[4 August 2011]
White female rapper Kreayshawn is this moment’s It-Girl, but could not be further away from the term’s current connotations of Hilton-esque socialites or affluent girls who are simply “famous for being famous”, as Wikipedia has it. In fact, Kreayshawn’s big breakthrough came by openly denouncing such girls in her viral song “Gucci Gucci” with the catchy hook “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada / Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother”
Now she’s directing the video for “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, the first single of the hotly anticipated Red Hot Chili Peppers album I’m With You, and she’s nominated for a Best New Artist award at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. So who is this 21-year-old self-labeled prodigy, and where did she come from?
When “Gucci Gucci” hit the web mid-May of this year, the video quickly garnered over a million views on YouTube, and has over seven million now. The aforementioned infectious and deliciously rebellious hook, pop culture references galore (Madonna positive, Ivana Trump negative) and a fun video all resulted in Tumblrs, Twitters, and Facebooks running wild. And that crafty grasp of social media is exactly what got San Francisco-born, Oakland-based Natassia Gail Zolot where she is now. She attracted a loyal following on her blogs, website and YouTube page, and it was with this clever self-promotion by word-of-mouth (or in these days, Facebook likes and retweets) that she managed to catch the attention of record labels and of rappers like Lil’ Wayne, the latter even offering his own attempt at “Gucci Gucci” on his latest mix tape.
In her videos, sKreayshawn can be seen replying to tweets and Facebook messages of fans, and as such the videos make fans aware about her availability—even now, she replies to dozens of fans each day. Pop culture references aside, don’t compare her to that other big female rapper du jour (who by the way also likes to suggest a penchant for the ladies in her lyrics), Nicki Minaj: Kreayshawn is much cooler and less plastic and spending-happy, and she wants you to know it: “Bitch you ain’t no Barbie / I see you work at Arby’s / No. 2, super-size / Hurry up, I’m starving” (from “Gucci Gucci”).
There’s an edge to Kreayshawn’s music and videos that is rare in today’s homogenous industry. While her lyrics might seem basic or even vulgar to some, there’s a message there, and it’s not about selling Adderal on campus, wooing females with her swag, or smoking weed, even though all three are recurrent themes in her songs—and even these are not as generic as they sound. She constantly defies ideals of fashion and beauty: as “Gucci Gucci” makes abundantly clear, designer clothes are for “basic bitches” whereas “bad bitches” don’t need brands to have a good time or look good. Similarly, she dedicates her song “Rich Whores” to girls who wear second-hand clothes, and cleverly offsets a remark seemingly about her good looks (“I have good features”) by posing a question to herself that refers to her time at the Berkeley Film Institute (“Did you major in photography?”). A feminist reading of her lyrics doesn’t seem unfounded; on her Twitter page on July 27th, she responded to a fan inquiring about her favorite female artist with “I like all female artists. Ppl sty tryna get girls to fonk in this industry!”.
And “Rich Whores” also indicates that she is not just a rapper, but an “editor/director, plus I’m my own boss”. She has shot videos for a variety of artists, notably Lil’ B and now the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and her YouTube channel also features other work Her White Girl Mob group members DJ Lil’ Debbie and V-Nasty make frequent appearances in her videos, and are slowly becoming famous in their own right. Her video for “Online Fantasy” is another clever fan attraction, as it allows the viewer to choose their own ending to a tryst between the rapper and her “online fantasy”, a pretty African-American girl she has snagged up on Facebook. And the song’s not half-bad either, with an electro feel to it.
But it’s not just her music that’s ensuring attention. Her completely self-styled image only adds to the (in)famous persona that she’s quickly becoming. Self-styled does not equal calculated or business-savvy in this case. She genuinely seems to have no concern about how she comes across, and claims to have been born with her “hella steez” (freely translatable as an innate sense of style) whereas others have “had to go buy [their] style” (in “Rich Whores”). Her wardrobe is a mix of tacky and clashing patterns and colors, yet her combinations make it look so stylish that numerous Twitter folk have taken style cues from her. Like “Gucci Gucci”, it’s a statement of daring to be different in a world where brands and logos rule consumption. In both “Gucci Gucci” and the Lil B featuring Andy Milonakis (of MTV fame) reinterpretation “Hoes on My Dick”, Kreayshawn aligns herself with Madonna by stating that she looks like her. And indeed, the 21-year-old’s unique style of Minnie Mouse bows, polka dots, and extravagant prints and jewelry is reminiscent of the eclectic and kooky early style of the Queen of Pop.
While all similarities have to end there for now and anything else would be wishful thinking at this stage—she is yet to prove her staying power and appeal to the real masses—it is already clear that 2011 will be Kreayshawn’s year. She has found her niche, and more and more people are catching on, even though she certainly won’t be for everyone. When even I, a Netherlands-based occasional hip hop listener, have multiple people telling me that I need to listen to her, she must be about to explode. And as she says herself, with “swag pumpin’ out [her] ovaries”, she’ll be a hard act to ignore. Her story is an online fantasy come to reality.
If you want to see her, her concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as part of her Fall Tour are already sold out, but there are still tickets for Philadelphia and Chicago.