Cutting Through the Mz Streamz Buzz
Call it the young artist's syndrome. You know the score--not the one where an emerging talent can't handle the situation into which he or she is suddenly thrust, but the one where all you hear is people chattering around the artist, and not so much from said artist at all. That's currently where 19-year-old local MC Mz Streamz currently finds herself. In a recent profile that appeared in The Sun and b, the young woman born Indya Streams doesn't get quoted until a third of the way into an article ostensibly about her. You read about how she could be the next "break-out" local artist. You read about her collaborating with the Gorillaz and Lily Allen. You read about her battle skills as passively viewed on YouTube or second-hand remembered by 92Q DJs who actually heard her take down competition on the air. And you read outright advertising--I mean, why she's interesting from her label honcho, Aaron LaCrate. That's super--what's the young woman actually sound like?
Mz Streamz debut mixtape, It's Alive!, suffers from the same sort of signal-to-noise ratio. The 30-track, just less than 50-minute CD is "hosted" by New York hip-hop promoter Fatman Scoop, and his gruff growl introduces the CD and pops up with shout outs--What up!, I see you Bmore!, New York to Baltimore!, Do the crazy legs!, etc.--at regular intervals throughout. Given Scoop's low end, his presence lends the mix a faux Porkchop-and-92Q-broadcasting-live-from-Club-Choices mood, but it's an entirely unnecessary patina. Ditto the recognizable pop song and movie samples that clash with producer Debonair Samir's beats like a dead daisy in a bouquet of fresh cut roses. From beginning to end the mixtape is a collage of the familiar, using snippets of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," a near constant loop of the "it's alive" cry from Frankenstein, the "this is the true voice of the gutter" line from Basquiat, the lilting keyboard line from Spandau Ballet's "True," Swizz Beatz's arena-rocking beat to Jay-Z's "On to the Next One," and more.
The Swizz Beatz lift is especially annoying, as the lyrical content of "Swizz x Streamz" comes from Mz Streamz' 2009 cut "Everybody on It," which appeared on LaCrate's B-more Club Crack comp. For the original, LaCrate and Samir put handclaps and a ghost of a pulse behind her, letting her dictate the syrupy pace with her own bouncing flow and snaking rhymes, and the tight song remains one of the better settings for her chilled-out lines: "'Cause if you touch you're buying you don't got enough to have that/ yeah, [chuckles] I cause a lot of havoc, but every body on it."
In this casual tempo, Streamz showcases a gift for dance-floor friendly, Missy Elliott-like playfulness--which she also nails on It's Alive!'s more relaxed tracks, such as "Fist Pump," "Fo'real," "The Entertainer," and "Reflection." At a more breathless pace, Streamz has to rely on her battle-MC skills, which traffic in the usual self-promotion and aggression, but she never has the time to develop them. Almost everything here rushes by in about two minutes, leaving Streamz to sprint through lines as fast as possible.
If you've heard Streamz battle, you know what makes her so formidable is how she puts verbal combinations together, piling rhymed jab upon rhymed jab upon rhymed jab before putting her body into a jaw-popping drop shot. Here, the only time she gets to work something is in the remix of her 2009 "Tear It Up"--also from Club Crack--which succeeds because the five-alarm fire club pace and Streamz' speedy lines combine into a full-fledged banger. Most of the time, she's merely dropping in over a beat that has already hit its frenetic stride. Of course, It's Alive! is a mixtape, so it's more a teaser of what may be coming on an album than an album proper. That being said, if on any future album she gets to work with a producer and develop songs that compliment the verbal complexity she's capable of putting together, it's going to be sublime to hear Mz Streamz be Mz Streamz.