The conventional wisdom is that you aren't supposed to give a fuck, right? Especially in the world of hip hop, where DGAF is right up there with defensiveness in the central tenets and emotional core of the genre. But, of course, rap's emotional honesty, the way that it drops the image-heavy pretense of prior generations of pop superstars, has always meant that so many of its superlative performers do indeed GAF-- from the pouty tear-down-my-cheek "real"ness of Eminem and 2Pac in the past to the emo-ish open honesty of so many of today's rap superstars. And perhaps it has something to do with the way that these performers attain fame in part due to an emotional dialogue between artist and performer, a back-and-forth only made more direct (and more drama-laden) thanks to the Internet world we live in. A perfect example of this is the meteoric rise of Natassia Zolot a/k/a KREAYSHAWN, whose neck-snapping ascent from filmschool brat and go-to music video impressario to million dollar pop-rap star was only matched in ferocity by the strength of her subsequent backlash. "Gucci Gucci" is not just a great song and empowering anthem, it's the kind of music video release that earnest young business students will be studying in their grad school MBA classes for decades to come, as one of the defining moments in the history of the music business-- when record companies handed the keys over to ingenues based solely on Youtube hits. The critical drubbing received by Kreay Kreay's eventual longplayer, Something 'Bout Kreay, is either a to-be-expected market correction or a profound misunderstanding of this effusive video brat-- to expect battle rap from a shifty pop merchant is to completely miss how Kreayshawn's aesthetic manages to hit a hollowed out demographic: her appeal, primarily to young tweens and older hipster weirdos, completely scoops out the middleground Adele-land that today's critical hot spot is composed entirely for.
Kreayshawn comes to town tonight with an incredible bill (Rye Rye, in particular, is a live juggernaut not to be missed) -- but after talking to her, I'm not even sure she'll be doing music in a year or two. Either way, so be it-- she is, at the very least, profoundly interesting, and if in five years time she's making her mark on fashion or magazine design or film editing, it will still be with the effortless "swag" that she has brought to her musical career so far. We featured her in this week's issue: here's the complete transcript of my talk with this fascinating pop personality.
What has the process been like building up and developing a live show?
Um, I dunno-- I think my shows have literally always been the same since the beginning, just me and my DJ and my hype man, we just jump around and have fun. We don’t have an elaborate dancing or anything and I think that’s what makes it better-- cuz then it feeds off the crowd and there’s no rehearsed thing so we just pull people onstage if we can and stuff like that. So it’s always fun. If it’s someone’s birthday we’ll sing happy birthday or whatever. It’s always just live and it’s better that way, it’s just more fun.
Your stuff is pretty light-hearted-- a lot of people approach music, especially rap music nowadays, expecting a certain degree of gravity, but your stuff seems to frustrate those expectations.
Yeah, I mean, it’s just about being myself or whatever. i don’t put too much pressure and all that other stuff.
Your record is pretty all over the place, in sound and tone. How much of your music is you, your personality? Is music for you a process of figuring out who you are by trying on a bunch of different things?
I dunno- definitely, like, I do that more subconsciously than consciously. Cuz there’s definitely stuff that I talk about in my music that I either did a long time ago or, I dunno, something that my friend did and I wrote about it. I just want to make it relatable and fun, you know what I’m saying? It doesn’t always have to make sense, I say stuff that doesn’t even make sense all the time on my album, you know? Weird crazy shit like engraved bananas or whatever. It was fun for me to make the album and that’s what I wanted to get across-- every song sounds different and has a different vibe, and is kind of like a different side of me or a different side of genres of music that I like. So, like-- yeah.
Yeah, the album has a lot of pretty great pop songs, and it seems like people were expecting something different. After the success of “Gucci Gucci”, was there a conscious effort to mix it up, or was this record just the product of who you wound up working with without some master plan?
I mean, like, all the songs I’ve ever made around the time of “Gucci Gucci”, they all sound so different from each other. They all sound super different! So it probably is crazy for people who only had heard “Gucci Gucci” and then listened to the album, like “Whoa, this is crazy music, it all sounds crazy” But if you had heard my music from before and it would make sense-- like all those songs sound crazy and different and weird. I didn’t make this album for, like, critics or to try to impress people-- it’s for my fans and people who already like me, because those are the people who put me in my position today. So, like, I wanted to make something for them and not re-do “Gucci Gucci” a hundred times!
Is there a part of you that the insanity that greeted “Gucci Gucci” is over? Do you feel like now you can get on with the rest of your career?
Yeah, I’m definitely thankful that it happened and that I was able to just like get through that. It’s like, I’m a person now. Now people are like “This girl came out, she’s kind of like Kreayshawn”, instead of being like “Kreayshawn came out, she’s kind of like Lady Gaga.” Lady Gaga! It was always Lady Gaga!
Right-- because every white girl is all the same, right?
Your stuff can kind of be appreciated on a number of levels-- music nerds in their thirties blog about it but your music also appeals to, like, little kids. Are you aware of this diversity of your audience when you make music?
Umm, I mean, yeah, it’s something that I’ve always noticed-- that the audience for most bands go from 45-year old critically acclaimed music reviewers to like 10-year old ratshit middle school girls. It’s just weird because I don’t really do anything consciously, everything I do just sort of happens. The whole “Gucci Gucci” video and everything, it just kind of fell into place. It’s super awesome that I have all these different types of fans, and I’m a different kind of person, so it’s cool.
At the same time, a lot of the criticism of what you do is so over-the-top. I mean, it’s not like “Oh, we’re not crazy about this Kreayshawn song”; it’s always “Kreayshawn’s success is the death of rap music.”
I’ve literally heard everything, I hear all kinds of crazy things. And then if you look up Lil Wayne, there are people writing blogs saying “Lil Wayne killed hip hop!” And it’s like “What?” That’s not even a valid thing, you can’t say that Lil Wayne did anything bad. So no matter what, there’s always gonna be people talking shit, especially now with the Internet. It’s just hard because, like, I’m actually on my Twitter talking to people and stuff, so one minute it’ll be “Oh Kreayshawn I love you” and the next thing will be some guy saying “I’m gonna rip your face off, bitch, and feed it to my dog.” And it’s like “Whoa, why?” So yeah, it’s weird.
Yeah, I mean, you got big in large part because of the Internet, so it seems like as a result you have to deal with both the best and worst of Internet celebrity.
Yeah, I mean, you kind of just gotta deal with it-- it’s hard, because the Internet makes it harder to avoid the worst of it. But I just kind of gotta suck it up, you’ve gotta have thick skin because that shit is real.
You’ve done a lot of stuff besides music-- your roots are far more in video and film than music. Do you feel at all hemmed in by music? Do you intend to do stuff now outside of just making albums and going on tours?
For me, like, what I really wanna do is work on different projects-- not even music-associated. I went to film school, I’ve directed music videos, and I want to work on magazines and everything, a little bit of everything. I don’t know how to explain, I always would do a little bit of everything, I would make music, I would make beats, I would cut film, and that’s what sort of made me, it’s what made what I did cool. Now, everyone knows that I do music, but I want to show that I do everything else. Most people wouldn’t know unless they Google’d me!
How did your film and video ambitions inform your musical pathway-- was film really crucial to the creation of Kreayshawn?
I mean, it definitely helped. Music has always just kind of been there, it’s been the thing that’s been underneath everything I do. I moved out to Los Angeles to do film, I was like “I’m gonna come to Hollywood and work on movies sets and one day I’ll be a famous director!” And it kind of transformed into music video and-- it’s weird, because everything just kind of happened like that. But I was always listening to music, and being a musician helped me edit music videos better. I mean, I take more pride in my ability to edit more than almost anything. Even more than directing, I like editing! But right now, I don’t have time for editing, it’s so time consuming.
I can imagine! It’s interesting to hear you talk about your film and editing experience, because the main criticism of Kreayshawn, the rap performer, is this perception that you lack “talent”, whatever that means in this post-American Idol world of everyone being a fucking talent show judge.
I mean, like, anyone can have a blog and say what they want. And it’s cool that everyone has that freedom of speech, but you have a whole bunch of people who aren’t qualified to make these statements making these statements. Even a person with social disorders can be “normal” on Twitter, on the Internet. It’s hard cuz everything is so permanent-- if one person says “Oh, she ain’t got no talent”, someone’s really gonna read it and believe it. Which is kind of tough for me; I mean, I went to film school, and shot fifty-plus music videos and edited them myself, and I do music and do this and that, and have journals of crazy poems and all. And after that to get that I’m not “talented”, it kind of hurts my feelings. I know in my heart it’s not true, but still.
Do you feel like attempting to get past that is part of the process for you? Or is poison, for you, to be exposed to that sort of thing?
It’s definitely part of the process to just learn how to block that sort of thing out, to think “That person’s crazy, where’s their stuff?” You’ve basically got to read it and move on-- paint a picture, whatever!
Plus you’re working in pop music, which is never respected by those kind of people anyway.
Do you feel like for the music you want to keep doing, do you feel like you’ve hit it, found the type of thing you want to keep doing, the thing that defines you?
No-- I’m still searching for what I want to do, for sure! Yeah.
DANIEL BROCKMAN »DBROCKMAN@PHX.COMKREAYSHAWN + RYE RYE + HONEY COCAINE + CHIPPY NONSTOP:: Royale, 279 Tremont St, Boston :: November 16 @ 5:30 pm :: All-Ages :: $19 :: 617.338.7699 or boweryboston.com