Breakfast with Kreayshawn: Pancakes & a Side of Girl Power
Having breakfast with Kreayshawn is a little like taking your rambunctious niece out while her parents are away. She orders bacon with a side of “pee and poo.” She wants a pancake with a sad face on it. She needs orange juice, milk, chocolate milk, water, and coffee. Her posse includes Lady Tragik, her friend and collaborator, Isabel, her roommate and sometimes assistant (whose Twitter profile simply says, “sweet hawaiian ganga baby”) and a shaggy haired pre-teen named Baby Scumbag, whom Kreayshawn claims is “her son.”
Baby Scumbag is not actually her son, as it turns out, but 12-year-old Steven Fernandez, a semi-professional skateboarder who hangs with Kreayshawn’s crew. He’s shown up late for our breakfast at IHOP in West Hollywood — though, let’s be honest, we had no idea he was coming — and so we’ve had to rearrange the seating. It’s summer, three months before the release of Kreayshawn’s album, Somethin ‘Bout Kreay (out this week), and IHOP has kindly volunteered to host us for the day. On the sidelines is Stretch, Kreayshawn’s towering manager, who keeps the 22-year-old Oakland rapper in check (sort of).
It was Tumblr’s idea to film at IHOP (you know, because Kreayshawn’s video at the time was called “Breakfast”). As we’re trying to get a shot of Kreayshawn walking down Sunset Boulevard, Stretch informs us that the whole thing is a cliché. We’ll give him that. But the biggest challenge we’re having today is not the set, or even the 12-year-old whose phone won’t stop ringing — but getting Kreayshawn to focus.
An hour inside a restaurant booth at IHOP with Kreayshawn (real name: Natassia Zolot) goes something like this:
So, Kreayshawn. Where do you get your inspiration?
(giggling with her friends) Umm … bacon.
What do you guys do for fun?
(giggling again) Smoke crack.
Tell us about “Breakfast” — the video.
I just thought it would be cool to play off of like slang, and how money is like bread, and juice is like power, and syrup is like the drug of choice nowadays. So it can either be like a sweet happy song that you wake up to, or a trap [drug] song.
Is it hard being a female in this industry?
It’s like crazy, cause you gotta drink a lot of fluids. You gotta drink your orange juice, your milk, your chocolate milk, your orange sodas. It’s like a variety. There’s a variety of female rappers, there’s a variety of juices.
As they say: It goes on like that. But before the cameras, before the breakfast, before the joint smoked outside, Kreayshawn is articulate, if a bit shy. She doesn’t use her baby voice to make a point. She speaks in sentences (mostly). She says she thinks LA is weird. She hasn’t eaten all day.
Once the camera is turned on, it’s not clear whether this is all part of Kreayshawn’s act — she likes to say she suffers from “Don’t Give a Fuck” syndrome — or if this is simply a different side of Kreayshawn, ADD and toddler-aged humor in full view. Perhaps it’s the same version of Kreayshawn who took a shit in front of a GQ reporter.
What is clear is that we’ve misjudged this setup: We’d come to IHOP wanting to do a piece about the rise of female rap artists, and those like Kreayshawn, who — whether you love her or hate her — have used the internet to rise up the ranks, amid an industry that typically shuns women (or forces them to be sex kittens). For the last few weeks, we’ve been making lists: Rye Rye, Azealia Banks, Brianna Perry, K. Flay, Kitty Pryde, Kilo Kish, and so on — the number of young female rappers tearing through the Web is enough to prompt flowcharts to keep track of them all. (As well as more than a few trend stories.)
“On paper, nobody would say, ‘Hey, let’s sign Kreayshawn,’” says Kreay’s manager, Stretch (real name: Chioke McCoy). “But online, the fans didn’t give a fuck. For you to get where these other female rappers started out — it took money, mission and a lot of power. You couldn’t just make a video and put it online.”
He’s talking about the female rappers of yore: the Queen Latifas, the Lil Kims, Da Brat, Eve, Missy Elliot — the “Ladies’ Night”-era women, and those before them, who pretty much ascended against all odds. Or they had a man by their side to help them along. Those are the rappers who — until Nicki Minaj appeared on the scene — had left a void rife for the filling. And it’s where artists like Kreayshawn have rushed in to flood the gap; in her case, it was the moment she uploaded her fuck-you anthem against brand-clothing worship, “Gucci Gucci.”
That song featured 22-year-old Kreay and her girl mob sauntering down Rodeo Drive, singing “Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada / Basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” It clocked three million hits in roughly three weeks on YouTube and inked Kreayshawn a seven-figure record deal. In a matter of months, she went from high-school dropout sleeping on friends’ couches to Hollywood homeowner with a record contract. So, naturally, everyone wanted to know: Was Kreayshawn rap’s Great White Hope? Had she managed to turn her particular brand of Girl Power into a mainstream act?
For whatever music critics or hip hop purists say about her rap cred — white girl can’t rap; white girl can’t possibly understand what it means to rap — her songs are catchy, and it’s clear she knows a good beat. When Stretch met her, Kreayshawn was directing a video for East Oakland gangster rapper DB Tha General. She had been living on her own since she was 15, after her mom, part of girl punk band The Trashwomen, had moved to Canada without her. She’d been selling drugs, but she’d also been making beats in her basement and teaching herself to edit. “This artist at the time was the most ghetto rapper in the universe, and here was this little white girl directing,” Stretch says of meeting Kreayshawn on the set of DB’s “Guilty by Association.” “It was just like, ‘Wow.’ I listened to her, and I thought, ‘People are just going to want to know more about this girl.’”
He was right, of course. And yet, for those who actually want to find out more about her in “real life,” it’s not quite so simple. Sure, she’s not afraid to stuff her face with bacon in public. She’ll text all through your interview (though it’s hard with diamond-encrusted nail tips). She has a virtual live stream of photos to her Instagram, and there are plenty of pre-Kreayshawn-fame web videos you can watch all over the internet. She’s even game when you ask if you can put a camera guy in her car.
But will she answer a single question?
We ask her about her mom, who put her on her first record when she was five. Was she an inspiration?
“Yeah, you know, watching my mom be in a band with hella girls, and like how they would like just always be together and stuff,” says Kreayshawn cryptically.
We ask her again if she thinks it’s harder for women in this industry — if they have to act a certain way, look a certain way, live up to a certain standard. “I think, like, it’s harder cause people expect different things from women,” she says.
Now, whose fault does she think that is? we ask.
“I think the media just creates a lot of the animosity,” she answers. “I don’t think the artists really want to be that way, or hate any other artist. I think the media just makes it that way. They try to just ask awkward questions and stuff, or make people say things by accident, you know? Fuck that shit.” Now we’re talking. We are actually, at this point, talking!
For what it’s worth, Stretch agrees. And he’s been representing rappers for 13 years. “The media tends to try to pit women against each other,” he says, not naive to the fact that Kreayshawn has had more than one girl-on-girl rap beef in the news. “In an interview, they’ll ask, ‘How do you feel about so and so?’ I’ve never in my life had them ask that to a male.”
He’s right, and yet Kreayshawn plays right into it. Or maybe it’s all part of the act: one part voyeur, reared on the web, two parts actress, giving the public what she knows they want. She’ll rail on the media for pitting women against each other, then diss Lana Del Rey in interviews. She’ll hate on Nicki Minaj for being “plastic and fake,” and yet she’ll revert to baby talk when you try to ask her serious questions. She’ll preach “Girl Power,” then scoff when you ask if she’s a feminist. She’ll rap about “going hard” and her “don’t give a fuck” attitude, but she’ll inquire guardedly at the start of an interview, “So what are you going to ask me?”
And then finally, five minutes before she has to leave, she’ll give you what you want.
“I used to direct, shoot and edit my music videos, like all myself — and make music, and do graphic design, and DJ, like it was just normal,” she says. “I never like made music and thought like, one day I’ll get a record deal. That never crossed my mind.”
“It’s just crazy,” she adds. “Cause, like, it was just all for fun.”
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