I haven't been updating my Events page lately, but as a heads up, I'll be DJing a G-Funk night with DJ Itch at Lokal Chicago this Thursday night from 10pm - 2am. Friday I'll be at Maria's (10pm - 2am) in Bridgeport doing a more eclectic set. Stop by if you're in the area.
UPDATE: I'll also be spinning Memorial Eve (Sunday night), 5.29.11, from 10PM until 2AM at Danny's in Bucktown.
UPDATE 2: Due to scheduling conflicts, my Maria's set has been moved back to Friday, June 10th.
She's friends with members of Odd Future. She's a 21-year-old Caucasian art school drop-out dressed in thrift store clothing who directs videos for Bay Area gangster rappers (and Lil B) to pay the bills. Her mother was a member of The Trashwomen. At the time of this interview, her video had in the area of 300,000 hits; one and a half days later, it has well over half a million. Friday night Snoop Dogg invited her to his house to hang out.
She's not likely to see much acclaim from orthodox rap heads, but more importantly, she made a great single, and it's straight-up rap music that sounds pop without being indebted to current Billboard sounds. She's been compared to Uffie, which is unfair; "Pop the Glock" had an air of privileged carelessness. Uffie had no need to project any style, played coy and refused to inject herself into the one aspect that makes for great rap: rapping. Kreayshawn, in contrast, has the cocky confidence to pull it off; personality, style and something resembling star power.
I decided to include the bulk of the 25-minute interview for a few reasons; first, I think the perspective of a woman entering into a male-dominated field like this is inherently interesting. She foregrounds gender in this track, all while associating with some of the more controversial artists in the music media gender discourse. In asking her about Odd Future, I don't mean to force her to defend what they say or apologize for them, but I thought it would be worthwhile to get her perspective on how the music affects her.
Second, I think she gives some good insights into what it's like entering the music business today, how musicians are forced to multi-task in order to make things happen for themselves, and the re-emerging importance of the live show. Finally, I just think this is a great song, and whatever happens with Kreayshawn and her career, pop-rap tracks like this just don't come around every day.
First off, tell me your name, how old you are, where you're living and where you're recording now.
I'm Kreayshawn, I'm 21, and right now I'm recording out in Oakland, but I'm living out in LA, for the moment.
Are you in school right now?
No, I'm just doing music full time really, and just directing videos still out in the Bay area, just to pay rent and get by.
Did you start off as a director, and how did you end up getting into music?
My mom, she has always been into music, she was in like an all-girl punk band. So I saw that growing up a lot, which I think made it normal to do music. So my whole life I've always been playing around, rapping, making beats. My mom dated a DJ so we had like, all kinds of recording equipment in the house. So I've always been playing around. I started directing, and then I see all these rappers in front of the camera, I want to be in front of the camera too, I can do this. It's fun. I can do this better than them, actually. [laughs]
You mentioned your mom was in a punk band -- what were they called, how serious were they about that?
Well, she was in an all-girl punk band. It was like, surf-music, punk-surf. They were called The Trashwomen. And they toured like all around, Europe and Japan and stuff like that. I got to see her successes with music. Definitely excited to lightweight follow in my mom's footsteps.
Was she still successful when you were a kid, or had she stopped by then?
She stopped by the time I was eight years old. She was doing this from when I was two, or one, maybe before I was born, til I was like five or six. It's funny because I recorded a song with her, when I was five years old, and it was a song I wrote too, and I totally remembered it. Somebody leaked it on Soundcloud the other day, which was hella funny. Like, what the fuck? [laughs]
So when you were a kid, what kind of music were you listening to at that point, like say eight or nine years old, what was the music you were really into?
I know that when I was in the fourth grade I started buying CDs because that was the cool thing to do in the late 90s, go buy CDs. I remember getting Kool Keith CDs, and crazy music, because my mom listened to some crazy rap music too, so it wasn't just surf-punk music all the time. But I was into a lotta crazy stuff. Mos Def was the thing back then, when he was coming out. But that Kool Keith CD, when I was in the 4th Grade --
Which CD was it?
It was the Sex Style CD. Just listening to that really opened up my mind, what rap music can be. It can be totally different from just what you hear on the radio. Kool Keith is some out-the-box type shit.
Were there any women that hit you hard, as a rapper, that made you think you could do it?
When I was little, Missy Elliot was really poppin, her and Timbaland were taking the game over back in the day. I definitely saw Missy Elliot, she's coming out with that "I Can't Stand the Rain," so I was definitely feeling that when I was younger, you know? Yo this girl is tight, you know, she's big, she's doin her thing.
So you just released this video, and it's what drew me to find out more about you. It's kind of hit pretty hard, right? Have you gotten any feedback yet on it?
I'm getting a whole bunch of crazy feedback. Honestly I didn't think it was gonna be so big. It's almost blowing up like some crazy viral video. There's people who definitely don't understand it. But there's a lot more people who are into it, becoming fans of it. Just that whole type of music I'm gonna bring out. I mean shit, Snoop Dogg called me up and he was like, "Man Kreayshawn, the shit you're rappin about on "Gucci Gucci" is my lifestyle, I fuck with you!" I went to his house last night and he was just like hella talking to me like, "Oh my god, Kreayshawn you're it!" It's so crazy, you know?
What did you guys talk about when you hung out?
We talked about this White Mob girl thing, and how we're going to market it into its own wave, you know what I'm saying? Me, him and my sister, probably gonna work on a song in a couple days. It was really crazy. He was telling me, "You're the missing link between the white girls who all love rap music, and all the dudes who rap. You're going to make people comfortable to listen to the music, especially girls," you know? There's nothing for girls, really. It's either Nicki Minaj or nothing. So I'm just happy, I'm trying to be like the rapper Spice Girl, you know, just empower everyone.
One thing I noticed about the video you came out with, a lot of the rapping on it seems really well-written. And that's not always the case on a lot of pop-rap. Was there something you were modeling that after? What was your inspiration, how did your verses come about?
I had the mixtape, Kitties and Choppas, which is just me goofing off and freestyling, but this was really me, sitting down and working and building with the producer and everything. Taking my time with this. When I put it out, I put a whole bunch of work into it. I knew it was gonna be big, because I put a lot of work into it and so did everyone else. But I didn't know it was gonna be so crazy, like, everyone is going so crazy over that.
I read an interview with E-40 recently, and he's talking about how you can't try to write hits. You just do the best you can, and if it hits it hits. There's an irrational part, it happens by accident. This definitely seems like a track that sort of took off on its own.
Yeah, you know I was just trying to go as hard as I could on that, let everyone know who I am. And also have a [concept], fuck the labels that everyone's wearing. You can be yourself and be swagged up with just whatever you wear. Like the whole video I'm wearing outfits from goodwill, clothes I've had saved since 7th grade, you know? and everyone's like "oh my god so much swag!" you know?
Would you identify as a hip-hop head, someone who takes it seriously, and do you want to stick with hip-hop as an artist?
And -- not to sound like that but I think I'm more like a 'musical genius' -- like I listen to everything, I was listening to Witch House, I was listening to dubstep before dubstep got super-cheesy and weird, and like, I've always listened to all types of music, and every month I seek out a new genre of music to listen to. I definitely know hella shit about hip-hop and all that, because when i was younger I was listening to Living Legends and Wu Tang and stuff like that. I know about it, but you won't find me up in my room right now like "ohhh hip-hop baby!" No, I'm listening to funk-soul and Brazillian booty music.
It seems like compared to when you were younger, like when Missy was out, there were a lot more straight-up rap songs that would hit the charts, and now it seems a lot less common. Wiz Khalifa seems like the only guy who's really hitting -- your song definitely feels like a straight-up rap song, though. Do you think you're going to record more stuff like that, or...?
Man, I hope. It's really hard. Yesterday I literally had seven meetings in one day. Since this video came out, it's like everybody wants to sink their teeth into it. It's just like, I know that people want the music to change, just from other meetings I've had. They're like, "would you ever sing?" No, bitch! I'd never sing. Does it motherfuckin sound like I know how to sing? I got a raspy-ass voice. Unless you want me to sing something all soulful or something on some weird shit, maybe I could. I was in the studio with some people and we were working on some pop music, and, you know, I was just doing it to do it. I'm not trying to make different types of music, I just wouldn't want to make a pop song that I'd have to perform every night and be like, why am I doing this? I'd love to perform "Gucci Gucci" every night though, that's no problem.
Do you find that the success of this might be intimidating, to try and follow up something like that?
No, we have a whole bunch of shit coming. We've been working on an album, so I have like five, six other songs that are even harder than "Gucci Gucci." That's why it's so crazy, because it was like, "yeah this song is gonna be tight." But there's even more songs that we're gonna put videos out for that are just gonna be like, what the fuck? That's what I'm really excited for, is just to keep going. This is cool, and I'm loving the response, but it just makes me want to put more out. I wonder if the next video I put out is gonna be even better, because I know the song is even better, so....
I know you've done videos for Lil B and DB the General. Do you imagine working with local guys still? I know you've got Snoop calling you so there's gotta be some temptation to go national. Do you still hang with those guys?
I still go up to the Bay like every week and a half, filming videos, because that's how I'm making my money. 300,000 views on youtube doesn't mean $300,000 in my pocket, I'm still struggling to pay rent. I still go out to the Bay and talk with my friends, and my friends are all entertained, because they're like, "Oh my god, you hung out with Soulja Boy, what was that like?" They tell me, I really respect you coming out and filming videos with us even though you're living in LA and your dumb-ass talking right now. I don't even feel like that, I feel like, I'm going home [to the Bay], and doing what I normally do. I'm never gonna stop going to Oakland and filming and stuff, if anything I'll get a bigger and better camera to do it with.
And how long have you been in LA?
Three months now?
And what made you decide to move at that point?
I had a full scholarship to film school, and I was like, when I graduate film school I'm moving to LA, that's the little plan I had in my head. Film school didn't feel like the right decision after a year. So then I ended up dropping out, and I was like, I'm just gonna go to LA. I had people telling me "come out to LA, I know that you've got it, you've got it, come out here." I saved up some money and came out here. I was about to get a job but thankfully I ended up picking up a little video work and a couple shows, and that's been holding me over, so.
You've done some live shows already?
Just a couple weeks ago in New York I opened up for Andre Nickatina, and it was so crazy, hella fun.
Do you enjoy doing live shows, what's that like for you?
I'm still getting comfortable with it, because that show is like my fifth show. And I have a show next week, and every time I perform of course, I get more and more comfortable. Nothing intimidates me, it's not the crowd that makes me feel weird or anything, it's just like, shit, what the fuck do I do? Start dancing or something? Do I roll around on the floor and hug my microphone? I wanna go all-out, but do I really wanna go all-out? But people are so into it, I'll do a show and be like, "man that was wack," and everyone will be like, "oh my god your show was so good!" I guess it's going pretty good. I have a show on the 27th and it's me and my two sisters. It's supposed to be the first White Girl Mob show. After this video I'm sure it's gonna be pretty poppin'.
How did you end up meeting up with the guys from Odd Future?
One of them I knew because he lived in the Bay, and I knew him since before Odd Future. Left Brain was working for a clothing company he was starting up with his other friend Kumasi, and those were my homies. We all work on projects together, do film, commercials, take photos, design t-shirts and stuff like that. I've known Left Brain for years. We just shot that video randomly, we come to Fairfax and he was there. I was like "come be in my video!" He was like, "fasho." That's the homie. Jasper and Taco and all them, I met them while I was in LA here, they're chill. We all smoke weed and kick it, you know.
What do you think -- and you had to figure this question was coming -- about the controversy around their music? Particularly being a woman, a lot of their music puts some pretty negative language out there. It's common in their music and I was wondering what you think about that, do you find it easy to listen to some of Tyler's harder stuff?
You know, personally, I'm not a fan of rape, know what I'm saying. Especially as a woman, especially with my image of trying to empower women. But I mean, that's their style. You listen to rappers like Tommy Wright III and Spaceghostpurrp and all that old Memphis stuff, they talk about the same things. Running up in bitches houses, killing their baby daddy, killing them and their baby. Not to say rape is normal and I'm pretty sure Tyler's not running around raping women. That's something that happens, and people can relate to it, and you know, there's a whole bunch of victims of stuff like that, and to hear it, in a way like that ... I dunno... Rape is a touchy subject right now, I think.
Well, it should be, shouldn't it?
Yeah, I mean, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it [in their music]. Unless he was really offending people by encouraging people to "go out there and rape people, it's fun," you know? He's just using it as a storytelling thing. This is shit that happens every day. You don't know how many fucking kids and adults and men and women who go throught this in their lives, so it's like people can relate to that, they can listen to it and laugh at it, or they can listen to it and be like, I like this song...
Do you find it hard to listen to that stuff all the time? I'm sure you listen to their music, but do you think it's easy...
Well it's definitely its own style. You can't listen to something else that sounds like Odd Future when you get tired of Odd Future. You've got to pick that and that's what you pick.
So you don't find yourself thinking about how rough some of the stuff is, or...?
I like it, I listen to the craziest things -- devil music, rap, Til I Die Disciples from the valley, the 90s mixtapes... I like it, I'm happy that there's music like this for people to listen to, not to mimic, but to know that you can be different. Because then when people try to copy Lil B, it's like, come on. I'm happy that Odd Future is making crazy music like this, everyone is, of course, that's why theyre everywhere.
As someone who does music that is about being a positive female influence, do you think that, although the Odd Future guys don't intend it that way, that some of the fans that might be drawn to that kind of music, it might encourage some negative attitudes?
I think it's rebel music. When you're back in the day and you have punk music poppin' out, other people are like "don't listen to that, what the fuck?" I think it's good to listen to that, modern day rebel music. Hearing a bunch of kids rapping and trying to wear chains and trying to be flossy in a new car, they're just saying, fuck that, fuck everything, AND fuck Odd Future. I like it, it's rebel shit.
Are there any rappers right now you think are really killing it?
I keep my family close, my sister who raps, I really just listen to her, all my friends rap, I really listen to their music, because that's who I can really relate with. I don't really have any time anymore to just go on Youtube and search random people. Because that's what I would do, "Wow, this person has a hundred views? fuck yeah, this is my shit." But lately I've just been listening to my friends like the Chill Black Guys, V Nasty (my sister), Spaceghostpurrp, Speaks, just listening to all those fools lately.
Anything else you wanna say, anyone else you want to say something to?
Man, I dunno! Let me think if there's something I coulda said. I'm from Oakland, make sure you put that in there. Don't want people thinking I'm trying to rep LA because then everyone in the Bay would be hella mad. [laughs].
Conducted by telephone May 21st, 2011.
Minimally edited for clarity and relevance.
There's something great about how sample-spotting destroys illusions about the Great Producers, the way the world turned upside-down the first time you heard this Leon Haywood track. Hip-hop has always been about the one-track jack; it might be the triggered samples on "Speak Ya Clout" that make Premier a producer's producer, but you can't really dismiss a simple loop like "The Place Where We Dwell" either -- that's as much a part of the game as chops and filtering. At the end of the day, the beat on "Flamboyant" is a major part of how the track works, even if it is just a loop of the first few bars of Jim Gilstrap's "Move Me" (1976). The vocal, the flute lick, the guitar, and especially that rubbery bass part, all interlock to create a uniquely slick backdrop for L's verses, so smooth and so Harlem, a vibe that feels unique to rap music. And that's the goal, really; to find something that stands out from the rest, whatever the method.
Although T.I.'s biggest crossover successes occurred circa King and in its wake, my favorite T.I. tracks tended to be accompanied by a particular production style that seems to have vanished. It was an update of a 90s southern production style, part Mike Dean, part Suave House, horns and organs, rippling guitar lines, meat and potatoes country shit but with a contemporary rhythmic template: double-time hi-hats, more intricately syncopated drums, rolling snare fills. Often little more than a canvas for T.I.'s more lyrical-yet-introspective moments -- tracks like "Be Better than Me," "Kingofdasouth," "Long Live Da Game" -- they weren't the singles or highly-touted moments from Trap Muzik, but they were the real meat of the record, mostly courtesy producer Sanchez Holmes.
The climactic moment of this underrated pairing was "A.S.A.P.," a song that decimated Lil Flip. The beat manages to perfectly reflect the overall tone of the song: focused menace, effortless ferocity absolutely devastating in its restraint.
Chris da 5th’s flow is so unassuming, a perfect blend of relaxed earnestness that makes the way his words tumble out behind the beat feel truer for their seeming accidental-ness, falling like a natural speech pattern. He gives “conflicted about the drug game” cliches this empathic power like pretty much no one else. Even the way he phrases stuff has this sorta zen resignation: “I just hope I’m the shooter when the thunder awaits / fuck it, if I’m not then I guess it’s my time / don’t wanna die so I guess it’s divine.” (from "Rock N Roll" off of The Tonite Show tape with DJ Fresh). Its all very reassuring.