Purple Naked Ladies
, January 26th, 2012 11:48
As the sole female member of OFWGKTA and one of hip-hop's few openly gay artists, Syd 'the Kyd' Bennet's most-discussed role in the group has been largely a social one, during their year-plus stint in the public eye. You could mostly catch her challenging critics of the group's allegedly homophobic lyrics, and doing so quite thoughtfully. Yet this has overshadowed her musical personality – even as the group's in-house engineer, she's primarily been known for remixes and production credits.
Her first full-length comes under the unsearchably broad namesake The Internet, brainchild of Syd and Mike Martians (aka Jet Age of Tomorrow, duh). Purple Naked Ladies, forgoes the wild, troublemaker hip-hop of the OF boys, though you can still hear Tyler's stilted percussion or the trippy ambience of Frank Ocean in places. Rather, Syd dabbles in thin ballads of neo-soul that are as reserved as her presence in the collective.
'Thin', unfortunately, is the operative word here. The LP often meanders fruitlessly in tired undulations of synth, echoes and 808s. Even with its soulful underpinnings, Ladies… bases itself heavily in trip-hop and electronica and often gets lost in it: the pseudo-title track, 'Violet Nude Women', endlessly loops a guitar in the way you might expect from a buddy who just bought a drum machine.
So most of the songs flatline – ambient, rambling soundscapes that are largely indistinguishable. 'Cunt', for one, fails to resonate on a level even remotely as provocative as its title, a punchless combination of polyrhythm, strings and more echoes. And for all her quiet pensiveness, we get little in the way of keen introspection or narrative. Instead she chooses to rely on the likes of your basic driving metaphor on 'Fastlane': "Warning signs were there/ But we never cared/ So we crashed/ And learned a lesson."
Those overly long cuts, fortunately, leave enough room for more audacious tracks that still maintain Syd's calm but also bring some exotica (specifically, cocaine) to the party, more in line with the electric, Hendrixian connotations of the LP's title. 'Cocaine' is actually one of the singles, featuring obtuse porn funk and a crass guest spot from Left Brain. It's also easily the most kinetic effort, but still dreamy enough to make a coke trip sound like an Ambien nap.
Really Ladies is at its best when Syd fosters something more palpable, whether it's a pointed emotion or an arresting piece of audio. The sense of loss on 'Love Song-1' gives it the power of a Beyonce cut, while the jazzy hook on 'Visions' is one of the album's most salient parts. Both of those songs check in under two minutes – in fact the entirety of Purple Naked Ladies should be so tight. It's no coincidence that the briefest songs, when Syd really gets down and makes her personality felt, are also some of the best.