Hailing from the clean-cut Philadelphia suburbs, the alternative-rap singer Princess Superstar, born Concetta Kirschner, defies expectations of who a hiphop music star ought to be. Yet with her rhyming, irreverent, street-smart lyrics and her danceable beats, Kirschner has made a name for herself—first in the underground rap world, and later in a more mainstream genre of alternative hip-hop. With music that’s been described as brash, witty, aggressive, and literate, Kirschner makes a point of not conforming to commercial-music standards, but sets a new place for herself with an innovative hip-hop sound. Asked by SiliconSalley.com to describe her style, Kirschner replied, “weird, funny, sexy, powerful—definitely something different.”
Born in New York City in 1973, Kirschner is the daughter of two psychologists, a Sicilian-American mother and a Russian-Polish-Jewish father. Nicknamed Princess Superstar by her parents, Kirschner adopted the moniker when she pursued her music career. “[M]y parents were actually really poor, like on food stamps poor…,” Kirschner told Chris Lee of Beardburn.com. “[A]s they gradually made more money they were like, ‘We’ve got to get out of this place, it’s horrible, we’re poor and we can only live in a one-bedroom apartment up in like Spanish Harlem!’”
From New York City, Kirschner’s family moved first to rural Pennsylvania and later to suburban Philadelphia, where the singer spent her formative years. Here, listening to a pirate radio station, she discovered the rap music of Kurtis Blow. She attended German-town Academy, a private high school. “I got an amazing education, even though I wasn’t exactly a whiz,” Kirschner told Lee. “I knew I was going to go to New York and I wanted to be a big, famous actress—but I was still kind of a weirdo, so I wanted to be like a weird actress.”
With this goal in mind, Kirschner enrolled as an under-graduate in New York University’s experimental theater wing. Soon after she started her studies, a boyfriend taught her how to play guitar, and her passion for the instrument soon eclipsed her interest in acting. Conflicted about her dual desires to act and to sing, she briefly pursued both vocations, joining a couple of bands and auditioning for acting roles. Throwing dance into the mix, Kirschner took movement classes as well. But the life of a working actress grew distasteful to her. “I just felt like I had to look and act and talk a certain way to be a working actress,” she told Lee, “and I felt like too much of a freak to fit into that. I felt like in music I could make my own character and express myself.”
Soon Kirschner started writing her own songs and finding the self-expression she sought. In her East Village apartment, she composed her own brand of hip-hop tunes. “I started Princess Superstar in 1994,” she told Lisa Helfire and Christine Sun of SiliconSalley.com. “I bought a four-track and started messing around, with guitar and sampling. But very crude sampling, like with only two tape decks.” In September of 1994 she recorded her demo cassette, Mitch Better Get My Bunny, a play on words of an urban catch-phrase and a song by the rap group AMG. Kirschner sent the demo tapes to two record companies, CMJ and Grand Royal, and got calls back from both of them. CMJ magazine mentioned Princess Superstar in its “Futures” section, describing her music as an eclectic fusion of hip-hop, punk rock, and humor.
This positive response encouraged Kirschner. She signed with a small New York City label, Dark Beloved Cloud Records, and in late 1994 released the compilation Sympathy for Count Pococurante. Included was the four-track song “I’m White,” with self-mocking lyrics about her suburban Pennsylvania roots (“I wore clothes from the Gap, watched the Dukes and Daisy/and when I got nasty, shoplifted at Macy’s”). The same year, Kirschner gave her first solo show, at the Pyramid in New York. “I stood frozen still on the stage,” she recalled to Jezabel of Hellfire.com. “I couldn’t move from center stage the entire show.” Later, she would cultivate the energetic stage presence she became known for.
In 1995 Kirschner teamed up with three backing musicians—Kirsten “Pro” Jansen on drums, Doug Pressman on bass, and Art “F” Lavis on guitar—and signed with 5th Beetle Records, a small label based in Ontario, Canada. Under the name Princess Superstar, they recorded the compilation Slow Children at Play, which included the four-track single “Another Day.”
It was with 5th Beetle Records that Princess Super-star released her debut LP, 1996’s Strictly Platinum,
Born Concetta Kirschner in 1973 in New York, NY. Education: Studied drama at New York University.
Recorded demo tape as Princess Superstar, 1994; signed with Dark Beloved Cloud Records (a small New York City label), released the compilation Sympathy for Count Pococurante, late 1994; signed with 5th Beetle Records (a small Canadian label), 1995; released first LP, Strictly Platinum, 1996; launched own record label, late 1996; self-produced second LP, CEO, 1997; merged her record label with Rapster Records, 2001; released Princess Superstar Is, including hit song “Bad Babysitter,” 2002.
Addresses: Record company —The Corrupt Conglomerate, 151 First Ave., Suite 239, New York, NY 10003. E-mail —[email protected] Website —Princess Superstar Official Website: http://www.princesssuperstar.com.
featuring such tunes as “Theme Song” and “Flavis Special.” The recording earned another write-up in CMJ magazine, which called Princess Superstar’s music “super sly hip-hop with jaw droppingly clever lyrics and inventive sampling,” as quoted by the All Music Guide website. Other music magazines published favorable reviews, and Kirschner began to get airtime on American and Canadian radio stations. Promoting the album, Princess Superstar gave live performances throughout the East Coast and Canada.
By the end of 1996 Kirschner split from 5th Beetle Records and launched her own record label, then known by the tongue-in-cheek name A Big Rich Major Label. She also recruited a new crew of backing musicians: Ski Love Ski on bass, Mike Linn on drums, and DJ Science Center spinning records on a turntable. In October of 1997 the group released Princess Superstar’s sophomore LP, CEO. A concept album about corporate culture, CEO included songs with such titles as “Stuck in a 401 K-Hole,” “Supersize the Downsize,” and “Gimme All Your $$.” As a follow-up to the album, Princess Superstar performed with the Hostile Take-over Tour ‘98, a six-week tour through the United States and Canada.
Also in 1998, Kirschner gave her record label a new name—The Corrupt Conglomerate—and the following year released the singles “Come Up to My Room 12” and “I Hope I Sell A Lot of Records at Christmastime.” For the third time she assembled a new backing band, this time including Money Mike Linn on drums, DJ Cutless Supreme on guitar and turntables, and Walter Sipser on bass. Together they cut the album Last of the Great 20th Century Composers, released in 2000.
All the while, and in addition to her careers as a singer and self-producer, Kirschner kept her day job as an administrative assistant in a Manhattan office. Setting up a home office in New York’s East Village, she hired two interns and put them to work in her apartment while she worked off-site.
In 2001, The Corrupt Conglomerate merged with Rapster Records, and in early 2002 Kirschner released the album Princess Superstar Is, featuring collaborations with such diverse artists as Kool Keith and Beth Orton. Included on the album is the popular song “Bad Babysitter,” which Kirschner released soon after as a single with four versions.
Strictly Platinum, 5th Beetle, 1996.
CEO, A Big Rich Major Label, 1997.
Last of the Great 20th Century Composers, Corrupt, 2000.
Princess Superstar Is, K7/Rapster, 2002.
Observer (London, England), January 13, 2002.
Sun-Herald (Australia), August 5, 2002.
Corrupt Conglomerate Official Website, http://www.corruptconglomerate.com (September 3, 2002).
“Do It Like a Princess,” SiliconSalley.com, http://www.siliconsalley.com/archive/lisahellfire10.html (Septembers, 2002).
“Princess Superstar,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 3, 2002).
“Princess Superstar,” BBC-Radio 1, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/artist_area/princesssuperstar (September 29, 2002).
“Princess Superstar Holds Court,” Hellfire.com, http://www.hellfire.com/interviews/princess_superstar.html (September 3, 2002).
“Princess Superstar Is,” CityPages.com, http://www.citypages.com/databank/23/1107/print10177.asp (September 3, 2002).
“Princess Superstar, Naughty by Nature,” Beardburn.com, http://www.beardburn.com/popit/princess_superstar.html (September 3, 2002).
Princess Superstar Official Website, http://www.princesssuperstar.com (September 3, 2002).