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The New York-based rap trio Northern State are no funky divas. Julie "Hesta Prynn" Potash, Correne "Guinea Love" Spero, and Robyn "DJ Sprout" Goodmark formed the hip-hop-centric rap outfit in 2000. They're college-educated and slick in checking rhymes, rearing to give rap a new face in the new millennium. Potash, who earned a degree in theater and served on Hillary Clinton's 2000 senatorial campaign, first met Spero and Goodmark while attending Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills, Long Island, in the early '90s. Spero, who's studied audio engineering, has a degree in women's studies from Oberlin College. Her pal Goodmark was a hippie who had an interest in the environment. She ended up with an environmental education degree and became a kindergarten teacher. Each had a fondness for Liz Phair, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Grand Puba. While hanging out at a party one evening in mid-2000, Spero and Goodmark thought it'd be funny if they were rappers. They went on to spend the next six months in Potash's East Village apartment writing songs and perfecting a hella cool, New York, white-girl-bred rap style. Northern State made their stage debut at Luna's Lounge in April 2001. They played over 20 shows in and around New York City by the year's end, and quickly the press jumped on Northern State's impressive presentation. The Village Voice and Rolling Stone were touting them by fall 2002. During that time, Northern State was in the midst of finding a label. A four-song demo tape entitled Hip Hop You Haven't Heard had been recorded earlier in January. Their first proper full-length, Dying in Stereo, appeared on Star Time in June 2003 to rave reviews. Columbia signed the group soon after and released the trio's next record, All City, in 2004. After becoming frustrated with the lack of artistic freedom Columbia provided the group, they wiggled their way out of the contract, and teamed up with Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys and producer Chuck Brody of Shitake Monkey to make their third album, Can I Keep This Pen? After hearing the finished result, Mike Patton at Ipecac signed the girls to the label's eclectic roster and released the record in August 2007. ~ MacKenzie Wilson