Kid Sister feat. Kanye West — “Pro Nails”

Released: 4.29.08

Peak: #21 [Hot Singles Sales]

“Pro Nails” offers us some sort of cautionary tale for sure, though damned if I know exactly what moral Kid Sister’s plunge from internet ubiquity to pop shoulda-been communicates. That there are limits to online self-promotion? That artists have to strike when the iron’s hot? That women in the music industry continue to face intransigent obstacles? That life ain’t fair?

When “Pro Nails” surfaced in 2007, what initially tugged your ear was the street corner observation “Got her toes done up with her fingernails matchin’,” swiped from Project Pat’s “Good Googly Moogly” and screwed by A-Trak into a gruff, woozy hook. But if Melisa Young embodied the honey that initial lyric ogled, she also took pleasure in dodging “tricks” (like Pat?) who “be so grimy, nasty, bogus/ Turkey, germy dirty” with a style as playful as the crossfader squiggling all over the beat.

After the track went viral, though, the second-guesses and rearrangements began. First, Kanye added a verse for commercial clout, his offhand boast of needing Hammer pants to hide his dick recalling those simpler times when wit had leavened his ego. So far, s’aright. But then the Kid Sister album sent out as a promo, Dream Date, was pulled, after a mix of label and artist concerns, in favor of the slightly inferior Ultraviolet, which seemed to imagine that Fannypack could have notched Beyonce numbers if only they’d snagged the right producers.

And so, Young joined the ranks of female MCs that our blockbuster-obsessed music industry can’t figure how to market. Her cute curves aren’t quite the stuff of Maxim covers, and her outsized personality bristles with the rough edges of the Chicago homegirl she is rather than ballooning to the larger-than-life scale celebrity requires. And the rap underground proves no more suitable a habitat for such cast-offs—the gasps of enthusiasm that disrupt Kid Sis’s Salt ‘n’ Pepa flow are too amateurish to amass much cred among its dick-swangin’ gatekeepers. Maybe the moral’s just that everyone’s got fewer options these days.

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