Northern State

Photo: Katie Cassidy

Virgin Megastore Union Square; Tue 28
Luna Lounge; Wed 29

Northern State was conceived at a party, when three Long Island–bred women decided to form a rap group. In the past two decades, a lot of young people have had similar brainstorms, with the vast majority coming to their senses by the time the sun rises. For the women now known as Spero, Hesta Prynn and Sprout, however, the daft notion has endured for seven years. If at first Northern State seemed like a much-belated novelty act—a female Beastie Boys knockoff formed a decade after Paul’s Boutique?—like its template band, the trio gelled with experience.

Can I Keep This Pen?(Ipecac) is the group’s third album and first since its unhappy major-label tenure. The record’s references to bad pop culture and good politics remain strongly indebted to Beastie Boys, whose Adam Horovitz produces a pair of songs (“Oooh Girl” and “Sucka Mofo”). Yet within this context, the trio has broadened its sound, lacing raps with punkish singing that brings Northern State to a vague middle ground recalling Le Tigre. Despite any growth, the amateurish glee that manifests itself onstage is maintained throughout the disc. “I don’t give a fuck that I rap like a white girl!” Hesta Prynn boasts in “Mic Tester.” She has every reason to be proud: “You got a sweat suit and you’re dripping in diamonds,” she announces earlier in the song. “Tell me, are you a rapper—or a mom from Long Island?”