- Walter Novak
- Eyes up here, boys: Cleveland's Cali Miles breaks it down.
Dudes definitely drool over the SnowBunni, not to mention her mouthwatering backup dancers, Kristen and Heather. As the trio's violent s-curves swiveled and gyrated across Peabody's stage at a recent AIDS benefit, baggy hip-hop dudes flashed 'em the stare.
Of course, most women clutch their handbags and pray for safe passage when spotting the stare. But not the SnowBunni. The sapphire brunette with crystal-blue eyes eats it right up. "Listen to my music -- I'm not a virgin," she says later. "I like to dress up, and I'm real sexy."
If you called Tipper Gore to express concern over Madonna's Erotica, put the paper down now. Pop music's prudish days are long gone. Over the past several years, hip-hop, club music, and stripper sass have all jelled into a full-blown pop trend.
But according to Cali "SnowBunni" Miles, the gyrating genre lacks an authentic R&B diva of the Caucasian persuasion. Hanging in front of the Rock Hall on a breezy Sunday afternoon, Miles is wrapped in a tight tank top sporting Xtina's unmistakable profile. But the Akron-born singer and former model makes Aguilera, Britney, and Fergie look like Catholic-school prudes: all talk, no action.
"I set out to make an anthem for fly white girls who are into hip-hop and R&B," Miles says of "SnowBunni," her new single. "I want to be a female R. Kelly/female Usher. I love the slow jams, and I'm good at writing them."
She has a point: In hip-hop, most smokin' white chicks serve as nothing more than hot-tub extras. And the ones who don't, like Fergie, are pop singers dabbling in urban music.
Miles started off as one of those extras. In addition to a stint in the cabaret show La Femme, a Pussycat Dolls-type burlesque, the busty diva appears in the video for Ray Cash's "Sex Appeal (Pimp in My Own Mind)," off the Cleveland rapper's 2006 debut for Sony, Cash on Delivery. She also maintains MissCaliente.com, a pay-to-view site that features sexy (and useful!) photographs of Miles shedding nearly everything. "My mom once said, 'Don't take any naked pictures of your butt,'" says Miles. "But everyone wants to see my butt."
Miles no longer strikes poses, unless it's to promote her music. But she parlayed that modeling income into a singing career. To date, she's funded just about everything herself, from studio time to the manufacturing of her new single, which has flooded the local hip-hop scene.
The goal, she says, is to develop a solid fan base before shopping for a major-label deal. That way, a successful brand has been cultivated before dealing with the suits. "What's really important is to release the first album myself. So that I maintain control," she explains. "I didn't want to get a deal or do the American Idol thing. I don't want to be controlled."
That's a view many aspiring musicians share in the MySpace era, and it makes sense. But Miles' shrewdest play has been to align herself with C-Town's recent hip-hop revival. "It's important for me to work with a lot of Cleveland artists," she says.
She first achieved regional success last year with "You Wanna Fuck Me," a gender-reversing remix of Akon's "I Wanna Fuck You" that spotlights her silky croon and pinprick rapping. Since then, Miles has been recording her debut (on which "SnowBunni" will also appear). And this time around it's Ray Cash who's the extra.
"I asked Ray to do a verse on my song ['SnowBunni']," says Miles. "But when he came into the studio, he heard another track he wanted to try. And when it's Ray Cash, you just go with it."
Miles is working with other local heavies too: Saj Supreme, a Cleveland-born MC, co-wrote the track "Stop Callin' My Phone." Helping produce were Young Yonny and the Kickdrums -- aka Matt "Tilla" Pentilla and Alex "Fitty" Fitts -- a duo that is quickly becoming a national force, producing for the likes of 50 Cent and Cash.
Unfortunately, Miles, like so many aspiring singers, plans to relocate to Los Angeles soon. That could be a mistake. Here in Cleveland, she has easy access to a hip-hop scene that's exploding with talent.
Then again, she's one determined SnowBunni. And in L.A., when she gets the stare, it just might be followed by the deal she's been looking for.