ED GORDON, host:

The rock band The Go! Team has grown from one man's music project to become one of the hottest live acts in alternative rock. The Go! Team hails from Brighton, England. It's led by black British singer and rapper Ninja. NPR's Christopher Johnson reports the group begins a major US tour this week.

NINJA: So I just heard that you guys are getting one more song!

CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON reporting:

Her record label calls her `the pocket rocket.' She's known only as Ninja, a name as singular as her mission: to make you have fun.

NINJA: We want you guys to have a really good time. It's the last song. We want you to break this ramshackle roof, break the house down.

(Soundbite of music)

JOHNSON: Ninja is the front woman for the teen-spirited power-punk band The Go! Team. That's Go! with an exclamation point.

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) because I'm rocking my time. Don't lie. ...(Unintelligible) I know I'm not ...(unintelligible) my age (unintelligible). I give a hundred percent. Are you ready for more? It's The Go! Team. Rock, rock. Here we go. We are The Go! Team. Are you ready for more?

JOHNSON: Live, Ninja and The Go! Team drip with full-speed-ahead rock energy. But the band began in a less spontaneous space. Ian Parton conceived The Go! Team five years ago. Back then, it was just a one-man team with Parton working alone in his home studio about an hour and a half east of London.

Mr. IAN PARTON: I got a dodgy old '80s sampler and we're just kind of experimenting with the idea of slamming different kinds of sounds next to each other you perhaps normally wouldn't hear in songs together, you know, trying to push forward with the idea of mixing stuff up as much as you can.

JOHNSON: Parton blended basic instruments with samples from rap songs, cheerleading movies and Black Panther rally footage. Last year, he released his first Go! Team album, "Thunder, Lightning, Strike."

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) U-S-A ...(unintelligible) A-OK (unintelligible).

JOHNSON: But a solo project like The Go! Team can only go so far. Parton wanted to take his music to the stage. Last year, he hired four other musicians to play the instruments he'd been playing on his own. After visiting dozens of open mike nights around town, he finally settled on the vocalist.

Mr. PARTON: The real discovery was finding Ninja, really, because I knew I had to have, you know, a female vocalist and rapper and sort of--to do all this chanty sort of style vocals. So I eventually found Ninja just by, you know, an Internet kind of posting and sent her a CD and then eventually she kind of got back and said she dug it.

JOHNSON: At the time, Ninja was a 22-year-old hip-hop lyricist with little exposure to the fuzzy pop punk sound of The Go! Team. She remembers her first reaction to Ian's music.

NINJA: Oh, my God. What is this? This is crazy. Like, is this rock? Is this like--it's got, like, some rapping in it. Is it hip-hop? It was just uplifting, and I was feeling like good feel--I was getting good feelings from it.

(Soundbite of music)

NINJA: And I knew they wanted me to rap over it. ...(Unintelligible). OK. I have to get chorus in there, I have to get, you know, verses in there, but it took me probably a couple of weeks to get my head around it, just listening to it every day, just thinking `OK, how would I fit myself into it?'

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) Here to rock the night ...(unintelligible) to rock the night before. ...(Unintelligible) take me down to the ...(unintelligible) take me down to the ...(unintelligible).

JOHNSON: Over the last year, The Go Team! has toured the US and Europe, and Ninja, the daughter of West Indian and West African immigrants, has been exposed to rock's largely white fan base.

NINJA: Whenever we play places, I'm always kind of thinking in the back of my mind, as a black person, `How many artists are there? One there? Oh, that's great,' you know? We actually met a black person after one of the shows and I was in shock. Like, `Can I have your autograph? I'm black.' I'm like `But you're black. You came to see The Go! Team. That's crazy.'

JOHNSON: Ninja says she's having a great time with The Go! Team, learning to rock any crowd.

NINJA: As far as being black and being in this kind of type of music, I haven't really had any negative experiences at all. I've only had positive responses, which is great. Hopefully, we're opening doors to people who want to come into this kind of music, as well.

JOHNSON: As the Go! Team prepares to bring its electric live act to the US this week, it's still working out some of the kinks. Guitars do break sometimes and amplifiers fail, but Ian Parton and Ninja say fans still appreciate their music. And Ninja is grateful for that. And for the life she's found at the front of The Go! Team.

NINJA: I kind of see sunshine when I hear the music, and it's just such a nice feeling to be able to do something that you enjoy and get paid for it. That's what people aspire to do, to have a career, but then they've got a dream, and I'm actually getting paid to do my dream.

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible) come on, say ...(unintelligible) baby ...(unintelligible) you hear the beat, yeah, that's the way we sing it.

JOHNSON: The Go! Team's weeklong US tour starts this Friday in Chicago. Christopher Johnson, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) You're banging on the door, ...(unintelligible) you're ...(unintelligible) banging on the door, can we come in and sing, (unintelligible).

GORDON: You can hear some of The Go! Team's songs on our Web site at npr.org.

(Soundbite of song)

THE GO! TEAM: (Singing) You got it. Yeah. Yeah. You got it everywhere. I got it. You got it. You got it everywhere. You're banging on the door 'cause we got everything. You ...(unintelligible) you're banging on the door, can we come in and sing, ...(unintelligible) we can only sing.

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program for today. You can hear any story from today's program or previous programs at npr.org. Just click on to archives at the top of the page. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES. XXX

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