Rita J Finally Drops Her Debut | Bleader

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rita J Finally Drops Her Debut

Posted By on 11.13.09 at 12:35 PM

Rita J
  • Rita J
I don’t know what it is about the hip-hop business that makes a new album so often take years longer than planned to see the light of day. I get it that leaks can screw with a label’s marketing efforts, and I always hear about how artists want to make sure everything is perfect—on Tuesday Chicago’s Kid Sister is releasing her debut album, Ultraviolet, after nearly two years of delays, much of which she spent tweaking its mixes and redoing its track list. Still, it’s a pop record—when perfection takes that long, it can’t be helping an artist’s career. I mean, I’ve been waiting for the second album by the great Chicago MC Diverse for six years now, but I’m not sure how many other fans are still holding out.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the debut album from Chicago native Rita J—who left town five years ago and now lives in Atlanta—was scheduled for release two years ago. But Artist Workshop (All Natural) only finally came out last week. I think it’s a pretty terrific record, but I couldn’t tell you why it took so long to arrive. But now it’s out, and Rita J is playing a release show Saturday at Darkroom with some of the artists who contribute cameos to the album, like Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson and Saint Louis MC and producer Black Spade.

Rita J sets the tone on “Body Rock,” a shout-out to pioneering female MCs and a meditation on how difficult it remains to be a woman in the hip-hop game. Rita J’s flow has an old-school sound, a mix of soft-edged rhythms and 80s phrasing, and the production (much of it by Chicagoans like Kenny Keys and K Kruz, who incorporates some sick guitar-sample manipulations on “No Regrets”) often has a warm neosoul touch; Dylan Jones’s searing guitar solo on “Introduction” sounds like Vernon Reid channeling Ernie Isley. But despite its throwback style, Artist Workshop sounds pretty contemporary to me, making a strength of its smooth ecumenical spirit.

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