Interview: Kreayshawn

May 22, 2012

I met Kreayshawn at the Manhattan headquarters of her label, Columbia, one year to the day after “Gucci Gucci” premiered. One of those rare songs that doubled as a conversation piece, "Gucci Gucci" was as viral as it was divisive, and it unexpectedly landed the Oakland rapper a major label deal. In what feels like a minor eternity later, her debut LP, Somethin 'Bout Kreay, is primed for release on August 14th. Yesterday, she launched the first single, "Breakfast," in a self-directed video featuring 2 Chainz. Judging by a few of the comments, some people are still mad. For Kreayshawn, that's fine: "People who don’t fuck with me are not going to like the album. If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t like your album." Her story isn't about courting popularity so much as it is about harnessing a bizarre situation. Here, she speaks on the value of talent, blowing up online, being the "misunderstood girl of the rap game" and whether she has opened doors for other women.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the sense that you fell into making music almost by accident. I’ve been making music for hella long, but I fell into doing it as a profession. It was always something I did for fun. I’d open up GarageBand and rip a beat off YouTube, smoke hella weed and freestyle to it. [After “Gucci Gucci”] it became hella serious. It was shocking to me. Now, I’ve never been so busy in my life. I’m just happy the album’s done so I can do a whole bunch of stuff and incorporate it together. I’m doing the creative direction for my album, from merch design to logo design and stuff like that, and all the videos. This past month I’ve been on ten video sets. Mine, other people’s, music videos, commercials, fucking anything. Sometimes I’m like, Do you think you have enough time to do that? But I refuse to have someone else direct my thing. I’m like, What? There’s no point! I can do this. I went to film school. We did “Gucci Gucci” without the label, and it still had that many views whether or not the label was involved. It takes a lot to trust an artist, and it takes a lot to trust in the label.

Is being good at rapping important? It’s all about how you feel about music. You have to love music. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or not. It’s your passion for music that makes it good. I have partners who can’t rap for shit on wax, but I love them as a person because they’re hilarious and I know they love music. People who love music get far. My homegirl Chippy Nonstop loves music and her music is good because she loves it. She’s hilarious. She’s like that girl who you want to be but you can’t, because you’re scared of what other people are gonna think of you. I wanna be gnarly. But I can’t. To be gnarly, you have to drink, and I don’t drink. So I’m like, trying to figure out how to be gnarly. I used to be gnarly. Doing graffiti was pretty gnarly. I used to go out all night and paint the town, straight up paint the windows of Sears and scratch shit and carve my name into shit. That’s gnarly. I’ve definitely been playing it super safe since I’ve been signed. But fuck it, I want to be gnarly!

What are your fans like? My fans are the type of person you’d look at them and you wouldn’t expect them to be a fan of me, but then they are. But you’d look at me and you wouldn’t expect me to do blah blah blah. We’re all misunderstood. I’m the misunderstood girl of the rap game, you know. My fans are the misunderstood fans of music. I see people tweet: "Oh my god, listening to my favorite artists right now: Kreayshawn, Waka Flocka and Justin Bieber." That makes sense. I listen to Waka Flocka and Justin Bieber, and I am Kreayshawn.

I think that plays out on the album: there's a pretty big split between rap songs and dance songs. I did an interview and the guy was like, "How does it feel to go from rap to pop?" And I was like, I dunno. I don’t think it’s pop. I do sing one song, though. It’s called “Best Friends.” We were in the studio messing around with the AutoTune, and they played the beat, and I’m like, Ooh, this sounds like such a good cheesy "I love my best friend" song. We were hella high, so I just went in there and freestyled the whole song. I was like, Oh my god, this song can’t go anywhere. Then I listened to it again, and I was like, This song is the best. It’s like, I’m in love with my lesbian best friend but I don’t know I’m gay yet. BFF!

What's the status of your crew White Girl Mob? Is that still a meaningful thing? White Girl Mob just started out as three friends hanging out. It wasn’t a rap group. We’ve never rapped together, we’ve never made a song, never made anything together but we kick it. But now, since this whole year’s happened, everyone is on their own thing at this point. V-Nasty did her album with Gucci Mane, and she did a mixtape on her own, too. She’s on two songs on the album. We’re all still cool, whatever. She’s just been super busy doing all that shit. Being V-Nasty is, like, really hard.

Do you work with more girls than most people? The girls that I’ve seen in the industry, most of them feel like, I’ve had my girlfriends, and they’ve all done me wrong. Everyone at this age, 22, loses all their high school friends. Everyone’s going in their own direction. It’s hard. Some of my homegirls are getting jobs at hair salons or being a cook at a restaurant, and it’s really good, but I feel like people compare themselves to what I’m doing sometimes, and it becomes, like, a jealousy thing. Like, you shouldn’t be like that.

Do you think "Gucci Gucci" helped open doors for a new generation of female rappers? I want to think that way but I don’t want to claim responsibility for none of that. I’m not responsible for anyone else’s shit but my own. You never know until you’re a part of something. I didn't know about female rappers and the internet music industry until I was a part of it. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. But maybe I somehow did. Everyone who’s getting signed right now, their buzz must come from the internet. That’s the only buzz you can have. I mean, what are you gonna do, have everyone in your hometown write a letter to Columbia, like, "We really dig this artist, here’s their demo tape!" It’s cool to see the playing field leveled out that this guy Chief Keef can be just as great as a rapper as T.I. because they’re at the same field now. But with the internet, music changes every day. It literally has to be from this week. Like the M.I.A. “Bad Girls” video? That video was so fucking legendary. That song, that video blew my mind like, and it should be played everywhere right now. For it to just happen and then, you know, everybody on to the next thing—it’s just crazy. Everything on the internet is disposable, almost. I haven’t had internet or cable at my house for two months now, so I’m like 20 years behind on music in internet time. I’ve missed the rise and fall of many artists in this two months. Shit.

Interview: Kreayshawn