Danity Kane and Day 26

P. Diddy, the salesman extraordinaire, Monsieur Band Pimp himself, twice sought futilely to create the perfect pop cluster via his bizarre reality-TV shows: Dream and Da Band weren’t it. Third and fourth time’s the charm. Crafty as he is, Diddy placed his platinum-selling girl quintet Danity Kane (a what?) in the same house with their newly minted, opposite-sex, equally badly named counterparts Day 26 (when?) to record albums simultaneously. Adding to their Svengali’s cunning, the resulting sophomore and debut discs (respectively) dropped a week apart. Always! Be! Marketing!

Cue Danity’s Welcome to the Dollhouse intro, Puffy’s suave voice cutting through twinkling keys: “Once upon a time, there were five little girls . . .” But these gals are older, more cohesive, and more enchanting than before, plus Maxim-approved. Sultry whisper-raps on the Missy Elliott–assisted “Bad Girl” offer a choice of seductive phrases: “I can be your addiction if you wanna get hooked on me” or the Optimus Prime–gone-frisky chant, “When the red light comes on/I transform!” Lead single “Damaged” is all st-st-stutter singing and Pussycat coos, while swagger dominates the Danja-crafted “Pretty Boy” and “Strip Tease,” wherein DK make like Nelly Furtado in “Give It to Me.” This excellence regrettably doesn’t exonerate lines like “You make me hotter than Jamaica.” The made-for-Idol ballads “Poetry” and “Is Anybody Listening” impress, but Danity’s better at cock-teasing over mid-tempo-to-jumpy rhythms. Curiously strong, theirs is more Altoids than bubble-gum pop.

Cruising in the r&b lane, Day 26, when they do slow it down, slow it down nicely. “I know the last time, you said it was the last time,” the quintet sings, “but baby all I need is one more last time.” For “What It Feels Like” or the Runners-produced “Come In,” a simple recurring croon (“Come in, come in, my door’s open”) is beautiful enough. It’s the 112 way. But contrived catchy numbers (“I’m the Reason,” “In My Bed”) leave the vocals sounding more crowded than harmonized. Their tones aren’t quite distinguishable, unlike the ladies’—try telling Brian from Que from Willie from the other two. Here’s something both groups have in common: Both are leaderless. Puff’s enough.


One Mind. Two Million Voters.

On January 19, Russell Simmons’s Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) and syndicated morning radio show host Doug Banks officially kicked off their “One Mind. One Vote” political-empowerment campaign, an effort that seeks to register 2 million voters in the next six to nine months and 20 million in the next five years. In the process they plan to create a national voter-information database.

As onlookers crammed the windows of ABC’s Good Morning America studios to gawk at recording artists that included L.L. Cool J, Rev. Run, Loon, Da Band, and Jadakiss and Styles P. of the Lox, Banks and Simmons stressed the importance of voting and encouraging others to vote, especially in light of the complications arising from the 2000 election. They tied the drive’s kick-off to the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. “Everybody that was [a part of the conference] talked about coming together, mobilizing and doing exactly what Dr. King did 40, 50 years ago,” said Banks. “Here we are in 2004, doing the same thing, except this time it’s to make sure that you get out and your voices are heard.”

The press conference took on the air of a revival meeting when rapper Freddrick of Da Band stood up to speak and then announced his intent to register. Rapper Jadakiss and Israeli-born “Hiphop Violinist” Miri Ben-Ari also signed up during the course of the proceedings. “I just became a citizen a few months ago,” said Ben-Ari. “This is going to be my first time [fulfilling] my right as a U.S. citizen to vote. I’m very excited.”

“One Mind. One Vote” has already come under fire because some of the rap artists involved with the initiative are not registered to vote or have not voted with any consistency. Referring to January 14’s am New York cover story, Minister Benjamin Chavis-Muhammad, HSAN’s CEO, said: “I guarantee that every artist that [am New York] had listed in that article will be registered and they will be encouraging young people to vote. I think it’s disingenuous for the press to start attacking artists when they make a commitment.”