Concert Review: Rye Rye and Kelis at the W South Beach, March 26

Photo by Alissa Christine
Rye Rye and Kelis
The Sirius Satellite Belvedere Lounge at The W Hotel, Miami Beach
March 26, 2010

Better Than:
Having to deal with the throngs.

There's always a lot of side action goin' on at Winter Music Conference. Some of it is quasi-official; some of it isn't even advertised. And some of it is so exclusive it gets whispered about among those in the know simply because they wanna boast.

Such was the case last Friday afternoon out back by the pool at the South Beach W. Sirius and Belvedere had teamed to host a lounge throughout the run of WMC. And if you were one of the privileged few who got tipped to the action, it was undoubtedly one of the coolest distractions taking place during a week of way cool distractions.

But it wasn't so cool that the choice crowd didn't sweat and sing and dance and sway along to the live music. And it wasn't so cool that the gals on stage didn't heat up an already steamy hot day.

Theoretically, Kelis was the headliner; which is to say she staged after Rye Rye. But the set-up was so informal -- and Rye Rye was so damn good -- that the order of performers didn't matter one bit.

That's not to say Kelis didn't have headlining charm -- she was poised and in command and as intimately on-it and off-the-cuff glamorous as any soul sister has a right to be when they're caught beneath a humid Miami sky. And that ultra-dynamic and keenly put-together DJ Rashida who keeps Kelis's beats is all that and then some, and she made much a whole lot more. Hell, on any other day, in any other situation, I'd probably fawn over the two like everybody else in the de facto lounge. But even Kelis's mashing up of "Holiday" and "Milkshake," as fun-filled as it was, had to contend with the fact that it came after someone who's a joyful as life itself.

And that someone is Rye Rye.

Man, talk about happy to be somewhere. From the moment Rye Rye stepped on stage she was all wide smiles -- a bounding bundle of joyous energy and spirited song that was at once charming and disarming. Oh, she's tough too -- you don't sing your way outta East Baltimore without some knuckle and spine. But Rye Rye's toughness is mostly kept to some kickass dance moves, which came off like a cross between Double Dutch and kung-fu.

Then of course there's the utter toughness of the songs themselves. "Whassup" started the brawl, its machine gun beat setting a perfect tempo to Rye Rye's rapid-fire challenge. So too with the following "Hardcore Girls," only this time the rat-a-tat-tat gave way to a fast-paced swagger, and a low grumble gave it all a roar.

"Can't you see I'm the baddest chick, even Super Woman couldn't put her hands on this"

Indeed. One can easily picture the relatively diminutive fire-brand getting in the face of someone thrice her size -- and said someone backing the fuck up quick. And by the time the guns come back out for "Bang" one gets the impression that there's not a man, woman or beast in all the world that Rye Rye wouldn't go toe-to-toe with -- and whip handily.

Still, for all the brawl of her songs, Rye Rye kept that wide smile of hers throughout the short and sweet set, and one can't help finding the sass-slingin' lass infectiously endearing. Then again, when you are indeed the baddest chick on the block and you've got one of the hottest sounds going down, why not smile as wide as you can?

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I met Rye Rye just moments before she and her crew took the stage, and even that brief meet left me beaming.

Random Detail: Rye Rye's silver Reeboks look built to jump over the moon.

By the Way:
Rye Rye's with M.I.A., and when the former's Go! Pop! Bang! finally hits the streets on the latter's N.E.E.T. Recordings later this summer, the hard-charging Baltimorean's place in the pop pantheon will be secured.  

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