a half, she captures the entire range of emotion — confusion, ache, resignation, hopefulness, yearning — that characterizes the breakup conversation. It's so intimate you almost blush.
But we wondered then, could the one member of Odd Future who seemed to prefer being behind the boards and decks step into the spotlight? Would she be able to command the stage of their first-ever live show without the chaos of the rest of Odd Future there to fill up space?
Syd is not a likely star. Well, first of all, the obvious — she's an openly gay woman in hip hop. She hasn't been scrubbed and finished with five coats of MAC Lipglass like most young R&B wannabes. Nor is she descended from that earth-mama Erykah Badu tradition. At certain moments last night, like when she crooned, “Why you gotta be a cunt for?”, she had the same twinkle in her eye as Jill Scott does. But Syd doesn't have a powerhouse voice. None of that matters. She's a star.
Opening for The Internet was Kilo Kish, the New York rapper/budding muse/recent fashion school graduate who made a cute appearance on The Jet Age of Tomorrow's Journey to the 5th Echelon as well as imbued a track on Vince Staples' Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 with a lush otherworldliness. At the beginning of April, she released an EP produced by Martians and Hal Williams, Homeschool, that mostly flew under the radar – a couple girls murmured, “Who's that?” when she walked out last night.
She lilts more than raps; on standout track “Navy,” the insistence of her little-girl singsong stands in perfect contrast to the fairly complex lyrics and shimmery production. New to being onstage, she seemed a bit nervous, and a couple of times even was off-key. But her smile feels like a gift; and her presence is earnest and, appealingly, a little nerdy.
Syd's been onstage plenty over the past year and a half, although she shared it with Odd Future. The Echo is a shoebox of a space, and maybe in a bigger room Syd's presence would have been swallowed up. But it was smart to book this venue. When she ambled out as a live band played Justin Timberlake's “Senorita,” her confidence radiated throughout the place.
When The Internet released Purple Naked Ladies, their first album, it roundly was dismissed as underwhelming. I happened to be in the minority who loved Martians' spacey, heavily Neptunes-influenced production and the way Syd's warm voice curled around lyrics that mattered less in what they meant than in how they felt. Last night, they performed the record pretty much straight through.
Joining them was a young band who played with the assurance of one who's had a longstanding residency at some respected jazz club. They, and Martians (who often gets overlooked) didn't overwhelm Syd. However, when she dipped into her lower register, her voice often got lost.
She sounds better when she stays in the upper part of her range, anyway. Singing the opening lines of “Cocaine,” a light trained on her, she seemed, weirdly enough for a woman who emits more of a swaggering energy, sweet. Heckled gently by somebody in the crowd, she grinned and said, “I'm not soft, bro. I'm a G in these streets.”
No, she doesn't yet have the polish of a great performer, especially evident when two who do, Mike G and Left Brain, came up to do their verses on “Lincoln.” But as her winking response indicated, she has a self-deprecating, unflinching honesty and a naturalness so rare that it's like those un-retouched photos of celebrities. You can't look away.
Personal bias: Purple Naked Ladies is one of the few albums with lyrics I can play while writing.
The crowd: Girls in stonewashed jean shorts who smelled like Bubble Yum and probably had midnight curfews, the entire Odd Future clan (maybe even Frank Ocean?) and some parental-looking people.
Random notebook dump: There must be a sewage problem at the Echo – the entire side by the bathrooms stinks.