It Mortarboarder: Vitamin C (a.k.a. Colleen Fitzpatrick)
WHY HER? By tapping into the mushy, misty-eyed final days of high school, this rainbow-coiffed dancer-turned- vocalist penned a Top 40 ode to growing up — ”Graduation (Friends Forever)” — that’s destined to become as much of a June perennial as Alice Cooper’s ”School’s Out.” The South Amboy, N.J., native based the pop-friendly anthem on her own memories of time past. ”It’s about my life when I was in high school, [although] I look back more fondly on high school now than when I was in it.”
WORK RITUAL ”I don’t have a particular ritual. I do like a moment to myself before I go out there. I drink a lot of water, and I always go to the bathroom before I go on stage.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION ”I’m sort of inspired by the underdog…people who succeed against the odds.”
KNEW SHE’D MADE IT WHEN ”I don’t know if I’ve made it, but I was really excited when the album went gold. That was a milestone.”
WHAT’S UP WITH THE HAIR? ”Hair is kind of like an accessory. I match it to the way I’m feeling.”
WHO’D PLAY HER IN THE BIOPIC Claire Danes, ”because occasionally she has red hair and she’s not afraid to dye.”
NEXT A role in Wes Craven’s upcoming Dracula 2000 and a new album in November that will be ”a little bit more melodic, aggressive, and fun.”
It Chanteuse: Nelly Furtado
WHY HER? This Lilith Fair vet’s sweetly hypnotic blend of pop, hip-hop, and world beat could turn her into the thinking woman’s Christina Aguilera.
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION In addition to her Portuguese great-uncle’s marching band music, the Canada-based Furtado says, ”I love dirt on the ground and litter. There’s beauty in the realness of it.”
DREAM COLLABORATOR ”I would have loved to have Eminem rap on my album.”
JEANS OR KHAKIS? ”Definitely jeans. Jeans are unrestricted. Khakis are definitely an accountant thing.”
NEXT Furtado’s debut album, Whoa, Nelly!, hits stores in September.
Travis: It Kilt Faves
AGES Fran Healy (vocals), 26; Dougie Payne (bass), 27; Andy Dunlop (guitar), 28; Neil Primrose (drums), 28.
WHY THEM? In an era of skull-grinding metal and horror-show hip-hop, this Scottish quartet’s winsome, yearning, jangling tunes about driftwood and rain provide a lovely shelter from the storm.
WORK RITUAL Travis songs may sound sweet, but they have quasi-scatological origins. ”We call it the desire to have a good bowel movement,” Healy says when asked about the gossamer mysteries of songwriting. ”You could be in the supermarket. You could be sittin’ in a cinema. And you feel this mad urge; it’s the same as needing to go to the toilet. But it’s not in your bladder. It’s higher up — in your chest or your head. You just play and play and play and hopefully something pops out.”
INFLUENTIAL MOVIE Hey, this band isn’t afraid of getting all warm and fuzzy: Healy instantly picks It’s a Wonderful Life. ”I love the whole idea of this really selfless man, and how this angel comes down and shows him what his life would be like if he wasn’t there.”
WHOSE CAREER THEY’D MOST LIKE TO HAVE Aim high, right? ”Stanley Kubrick or Picasso or F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Healy says.
WHO’S IT? Michael J. Fox, TLC, and… Tom Cruise. ”Love him or hate him, he’s IT,” says Healy.
FAVE QUOTE ”What’s that Chinese saying? ‘May you live in interesting times.’ The bastard in me wishes that something interesting might happen.”
NEXT Will kick off a West Coast tour in July; headlining several European festivals.
It Sex Machine: D’Angelo
WHY HIM? With a seductive croon reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Prince, slinky dance moves, and a prodigious talent for producing tracks that unite hip-hop, old-school funk, and classic soul, the singer, songwriter, and producer from Richmond, Va., has made an R&B world filled with bland balladeers and scrub-hating girl groups cool again. Not to mention that the man is — as anyone who’s seen him au naturel in the video for ”Untitled (How Does It Feel)” from his CD Voodoo or on VH1’s Men Strike Back — sex on a stick.
WORK RITUAL ”Before the show, I listen to a gospel CD. That and James Brown. Me and the band, we get together and we pray. We start the prayer off with a song.”
KNEW HE’D MADE IT WHEN ”I met Stevie Wonder and he started singing one of my songs to me at the ’96 Grammys. He sang ”S—, Damn, Motherf—er” to me, which was really wild. I had to marinate in that for a minute.”
JEANS OR KHAKIS? ”Jeans and boots and wifebeaters. That’s my everyday uniform.”
WHO’D PLAY HIM IN THE BIOPIC ”He got to be a smooth cat…. Denzel could play me, most definitely. He’s dope. Denzel’s the man.”
NEXT The second leg of his Voodoo tour kicks off in late July.
It Tune Writer: Itaal Shur
WHY HIM? Cowriter of Santana’s chart-topping ”Smooth,” he’s now penning songs with Peter Gabriel and Ricky Martin.
WORK RITUAL ”It’s not a laborious process. It’s not like I do transcendental meditation beforehand. Most of the time I sit down [at the guitar or piano], something’s going to come out.”
WHO’S NOT IT? ”Britney rip-offs. I like Britney — she’s a cutie, she’s a singing Barbie doll — but how many do we need? One is enough.”
NEXT Writing songs he describes as ”modern-day Billy Joel/Elton John” for his own upcoming album.
It Hitmaker: Kevin ”She’kspere” Briggs
WHY HIM? Like his namesake, this sonic bard has a knack for producing masterworks that just won’t quit (TLC’s ”No Scrubs,” Mariah Carey’s ”X-Girlfriend,” Destiny’s Child’s ”Bills, Bills, Bills,” PInk’s ”There You Go”).
CREATIVE CATALYST ”Just deadlines. I’m a very bottom-line individual.”
HOW HE GOT HIS NICKNAME ”It kind of evolved from ‘Shake’ to ‘Shakedown’ to ‘She’kspere.’ I’m not a poet, but music is a form of expression just like poetry.”
WORST CAREER MOMENT ”There were definitely some dramatic learning experiences around the time of the Destiny’s Child project, just dealing with management and the label.”
MOST CREATIVE PROJECT ”Sinead O’Connor’s latest project. That was my first foray into that type of music, but I was willing to do it and it came out phenomenal.”
FAVE QUOTE ”If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
NEXT Scheduled to work with 98[”Degrees”], Usher, and Vitamin C.
The It Spot It Summer Job: A Broadway Play
Hit TV show? Been there. Box office smash? Done that. But a chance to stretch before a blasé Broadway audience? Hell, it’s better than a deluxe trailer! At least it is for a gaggle of stars, including Patrick Stewart in The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Kelsey Grammer in Macbeth, and a must-see Gabriel Byrne in A Moon for the Misbegotten. But we’re most excited about ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, who’s replacing Jack Wagner in Jekyll & Hyde. Do they let us bring lighters into the theater?
It Beat Master Rockwilder (a.k.a. Dana Stinson)
WHY HIM? The main man when mainstream hip-hop acts (Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, LL Cool J) need a funked-up beat for the streets; produced ”Da Rockwilder” for Method Man and Redman.
WORK RITUAL ”I do my music in the house, and in order for me to do a beat I have to clean my room first.”
WORST CAREER MOMENT ”When my songs weren’t selling, and I didn’t know how I was gonna take care of my daughter [Adia, 5].”
KNEW HE’D MADE IT WHEN ”I bought my momma her car.”
NEXT Tracks for Janet Jackson and, possibly, Axl Rose.
It Scorer: Lisa Gerrard
WHY HER? This former singer for the arty cult duo Dead Can Dance is responsible for the eerie, moving music in Gladiator (with Hans Zimmer) and The Insider (with Pieter Bourke).
WORK RITUAL ”Sink food. That’s when you go directly from the fridge and stand over the sink and eat.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION ”Hanging my wash out. I live in the [Australian] bush, and when you stand outside and look up at the blue sky, it’s really inspiring.”
MOVIE SHE WISHES SHE COULD’VE SCORED The Piano. ”It would have been great to have the Hollywood version and an art-film version, where the music is abstract in a way that’s dangerous in Hollywood.”
FAVE QUOTE ”The truth is written on the tablets of our hearts,” from the Bible.
NEXT The track to Michael Mann’s Muhammad Ali biopic (with Bourke).
It MC: Mos Def (a.k.a. Yasin)
WHY HIM? This out-of-the-box Brooklyn rhymer — and rising actor — creates socially conscious music by focusing on the positive power of rap.
WORK RITUAL ”I’ve left melodies on cell phones and voice-mail.”
WHOSE CAREER HE’D MOST LIKE TO HAVE ”I’d like to make populist music, like Stevie Wonder… making serious political statements that you could nod your head to.”
NEXT Plays Jada Pinkett Smith’s brother in Spike Lee’s upcoming Bamboozled (also working on the soundtrack).
It Soul Survivor: Macy Gray
WHY HER? In an age of canned beats and phony emotions, she’s the closest thing we’ve got to an old-fashioned soul goddess.
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION ”All my vices. Everything that I do bad always brings me around to create. Say I go out one night and I drink, smoke, have sex, curse, and eat starches at 4 a.m., and consequently I sleep all day and miss all of my requirements. I wake up feeling inferior, and that inspires me to write.”
WORST CAREER MOMENT ”Actually, it was last night. I did a surprise performance at Paisley Park, and we started jamming on ‘Sing a Simple Song’ by Sly Stone. Prince ran on stage to jam with us, but right then the band switched to another song! They didn’t know that he was up there. He walked off stage. He left. I was so bummed out. I think I cried.”
IF SHE WEREN’T SINGING, SHE’D… ”Be panhandling. I did that to get through college. I was really good at it. My gig was, I’d say ‘I ran out of gas and I locked my purse in my car, and I just need $20 to go back and put gas in my car.’ And I would get it.”
INFLUENTIAL MOVIE ”Cooley High. It was a black movie, made by a black director, and it wasn’t about adult things that I couldn’t relate to. It was the first thing I really could connect to, being black and young. It wasn’t negative, it wasn’t false. It didn’t portray people I knew in some kind of weird light.”
FAVE QUOTE ”’Stand up straight.’ My mother tells me that three times a day.”
NEXT ”I’m working on a new album. I think about it every day. I’ve got four songs that I know I’m going to put on it. And I recently recorded a track with Fatboy Slim.”
It Rebels: Michael Penn and Aimee Mann
AGES 41, 39
WHY THEM? In addition to their critical kudos — Mann for her Oscar-nominated Magnolia tune ”Save Me”; Penn for his fourth CD, MP4 (Days Since a Lost Time Accident) — this married twosome is an inspiration to armies of musicians confronting the record-label refrain that nonrap/nondance/nonteen music isn’t worth company efforts. Solution: Buck the system and release it yourself, which Mann did with her former Interscope recording, Bachelor No. 2. He’s now buying back his album from Sony.
ON SONGWRITING Penn: ”One of the big things is some revelation or epiphany that immediately gets lost. You’re clued into something: ‘Yeah, yeah — wait a minute, where’d it go?’ It’s that hunt to find that again.” Mann: ”For me, it’s a need to describe…. Songwriting is a kind of reporting.”
WHY THEY DON’T WRITE TOGETHER Mann: ”I don’t think we have a similar harmonic sense. And who has final cut?” Penn: ”We’re not very good facilitators.” Mann agrees: ”We’re finishers.”
WORST CAREER MOMENT Penn: ”Definitely the four years I wasn’t allowed to make a record at RCA.” Mann: ”Jeez, is it the three years I was held in limbo by Epic, or the two I was held in limbo by Imago?”
NEXT Their first tour together.
It Loudmouths: Kittie
AGES Mercedes Lander, 16; Talena Atfield, 17; Fallon Bowman, 17; and Morgan Lander, 18
WHY THEM? With tunes like ”Choke,” ”Spit,” and ”Do You Think I’m a Whore?,” this Canadian quartet offers a raucous alternative to the teen-queen pop scene.
WORK RITUAL Drummer Mercedes: ”Before we go on stage we all jump around and sing Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer.”’
JEANS OR KHAKIS? Mercedes: ”Jeans. Khakis are so stupid they make us want to rip our hair out.”
BAND MASCOT Mercedes: ”Morgan bought a giant stuffed Pokémon and we’re thinking of drawing all over it to make it look really satanic.”
NEXT Headlining the second stage at Ozzfest.
It Spinner: John Digweed
WHY HIM? With his aw-shucks appearance in Groove, Britain’s favorite DJ is rave culture’s coolest ambassador.
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION His big brother, George. ”He’s world champion of clay pigeon shooting. He was always the golden boy. That’s what gave me the determination to succeed.”
BIGGEST INFLUENCE Pink Floyd. ”I used to listen to their albums so much and think, This is how it would be good to DJ, where you have different textures, moments, moods, emotions…all throughout the night.”
JEANS OR KHAKIS? ”I haven’t got a pair of jeans.”
NEXT Tours the U.S. through early July, before heading off for club dates in Ibiza, England, Greece, and Israel.
It Nashville Twosome: Buddy and Julie Miller
AGES 47, 43
WHY THEM? If Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are mainstream country’s first couple, Buddy and Julie are the lawfully wed wonders among Nashville’s intelligentsia. Buddy wears many hats (none a Stetson): singer-songwriter, producer, and guitarist for Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle. Julie makes her own more folkish records of heartbreak and redemption.
WORK RITUAL Buddy: ”We record in the dining area, so it’s pretty relaxed.”
NEXT Their first joint album. Buddy: ”I’m curious to see if it works out, because our music is very different from one another’s.” Julie [laughing]: ”Buddy’ll want a fiddle, and I’ll say ‘hurdy-gurdy’ instead.”
Ruff Ryders: It Posse
Call them the (DM)X Men. They swooped down on hip-hop like roughneck superheroes, bringing a new noise to the party. The competition — Master P’s No Limit soldiers, Cash Money’s Down South hustlers, Puff Daddy’s bad boys and girls — never stood a chance.
Eve (a.k.a. Eve Jihan Jeffers)
WHY HER? Adding some yin to the Ruff Ryders’ yang gang, this streetwise, Philly-born ex-stripper has the looks, talent, and moxie to qualify for this season’s Queen of Hip-Hop title.
WORK RITUAL ”I turn down the lights in the studio, make sure the music is loud, and I write [my lyrics] at the [mixing] board.”
DREAM COLLABORATORS Mary J. Blige, Lauryn Hill, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani. ”And I would love to do something with Lenny Kravitz.”
NEXT ”I’m startin’ on my new album, hopefully in a coupla weeks. And I’ll be taking acting classes soon.”
The Lox: Shawn ”Sheek” Jacobs; Jayson ”Jadakiss” Phillips; David ”Styles” Styles
WHY THEM? After one so-so album, this trio of Yonkers, N.Y., homies fought their contract with Sean ”Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment; by the time the smoke cleared, the Lox had left Puff huffing with the cred-establishing We Are the Streets from the Ruff Ryders label.
DREAM COLLABORATORS Jadakiss: ”We’d like to take it to the next level, work with Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill — people you wouldn’t expect.”
NEXT Solo albums from all three members are in the works.
Swizzbeatz (a.k.a. Kaseem Dean)
WHY HIM? The lanky, Bronx-born Beatz honed his chops DJing in New York City and Atlanta (where he went to high school); his much-copied, high-energy, sample-free production style stamps virtually any song with his name on it a hit.
CREATIVE CATALYST ”Going to parties and seeing what people are listening to.”
INSPIRATION Old-school hip-hop (T La Rock’s ”It’s Yours”; anything by Boogie Down Productions).
DREAM COLLABORATOR Quincy Jones.
NEXT Produced two tracks on Limp Bizkit’s upcoming album; opening a music school in Atlanta.
Drag-On (a.k.a. Mel Smalls)
WHY HIM? After spending a good chunk of his teens homeless in the Bronx, he was adopted by the Ruff Ryders and recorded a wowser of a debut, The Opposite of H2O.
INSPIRATION ”I might be in the street and see some niggas rhymin’, and I’ll be on the sidelines watchin’, and I’ll get amped off that and write somethin’.”
IF HE WEREN’T RAPPING, HE’D… ”Be either locked up or on the block gettin’ money, or have a job and hustle on the side. Just chasin’ money.”
NEXT ”I got a few [film] offers. I’m just hopin’ for one to come through and put a nigga on.”
DMX (a.k.a. Earl Simmons)
WHY HIM? Since titling his ’98 debut It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, DMX has generated enough heat to make old Beelzebub jealous, chalking up three multiplatinum solo albums, turning the Interscope-distributed Ruff Ryders label into a successful brand name, and knocking audiences dead on the MTV-cosponsored Ruff Ryders/Cash Money tour.
CREATIVE CATALYST ”The music has to be good — a hot track.”
INSPIRATION ”The music in old movies like Shaft.”
DREAM COLLABORATOR Sade.
FAVE QUOTE ”Where my dawgs at?”
It Technologiste: Mirwais (Ahmadzai)
WHY HIM? Pioneer of French techno (as acknowledged by Air), enlisted to spruce up Madonna’s upcoming album.
WORK RITUAL ”I try not to listen to music, especially good music, because it’s hard to compare.”
THE MADONNA EXPERIENCE ”Most people think that someone like her has a big plan in mind, but we were like a young band. You work with a feeling. You do not have the charts or a video in mind.” The results are, he says, ”more minimalist” than Ray of Light. And yes, Lourdes accompanied them to the London studio.
NEXT ”Madonna has a very strong personality. I like to work with people like that, but I worked for two years on my own album [due in January] and then Madonna. Now I need not to work.”
WOULD LIKE TO WORK WITH Bob Dylan. ”In the ’60s, he was playing folk and crossed over to the electric. Working with a man like him could be really interesting. He could add something emotional to electronic music.”
It Style Goddess: Misa Hylton-Brim
WHY HER? What will Lil’ Kim wear next? Ask Hylton-Brim, who’s tops in the dressing game, outfitting everyone from Kim and Mary J. Blige to Sean ”Puffy” Combs. Her mission? To create forget-me-not looks. ”It’s not just about an evening gown and a nice shoe for me.”
WORK RITUAL ”When I get overwhelmed, I read The Seat of the Soul, and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. And then I smoke a cigarette.”
MAYBE SHE’S BORN WITH IT Hylton-Brim is of black and Japanese parentage, and credits her distinctive upbringing for her fabulous sense of style. ”Being raised in a multicultural situation expands your mind.”
NEXT Her own NYC boutique, Madison Star. ”In 10 or 20 years, I’d love to be a Versace.”
PURPLE HAIRS Kim’s wig was an off-the-rack find, and it perfectly matched the Indian-style fabric of Hylton-Brim’s custom-made ensemble.
STICKY SITUATION Hylton-Brim says the breast-out idea was suggested by Missy Elliott. The floral decal was affixed with ”pastie glue that strippers use.”
HEIGHT DEFERENTIAL The stylist ”always uses heels — at least three inches” for the 4’11” Kim.