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Crowning Achievement

Princess Superstar, who adds high energy to her raps, performs at the Knitting Factory.

January 17, 2002|SUSAN CARPENTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She's a street-savvy wordsmith with an ear for a beat. A groovalicious platinum blond who delivers her rhymes with a healthy dose of raunch and enough sexual bravado to go mike to mike with the boys. Her name is Princess Superstar, and if you thought Lil' Kim cornered the market on sexy, you'd better think again. This lady may seem like a tramp, but she's smart.

The 28-year-old New Yorker, whose real name is Concetta Kirschner, delights in the libidinous. On "Princess Superstar Is," her fourth album (due in stores Jan. 29), she raps about everything from hiring a gigolo to being a "Bad Babysitter" who fools around on the job. While her songs are riddled with hip-hop conventions--sexual braggadocio, name checks, tough talk--this sex-positive feminist freshens the mix with sarcasm, sass and playful subject matter.

Just don't call her the female Eminem or a white Foxy Brown.

"What I do is not so much even the white girl rapper thing. It's broader than that. I really just feel like I'm a musician," says Kirschner, who not only pens her own lyrics, but also rhymes, sings, plays guitar, builds beats and produces her records.

That's to say nothing of her live show--a high-energy romp with pep squad antics that works every inch of the stage.

"I think sometimes hip-hop shows can be a little bit boring," said Kirschner, who performs Saturday at the Knitting Factory. "Everyone's like, 'Yo! Wave your hands in the air.' I like to go crazy on stage. I'm more punk rock in a way."

When performing, the Princess has more costume changes than a Broadway musical. Dressing up as characters from her songs, she vamps as everything from a "naughty cheerleader" to a lounge lizard to a pimp.

Kirschner says she is happiest when she's on stage, but that wasn't always the case. The first time she performed, she "was totally standing still, and the audience was booing and throwing things at me. I got really upset and mad. The next day I had a show and totally went crazy. I threw myself into the audience.... I just snapped."

A New Yorker by way of Philadelphia, Kirschner moved to the Big Apple at age 17 to pursue an acting and theater degree at New York University, but realized her true calling was music when she couldn't wait to get home from class to practice guitar. In the early '90s she began recording, using two tape decks to mix beats since she didn't own a sampler.

By 1993, she had gotten her hands on a four-track and recorded a demo tape of her singing and playing guitar on one side and "doing my hip-hop thing" on the other.

She made four copies, sending them to the College Music Journal, Grand Royal magazine, Elektra Records and her parents. When CMJ reviewed her tape as its "demo of the month" and listed her phone number, the response was off the hook as major labels called to court her.

That was the beginning and end of her interest in signing with a big record company. Kirschner won't say what labels she met with, only that one advised her to give up rap, another said to quit guitar and a third suggested she re-name herself Cream--an obvious attempt to capitalize on the commercial potential of a pretty white girl who can rap.

Kirschner's scorn for major labels is apparent in many of the songs on her four full-length records, starting with her first--"Strictly Platinum," released on 5th Beetle Records in 1995. It is also the main reason she formed her own label, A Big Rich Major Label, in 1997. (She later changed the name to the Corrupt Conglomerate when the music industry consolidated.)

She's Keenly Aware of Credibility Battle

The Princess is fiercely independent in other ways as well. She takes to task anyone who wants to pigeonhole her or who dismisses her act as a novelty. Being female and white in a predominantly male and black medium, she is keenly aware of the double credibility battle.

"I'm the only white girl in the spotlight right now doing it, so that of course helps," says Kirschner, who attracted such top-shelf collaborators as Kool Keith, Beth Orton and Bahamadia for "Princess Superstar Is." "Where it hurts is that sometimes people think you don't got skills just 'cuz you're white."

But, she adds, "the proof's in the puddin' on my record."

*

Princess Superstar, with Anubian Lights, Peek Show, Clone Revolt, Saturday at the Knitting Factory Hollywood, 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 9 p.m. $10. (323) 463-0204.

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