Hailing from Detroit -- a city where punk rock, hip hop and blues all grow out of the same soil -- Maria Kohler is giving Denver a taste of her rhymes and her eclecticism. "I think everybody has a pretty wide variety of music that they like," explains Kohler, Kitty Crimes' mastermind, who also fronts M and the Gems and has lent her talent to a variety of local bands, including Houses and Science Partner, among others. "And I really like exploring the essence of different genres. I'm really obsessed with seeing how many different things I can apply myself to musically."
Kohler latest endeavor is Kitty Crimes, her hip-hop alter ego, a dark, subversive side that seemingly goes in limitless directions. "When I was thirteen I used to go on freestyle chatrooms and try to battle rap people -- Windows 95 style," she notes. "Then I made a hip-hop album called Country Clubbin' -- which also came out when I was thirteen."
After moving to Denver and hooking up with the ladies of Paper Bird and Laura Goldhamer for the raunchy girl punk band, Harpoontang, Kohler set aside hip-hop and began exploring a number of other sonic horizons. "The only way I could develop a performance career is to try on different musical avenues," she points out. "And each one of those projects, I learned a different aspect of how to work with people, how to compromise or how to stand my ground. I'm learning what I want."
Hip-hop found its way back in to the rainbow of Kholer's musical ambitions just over a year ago. After discovering queer culture's unexpected embrace of rap through artists like Big Freedia and Denver's own Wheelchair Sports Camp and ASiEL, Kholer began pushing herself to find a deeper understanding of the art form, particularly through studying hip-hop classics such as Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad," a song that moves at a much faster pace than most any rap song.
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"I learned all the words," she says, "and I realized what you have to do is stretch it out, on your own, phonetically sound out each of the phrases, and then speed it back up when you rap it. You have to examine every syllable verbally, and once you have that down you can start doing it at a quicker pace. The song made me realize my mouth could move at a faster rate. It was like practicing with a metronome."
The level of commitment that Kohler has to understanding the song comes across when she covers "Bombs Over Baghdad," live as Kitty Crimes, almost effortlessly delivering every tongue-twisting line in perfect time to jungle drum and bass beats. And yet, she will easily transfer from this to singing in M and the Gems (sometimes doing both in the same night), a sound considerably different enough to suit Maria Kohler's wide palate of musical tastes.
Catch Kitty Crimes at the hi-dive with the Dirty Femmes (who will be covering the entirety of the Violent Femmes debut album) this Saturday, April 7.
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