It started with Bad Babysitter, of course. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Drugs, sex, violence, and babysitting all in the span of three minutes and thirty five seconds. The song itself sounds perky and fun thanks to the horns in the background. Misadventure rarely sounds so fun. Of course, I had to find out more about Princess Superstar. I quickly discovered she was a rapper, a punk, an indie label CEO, and very popular on Limewire. Better still, she had a new album coming out called Princess Superstar Is. With the independence afforded by college and a brand new bank account (my first) I headed into Glasgow City Centre in the direction of Virgin Records so I could buy this record (on CD).
I was never a big Eminem fan, but even I understood his popstar appeal. All the girls at college wanted him, all the lads wanted to be him. Princess Superstar soon received the unfortunate and completely unwanted Feminem tag. It was a sexist jibe but still far better than Vanilla Twice. Princess Superstar, whose raps flowed effortlessly like the blood taken by her cutting wit, clearly had talent in abundance. And style. Don’t forget style. She never looked like shit and I always appreciate that in a future pop icon.
It didn’t take long to track down a copy of Princess Superstar Is. God bless good distribution. The album was there on the shelf at Virgin Records. She was in magazines too. I quickly learned Princess Superstar was pure New York underground, but also the sort of artist who could appear in dark clubs in Berlin alongside the likes of Peaches, Annie, and Chicks On Speed. That could never be said of Eminem.
At one point Superstar popped up during an interview on television, much to my delight. It was during promo for Bad Babysitter (a hit in the UK but just shy of Top Ten) that required her to answer questions. One interview put her against Wyclef Jean. It was an odd interview. Princess was clearly excited to be doing well with Bad Babysitter and Wyclef seemed…oddly muted. I’d go as far to say a bit boring, actually.
The album itself is something very essential in my collection. It’s a rap record that doesn’t forget to serve catchy beats and memorable lines. In hindsight, it’s also quite a feminist record. Princess Superstar effortlessly pierces the laddish hypermasculine world of hip-hop yet always takes time to take the piss out of herself.
The album is brimming with the unlikely suspects of rap, some of the coolest underground names that I didn’t know at the time, but can truly appreciate years later now I know about them. Kool Keith, Mista Sinista, and The High & Mighty. But there were a few surprises too. Beth Orton appears at one point in one of the album’s rare downtempo moments. Untouchable (Part Two) is actually one of the best songs on the album and a clue that Princess Superstar had more to offer than being ‘Feminem’.
I Love You (Or At Least I Like You) is another high point on the record, a rap battle between a gigolo and a rich woman looking to objectify a man for his body. It manages to be both a catchy track, a proper rap song, and hilariously funny. Welcome To My World is my other favourite song on the album. Sounding like a drugged up Sesame Street theme with Princess telling everyone how great she is (and revealing herself to be the ‘black Shirley Temple’), it definitely should have been a single.
Princess scored a hit a few years later with a remix of Perfect, a track from My Machine. At last, I thought. This is it! What a bop, but the video really misses the essence of Superstar. She isn’t in it, for a start. How can you not use a popstar like Princess in the video for her song? There was a vogue for overly sexualised aerobic music videos during that period (Eric Prydz ‘Call On me’) but being a fatso, I try my best not to sweat so videos set in gymnasiums trigger me. Also, it seems very much against Superstar’s brand.
I know she’s independent, but I’d love to see Princess Superstar on a major label. Imagine what she could do with a budget. She’s marketable, clearly. I definitely saw a lot of Princess Superstar in early Lady Gaga, though I may be alone in that assessment. In the midst of the electroclash scene, Superstar flourished. I hope she’ll flourish again. Music could do with her voice, perspective, and wit.