Northern State Can I Keep This Pen?

Many rappers claim to be "a microphone genius” but never has it sounded more dubious. Can I Keep This Pen?, the third LP from Northern State — Hesta Prynn, Sprout and Spero — is not a bad album, actually it’s lots of fun and appropriately deserves plenty of party play (especially "Cold War” and "Things I’ll Do”). But when it comes to rhymes, these are some of the simplest "my name is… call me the…” lyrics connected only by rhyming end words. Northern State is obviously influenced by the Beastie Boys (and even teamed up with Beastie producer Adrock), and nothing highlights this more than "I like my coffee with lots of gin” ("Mother May I?”). But hip-hop has evolved further than this, so Northern State need to kick up the complexity if they want to impress. In the meantime, they can rely on their singing and electro rock/’80s pop vibe. Columbia/Sony once confined Northern State; after emancipation, they’ve started transcending genres. Ironically, they excel the most when they’re not rapping. Maybe like how the Beastie Boys scrapped punk for rap, Northern State need to scrap rap for electro-rock. (Ipecac)