Hip-Hoppin’ to the Top
Alex Lee gets hotter by the moment.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Under a YouTube clip of Alex Lee’s “Hotter,” the comments section seethes with enthusiasm. Khalood1987 dramatically writes: “Guyz, where can i get this song from… i’m gonna die… .i waaaaaaant it.” Skategurl1102 proclaims: “This song is HOT!” Misile005 echoes this sentiment by posting: “Where did you get this from it is the best song ever.”
The comments are even more impressive considering the clip isn’t even a video but rather a still photo of the competitors on America’s Next Top Model posing while the sleek club banger plays in the background. The song, which was used on the television series finale this year, was written and sung by Monterey native Alex Lee.
Lee says that she made “Hotter” two years ago with a producer friend of hers who goes by the name The Concept. Though a publisher who provides music for America’s Next Top Model wanted the song back then, Lee waited until this past winter to sign a contract. Just a week later, “Hotter” debuted on the popular television show for the first time. It later played on the program’s season’s finale.
Now based in San Francisco, Lee, a rapper and vocalist, was initially hesitant to wade into pop music waters, fearing she’d lose her credibility. But recently she’s come to the realization that writing songs for television has sharpened her songwriting skills. “I’ve grown a lot making those TV songs,” she says. “It’s really helped me with my hooks and the little singing voice I have.”
Her newfound appreciation for more commercial music can be heard on her latest seven-song EP, Headphone Heroes. On the R&B/hip hop number “I Just Wanna Dance,” Lee eschews social and political sentiments and sings: “I just wanna dance with you.” Meanwhile “Doin’ It” features a frequently repeated hook between Digable Planets-like raps.
Lee says that on Headphone Heroes she is in a different place than where she was when crafting 2006’s The Channel, her debut CD. “I’m really trying to grow,” she says. “I’m not trying to sound too conscious.”
The EP’s best song is “CaliSoul,” a love letter to her native state over a killer drumbeat. On it, Lee deftly raps: “We should break from the states/ Don’t need no President/ This is the place/ Where we legally smoke weed for medicine/ Got illegal Mexicans/ Askin’ Schwarzenegger/ Why don’t you just let us in?/ Who gonna pick your lettuce then?” The song proves that Lee can’t fully abandon socially conscious hip-hop.
The rest of Headphone Heroes finds the talented rapper and vocalist exploring her pop sensibilities while retaining interest in less commercial themes, including empowerment on the jazzy hip-hop track “(Big!) Lil’ Things.” “It’s the best work I’ve done so far,” Lee says of Headphone Heroes. “It shows my growth. It is the first time I’ve been satisfied with where I’m at.”
ALEX LEE celebrates the release of Headphone Heroes 9pm Wednesday, Oct. 8, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey. $10. 373-5483.