When I moved to Indiana in 2008, my friend in Pennsylvania and I figured the only way we’d ever be able to hang out was if we met somewhere halfway.
The first such rendezvous was in April of that year, when we hung out in Cleveland for a couple days. In addition to hitting up the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and going to an Indians game, we also wanted to see a band somewhere.
After combing through the scant choices, we settled for a group called Northern State, which was playing at the Grog Shop, near the Case Western campus.
Prior to the show, the only facts we knew were that they were a hip-hop group named after the Northern State Parkway on Long Island. But by the end of the show, we were hooked.
Going into it not knowing much about the group, I was immediately blown away by the rapping chops of these three white girls. They seem like they could hold their own in a freestyle competition — especially the group’s leader, Hesta Prynn.
Once the novelty of seeing a bunch of white girls from Long Island doing old-school rap subsides, they keep you hooked with their harmonies. Throughout their most recent album, Can I Keep This Pen?, they intersperse straight rap songs with some rap/harmony hybrids.
Some of the best examples of Northern State’s sound are on “Better Already,” and “Mother May I?”. They also have several more-melodious, less-rapping tracks, including “Away Away” and “Run Off the Road.”
They’ve put out three full-length albums and a few EPs, and they’ve been associated with a lot of established artists, including The Roots, Tegan & Sara and Adrock from the Beastie Boys.
From time to time, I’ll see/hear something from Northern State that comes out of nowhere — such as Hesta Prynn turning up in a SILK soy milk commercial or a couple of their songs playing in the background of a Grey’s Anatomy episode — and I’ll become giddy all over again.
Since so many of their tracks are available online, I figured I’d just include a couple here that hopefully show what the group has to offer.