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CMJ 2007, Night Two (All-Kid Edition): Cool Kids and Kid Sister

October 18, 2007 4:25 PM ET

You know Chicago's hip-hop scene is on the rise when a) Kanye West cameos on hometown rapper Kid Sister's "Pro Nails," and b) big, beer-chugging guys wave their cuticles in the air to its girlie chorus: "Got her toes done up with her fingernails match." Last night at Hiro Ballroom, the pint-sized diva, backed by West's DJ A-Track and sporting a platinum-blonde bob, got the crowd bouncing to kiss-off anthems like "Telephone" (chorus: "Nigga, quit callin' me!"), the Tangerine Dream-remixing "Let Me Bang" and the old-school banger "Control." But "Pro Nails" topped the show. "You ladies remember when you went to prom just because you wanted to dress up like a bride and get your nails did?" she asked, by way of introducing the track, and at least one quarterback-shaped dude hollered back in response.

Earlier that night, Cool Kids echoed the same Eighties-style vibe as Kid Sister, adhering to the golden rule of old-school hip-hop: As one journalist in the crowd put it, "When in doubt, rap faster." While a video screen mashed up Muppet Babies footage with clips from Michael Jordan-era Bulls games, the Chicago duo kicked things off by asking everyone to shake their key rings to their version of LL Cool J's "Jingling Baby," moved on to the M/A/R/R/S-sampling "Pump Up the Volume," and even played a track called "88," where they bragged about taking things back to the days of acid-washed jeans. At nineteen years old, the group's MCs, Chuck and Mikey, are probably too young to root their nostalgia in that part of the past. But their fresh, stripped-down sound definitely feels like it has a future.

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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