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
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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of Fury and the Sound