Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

"You had that same conversation with me," Lehrhoff says to her. "I said, 'All right, call me.'"

Once they met back up, things fell into place quickly for the Seconds. They began playing together in November 2000 and by March had signed to the independent record label 5RC solely on the strength of the recording Lehrhoff had mailed out. The songs on that first album, Y, are fierce and jagged, dominated by Lehrhoff's yelped vocals and Chase's restless, nervous beats.

By October 2001, when Y was released, the band members' lives had changed dramatically. Chase was frequently out of town, touring with the suddenly famous YYYs. Lehrhoff had joined another band, the Ex-Models, who toured heavily as well. Kwon's office job didn't afford her the time she needed to maintain a rigorous touring schedule, so the Seconds have settled into a routine befitting their name: it's a second project for all of them, something they pursue in whatever spare seconds they can scrape together.

Unlike her fellow Oberlin musicians, Correne Spero '98 never played in a band during college. She performed live only once, a solo set of folk songs at the Women's Resource Center. So how did she end up fronting Northern State, a white female hip-hop group with a major label deal and a hype machine the size of Turkey?

Spero cites her low tolerance for office work as the deciding factor. "I hated with a passion every single job I had," she says of her experiences working in publishing and academia. "I believe it drove me to become a white female rapper."

Spero, whose nom de hip-hop is Guinea Love, founded Northern State in 2001 with two friends from high school (one of whom, Julie Potash, a.k.a. Hesta Prynn, attended Oberlin for one year). The group's demo CD, Hip-Hop You Haven't Heard, earned early plaudits in Rolling Stone and the Village Voice for its old-school beats and lyrics that mix liberal politics with well-educated free association. One representative sample: "Keep choice legal, your wardrobe regal / Chekhov wrote The Seagull and Snoopy is a beagle."

Industry interest in the band ballooned. "It was out of control," Spero says. "It became clear that we'd be fools not to put all our energy into this."

The NSers quit their jobs, but didn't turn a profit for about a year. A newly inked deal with Sony, plus a European tour with hip-hop superstars The Roots, are finally helping the women to put a dent in their credit-card debt.

Even though Spero didn't emerge from the Oberlin rock scene, she still believes her college years helped shape the musician she is today. "My career as a rapper is the perfect way to build on the activism and writing and analyzing that I did as a women's studies major," she says. "If I hadn't gone to Oberlin, I would just be a straight Long Island girl. Oberlin helped shape me into the wonderful bundle of contradictions that I am."

Related Link: Required Listening-sample the output of the Oberlin rock Renaissance

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