Kreayshawn is no stranger to controversy. The 22-year-old Oaklandite, who rocketed to fame with her 2011 viral smash "Gucci Gucci," has always had more detractors than fans. Whether she’s being celebrated as a sub-genre pioneer, trashed as a phony, championed by girls around the world, or panned by the blogosphere, one things for certain: she’s doing something worth talking about.
The Group Hug tour, a nation-wide jaunt promoting her first LP, Something ‘Bout Kreay, pulled into Irving Plaza on Thursday. The result: one big room full of excited little girls. The show was fantastic, cute, and fun, like a revival of ‘90s Girl Power with more eyeliner and swearing.
Having always found her oddly polarizing, I was interested to meet the girl who so famously called out Rick Ross for being a phony and dissed Nicki Minaj on her first mix tape. I was expecting someone brash, loud and opinionated. But who I met was soft spoken, thoughtful, and unaffected. Kreayshawn just knows her audience. The music she makes is for young girls to bounce to, not for Pitchfork to analyze. She has remained in many ways a positive figure for girls who are constantly subjected to the slutty party songs. They’re better off wearing a beanie and hoop earrings than trying to pull off Rihanna-sized shorts. You either get it or you don’t. Kreayshawn doesn’t care either way.
We spoke with her backstage her before her set on her past, her new album, and everything in-between.
What was it like growing up in East Oakland, and how “hood” was it?
It’s really ghetto, but at the same time there’s a sense of community. It’s not like everyone’s out to get each other. There’s the dangerous stuff like drugs, like pimps and hoes and gangs and stuff. If you’re trying to get into the wrong stuff it’s really easy to do that.
Growing up in that setting, do you find it insensitive when people assume you’re a faker because you’re white?
Kind of. They don’t know what I’ve seen. They see a white girl and they say, "Oh she’s rich, her dad probably bought her a car," or some ridiculous shit, and it’s just not true. A lot of people that came from Bosnia look white as hell and over there they have nothing. It’s not fair to condense people into categories like that.
You’re mom was in The Trashwomen. Was your house a punk house or did she keep it separate?
Oh yeah, it was like leopard-print everything, Elvis posters, Virgin Mary decals….
How do you think that influenced you in the long run?
It made it normal to be weird. Everything that I do is normal to me; anything that comes of weird or quirky to me is just normal.
How did the transition from directing videos to rapping take place? Did you set out to become a famous rapper?
It just kind of happened. I had been making music forever, but I never made music with the intention of getting a record deal. I never thought of that. When it happened I was just like, woah. People are always like, "So, what did you do to get to this moment?" I don’t even know. It just kind of happened.
This tour has a great line-up in that it seems to be pure you, like you basically brought your girlfriends on tour. Was this your decision? Was there any pressure to link up with a bigger act to ensure the success the tour?
My main goal was to have it be an all-girl tour. I saw Rye Rye before through watching M.I.A.’s stuff. Me and Chippy have known each other; I directed a video for her and she’s on my album. Honey Cocaine [is someone] I’ve always been a fan of. So yeah, it just happened that way.
Your album released to less-than-ecstatic reviews, but it seems to me they’re just taking it too seriously. What’s you’re response to them, and how seriously do you take your work?
It’s just for fun. It’s always been my way of having fun. I’m the one who got signed for that kind of music, and Columbia was like, "Do whatever you want." I wasn’t really making the music to impress the blog community, because then all my fans would be like, "You’re boring now." There wouldn’t be lines of thirteen-year-old girls outside my concert; it’d be hip hop-conscious guys or something.
You broke out really fast through the Internet, and through that you got a record deal. Do you feel popularity on the Internet’s sufficient enough to make it? Do people even need record deals any more?
It’s hard because on the Internet something is forgotten in 24 hours. A video might be cool and get a hundred thousand views, but in two days you’re like, "Complex tweeted my thing! Awesome!" and then, like… that’s it. But it’s all about personal levels. I’ve already exceeded my personal level of success. It’s more about how high you set your goals.
Do you feel your extremely rapid rise to fame will affect the longevity of your career?
On my own, directing and stuff, I’ve been slowly building and releasing stuff online. I don’t know what my peak is, I don’t know if my peak happened already, or if I’m in it now, you know what I’m saying?
Do you think the total accessibility of your material hurt your album sales?
Yeah, that, and they only stocked the album at Hot Topic…
Yeah, what was up with that?
I don’t know. The label thought it would be a good idea or something. It sucks because my manager, he puts out records for all kinds of Bay Area artists, and he was saying I could have gotten more records sold knowing his connections at Amoeba and Rasputin and stuff—just local stores. So it just sucks because people still hit me, like my mom doesn’t have a copy… I just got a copy. And on top of that they only stocked five every time. So people would be like, "Oh, I finally made it to Hot Topic, but it was sold out."
Fame now seems to be about dissolving the barrier between you and your fans. Does it ever get tiring, constantly sharing yourself with the world like that?
Yeah, I’ve kind of fallen back from being a constant presence because that’s how I’ve gotten myself in trouble a lot with shit-talking or beef where it’s just misunderstandings on the internet.
Is the Rick Ross beef still a thing?
No, definitely not. (laughs)
Your new album is more poppy than previous releases. This seems to be an emerging trend in rap in general. Where do you see the intersection of rap and pop laying, and is it dissolving?
For me, every song was supposed to be a popular version of a sub-genre that I like. There’s a New Orleans-inspired track, but it’s, like, the safe version. A lot of my stuff is dancier because I was working with one person at the time and he loves dance breakdowns. I’m all down for the dance breakdown until I’m on stage and I can’t dance and I’m just like, heyyyyyyyy.
With this current intersection of hipster culture, pop music, total materialism, and rap, do you think gangsta rap is even being made anymore?
It is somewhere, for sure. Maybe the definition of gangster music might have changed also, but there’s always going to be everything being recorded.
Being so West Coast, how do you feel about New York?
I’m a real California girl. It’s really hard for me; I get anxiety in the streets. But driving around right now, it’s super nice, all crispy and wintery. It kind of reminds me of San Francisco, but times a million.
Photo by Brooke Nipar