They all come from other cities, ones where the idea of female rappers is still a novelty. So you can imagine how surprised the members of the Twin Cities' buzzing new all-female hip-hop trio the Chalice were to find a scene full of empowered women rapping to their hearts' content.
"It's still entirely the boys' club where I came from," said Lizzo, who arrived in town two summers ago via rapper-rich Houston, Texas.
Added her bandmate Sophia Eris, who hails from Dayton, Ohio, "When I got here and heard Dessa, it was unlike anything I'd heard before."
Before you go thinking the Chalice is another poetic, hear-them-roar hip-hop act out to raise the consciousness of other young ladies, you should know that Lizzo and Eris first bonded over singing "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child at karaoke one night. Their third partner, Claire de Lune, counts Aaliyah and Beyoncé as favorites. The songs on the Chalice's eponymous debut EP -- which drops with a release party Friday at 7th Street Entry -- are mostly built around dancing and partying.
After less than a year of working together, the Chalice's three partners (all in their early 20s) have made their name by standing out from the crowd. They're less Dessa and Desdamona, and more TLC and Salt-n-Pepa.
"There's nothing wrong with conscientious rap, that's totally great," said de Lune (real name: Claire Taubenhaus). "There's just a lot of it being made in this town. We wanted to do something different."
The members themselves are quite different from one another. Lizzo (real name: Melissa Jefferson) is a hard-edged rapper; Eris (real name: Lauren Alford) has an Erykah Badu-like soulful rap style; and Claire -- who grew up in New York City and St. Peter, Minn. -- is a Rihanna-style R&B singer-songwriter.
The trio got together around Thanksgiving last year, when Eris and Lizzo asked Claire to sing a hook in a song they were working on, "Push It," now the last track on their six-song EP. When it got posted online via Soundcloud, though, "Push It" caught on fast, including airplay on 89.3 the Current. And thus the Chalice was born.
Their new EP opens with "Ladies Night," with lyrics about touching up the nails before hitting the bars. The party continues in dizzying, bouncy tracks such as "Double Dutch" and "Crown on the Rocks." A rotating cast of local hip-hop producers provide the big beats, including Big Cats!, 2% Muck, Eris' confidant Prophis and Lizzo's fellow Houston transplant Larva Ink.
Despite their songs' rather light (and lightheaded) subject matter, the Chalice's members believe they're still making a strong statement.
"So much Minnesota music is about trying to make you think," Eris said. "This is more about just having fun, but there are still powerful female voices involved. Just by having fun, I think we're expressing our independence from men."