If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only take ONE Hip-Hop album, what would it be?
It might surprise you to learn that my personal pick would be “Dewdrops in the Garden” by Deee-Lite. Especially because Lady Miss Kier, founding member and the frontman of the group, isn’t even considered when it comes to the conversation about female rap when in reality, the 90’s group helped to invent the techno/pop-rap sound that is so prevalent today.
Who is Deee-Lite?
Deee-Lite originated as a two-person ensemble in 1986 with Kier and Supa DJ Dmitry. They eventually expanded into a trio in 1988 when DJ Towa Tei joined the group. In addition to having a fire pen game, Lady Miss Kier had been the group’s graphic designer from day one, designing everything from posters and club invites to their album art. Dewdrops in the Garden, the group’s second studio album, brought with it a change in the roster as Towa left the group, who was replaced by DJ Ani to keep the train going. As a farewell token, Kier offered to let Towa remix one of the songs on the new album, so the band’s original DJ does make an appearance on track eight, “Call Me.”
The group had next to no support from their record label and still managed to tour for a year once Dewdrops in the Garden was released, selling more copies than their 1992 release Infinity Within. Sadly, the group ended in 1994 following the break-up of Kier and Dmitry. During their five-year run together, Deee-Lite landed six of their tracks at the number-one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Party chart. And after their time together, Kier and Dmitry were able to ride out the waves and are still making music to this day, making their impact wherever they can.
Kier is also regarded as a style icon for her groovy ‘fits, which is definitely one of the reasons why I have always looked up to the artist. And, despite their lasting impact on the culture, Deee-Lite only released 3 studio albums between 1990 and 1994. Their defining sound was a fusion of disco-house-techno and 90’s New York rap. These groovy innovators were definitely ahead of their time
Lady Keir: Mother of Pop Rap
When you put on a Deee-Lite album, depending on WHICH album that is, you may or may not associate the group with “rap music.” I grew up on Deee-Lite, with Dewdrops in the Garden being my musical staple for long road trips, and I did not realize that this group invented the genre I am in love with today, until the end of 2021 when I read Clover Hope’s Motherlode. The book beautifully lines out the women in our genre throughout history, starting with the firsts, mentioning Blondie’s Debbie Harry for bringing rap to the white mainstream, and all the femcees from Kreyshawn to Doja Cat. However, Lady Miss Kier is missing from the lineup. Sis didn’t even get an honorable mention.
Of course, if it wasn’t for the likes of MIA, Doja Cat, and even Beyoncé being listed as women of hip hop, I wouldn’t have even noticed. And I scoured those pages looking for Lady Miss K, without any luck. Lady Miss Kier was my pop rap superhero before Nicki Minaj made her claim to fame. Now, let me break down why. Out of all three of their studio albums, Dewdrops in the Garden is the one that really sets this narrative of Deee-Lite being an alternative/pop rap group. Of course, In typical Deee-Lite fashion, the majority of the 16-track long album is dance tracks with funky club beats and repetitive, “sampledelic” lyrics. However, there are at least six tracks on the album in which Lady Miss K shows off her lyrical prowess.
The album opens with a song titled, “Say Ahh,” which oozes with LMK’s trademark brand of creative euphemisms. Lines like:
All day in my mind
I replay the second time we chimed
So sweet what a treat sensually
Skin on skin is swingingly swell fat treasures
The swanky, yet down-to-earth tune serves as the introduction to the album, which, based on the cover art, is meant to transport the listener out of the dingy concrete jungle and into a psychedelic garden. The first track blends seamlessly into a spoken word track called “Mind Melt,” which is short, sweet, and to the point. The next four tracks on the album are more soulful, combining Lady Miss Kier’s Etta James-like crooning with poppy techno beats to send the listeners on an empowering and emotional roller coaster ride as Kier describes finding her freedom and getting over men treating her poorly. Then we get back to the rap on track 7, entitled “Stay In Bed Forget The Rest.”
The tongue-in-cheek song is full of inventive lyrics, such as:
You got your chocolate in my peanut butter
Spreading love with your eyelash flutter
Always ready when you hold me steady
The next 3 dance/house songs lend Kier’s vocals as samples instead of actual lyrics, before smoothly leading into the next ditty with bars. Track 11, “Bring Me Your Love” is a combination of the three previous dance tracks and original bars. The song starts out the same way the previous song ended and then switches up midway through the tune as LMK drops bars like:
I was in the checkout line
Checking out the mighty fine
By the time I got to the parking lot
I took home more than what I bought
You’re my tenderness, my chocolate drop
“Picnic in the Summertime” (track 12) is an absolute BOP, rivaling Nicki Minaj’s “Where Dem Girls At” collaboration with David Guetta. In fact, one could infer that Nicki referenced “Picnic in the Summertime” and Lady Miss Kier’s flow on her 2010 single “Your Love” which later appeared on her debut studio album Pink Friday. (Although, it is impossible to confirm, because the line “Hot damn, make me scream like Summer Jam” isn’t actually a lyric from “Picnic in the Summertime”, but the coincidence is so noticeable that I had to mention it. Also, considering Nicki Minaj and Deee-Lite both originated in New York, it is easy to imagine the 90’s alternative group’s influence on the youth at the time.)
Once again, LMK raises the bar with her poetry:
The popsicle stick is finally smooth
Hop on a lily pad for the summer groove
Walking arm and arm, so glad you came along
Check out the curly vine
The album’s final rap track, “Apple Juice Kissing,” is truly iconic. The succinct bop is simultaneously catchy and lyrically complex, per Kier’s usual style, with lyrics such as:
Kissin in the back row
That’s how we missed the movie
Said you had Cottonmouth
That apple juice was groovy
“Dewdrops in the Garden” may seem like a disco-house relic from the outside, but it is the one hip-hop album I cannot live without. As their subliminal influence seems evermore apparent in new music like Doechii’s 2021 EP Oh the Places You’ll Go, Azealia Banks’ 2019 single “Count Countessa,” or even the “Dance-Nicki/PopNika” era from 2012 – 2017 with songs like “Starships,” “Pound the Alarm,” “Hey Mama,” and “Light My Body Up” (to name a few), I had to bring their name up in the conversation.
(*Okay, let’s be real, Nicki Minaj never really left her Dance-Nicki era, it’s just not the main focal point of every single song she makes so I had to put a cap on it somewhere.)Through Deee-Lite’s trilogy of albums, Lady Miss Kier’s pen game is not only on point, but inspirational to the culture, bringing a positive vibe to an otherwise gritty scene. They forever changed the definition of “hip-hop” and opened the door for strong, beautiful, intelligent women to be able to write about being sexy and having fun while being clever and witty in addition to running a business.
Shout out to the groovy, red-headed vixen who helped instill a love of hip-hop in my young heart. Lady Miss Kier, you are, and always have been a total game changer.