By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times
In the world of 24-7 hype, expectations matter much more than the actual payoff. So goes the case of Kid Sister, the 29-year-old Markham native who is the latest fresh face on Chicago’s burgeoning hip-hop scene that has been revving up for quite some time now, but has yet to cash in fully on its promise.
On Wednesday night at the House of Blues, Kid Sister played her first hometown show since last week’s release of “Ultraviolet” (Downtown), her long-stalled debut album with songs that are already Internet retreads, having circulated for so long before making their official debut. The familiarity prevented the show from expanding beyond a basic comfort level that existed onstage.
Kid Sister, born Melissa Young, performed while accompanied by DJ and production duo Flosstradamus — her brother Josh Young on the microphone and partner Curt Cameruci behind the laptop. They let the full tracks roll while Young worked the crowd for about 45 minutes in what felt more like a quickie promotional appearance than a fully conceived coming out party. Besides two dancers clad in chrome masks and a better sound system, the show lacked dynamics that set it apart from listening to the album at home. Her frequent lip-syncing did not push the bar up much higher.
When Young announced a special guest, there were natural expectations of fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, whose appearance on “Pro Nail,” her breakthrough single, helped push her in the spotlight. More refreshing was the appearance of Chicago house music veteran Curtis Jones, known on the dance floor as Green Velvet and who traded verses with Young on his recent single “Everybody Wants.”
Young called to the crowd for a dance partner for “Let Me Bang” and up popped an 18-year-old male who turned out to be an expert break dancer. Whether he was a plant or not didn’t seem necessary information at that point; Young used him as a foil, leading him around onstage before dragging him off to the side, where she soon returned after a costume change.
Like her pseudonym suggests, Kid Sister was there for recreational fun, which meant her music had no use for personal confession, or much danger. Club jams like “Control” and “Right Hand Hi” came readymade with dance instructions in the lyrics, which worked well for a crowd primed to participate. As for “Pro Nails,” Young bore her claws while a video of salon beauties rotated through decades of style.
Yet the music, a mixture of 1980’s synth-pop, Chicago house, and hip-hop with moments of trance, did not offer much in the way of memorable hooks. West’s shadow looms large over his proteges who all benefited when it came time to release their own music, but who also failed to distinguish their own cadences and conceptual themes. At least for right now, Kid Sister’s likeable demeanor doesn’t add much to that playing field.