Joi Star Kitty's Revenge

On "Ya'll Better Be Glad," an interlude on this resolutely funky release, Joi Gilliam-Gipp toys with the thought of having a bigger butt and bigger breasts. The implication here is that if she was more heavily endowed in these areas, she'd be a bigger artist (pardon the pun) in a record industry eager to blatantly flaunt its fixation on image via "making the band" TV shows. She may well be right. Her ahead-of-its-time debut, The Pendulum Vibe, fell through the cracks back in 1993, and the much-vaunted, yet never released, follow-up, Amoeba Cleansing Syndrome, never reached the masses. All the while artists she could justifiably claim to have inspired have taken a piece of the increasingly stale "neo-soul" pie. Joi's unconventional and idiosyncratic brand of bohemian cool has always confounded formulaic marketing, and Star Kitty's Revenge is no different. Joi's p-funk influences and her inspiration and charisma - drawn from divas like Betty Davis and Millie Jackson - drives the affair, and she works her capable voice to exploit these strengths. It's as striking a record as one would expect from anyone remotely associated with Atlanta's Dungeon Family (Joi is married to Big Gipp, from the Goodie Mob). Joi is clearly in control, whether she's goading her husband to sing Bootsy Collins's "Munchies For Your Love" or displaying her sensual freaky self, as the titles "Crave," "Techno Pimp" and "Lick" would suggest. The latter track features Joi singing atop minimalist electro blips, while the slow burning pedantic groove on the yearning "What If I Kissed You Right Now" confirms, as if there were any doubts, that you are not listening to your average "neo-soul" project. Joi balances her progressive and potentially polarising urges with nods to the past and the contemporary but never comes off as cloying or derivative, and in the process reminds us how diluted the spirit of what she embodies has become. (Universal)