If Kanye West's new album is too self-centered and misogynistic for you, you can get fun melodies, great rhymes, and great samples from another Chicago-born artist, Nikki Lynette. She raps, she writes, she produces, and isn't afraid to throw genre to the wind. Putting tight beats and R&B melodies over electric guitar riffs, a mixtape called Roses 'N Guns, and a rousing update of Portishead's "Glory Box" are just some of the ways she crosses rap, pop, and rock boundaries.
Her video for "City Slickers" sums her up pretty well--she reps the Windy City, mixes pop melodies and rap verses, and she has a fashion sense as unique as her sound.
I'm humming Mozart while I'm lacing up my Pumas.
Did I mention that she sings all the background riffs and produces all her work? Instead of signing to a label, Lynette saw her career opportunity when she licensed her work to MTV. Before you start calling her a sell-out, consider that she owns all the masters and samples she used, and produced her work herself so that she gets all the royalties. In interviews with NPR and Venus Zine, Lynette says she's found that as an independent, self-producing artist she's gotten both a good deal financially and her name out there: "Do we really want the music industry to be like it used to be? I don't. I'd be screwed." Producing and writing her own work outside of industry standards has also allowed her cross-genre style to flourish and able to avoid labels pigeon-holing her indescribable sound.
And she's business-savvy too. She lays out the ins and outs of copyright and licensing on her MySpace blog to let other artists know how the industry works, saying "People used to use my lack of knowledge to take advantage of me, and I never want that to happen to you. So listen and learn, my fellow artists..."
You can stream Lynette's music in several places: her Myspace has a generous selection of tracks, Roses 'N Guns is available for free download, NPR features three tracks, and her September-released The Strong Survive EP can be streamed or purchased for cheap on Bandcamp, and knowing Nikki, you know that $6.29's a steal.