Oyster #95: Kreayshawn
I tell people I'm an alien.
For Oyster #95, Jason Crombie caught up with rapper, Kreayshawn, to chat about her almost instantaneous rise to YouTube fame and how it all got started.
In the lift on my way to the Columbia Records artists' lounge in New York, I try to predict how grumpy 21-year-old Kreayshawn is going to be. Sure, she recently signed a million-dollar record deal, but she receives an almost-daily lauding/shredding from the press, and has already been interviewed about 25 times today. I'm last off the rank and I'm predicting glazed-over eyes; bland, pull-string answers; and maybe even a walk-out. Fortunately for you, dear readers, that was not the case. She's adorable! How can such a sweetheart withstand the soul-crushing, nerve-wracking, day-to-day horrors of the music industry? Well, you don't grow up broke in Oakland without developing a quick wit and a thick skin. So, whether you like Kreayshawn's music or not, it doesn't matter - she's got swag and it's pumping out of her ovaries.
Jason Crombie: Do I have to call you Kreayshawn, or can I call you Kreay?
Kreayshawn: You can call me Kreay.
What's your real name? Or should I not ask that?
Natassia. It's everywhere; it doesn't matter. I tried to keep my last name a secret but it got out there, so whatever.
Why, what's your last name?
Sounds like a wizard.
I know! I tell people I'm an alien.
So, how did it happen?
You've kind of been this instantaneous thing - like, BANG! Kreayshawn!
How'd it happen?
I've always been building up an internet presence - directing music videos for local artists?
You studied film, right?
Yeah, but I've always had content and, like I said, I'm talkative - always been on Ustream playing my organ, y'know? Weird stuff like that. So, I always had, like, little fans growing. Then, when something big happened - when we put out 'Gucci Gucci' - it was kinda like I had all these people to help me spread by word-of-mouth. Next thing you know, within four days?
You have millions of hits.
Yeah, and a deal on the table.
And this was around the end of May.
Yeah, around then.
So, almost three months ago. How has your life changed since?
It's been crazy. It's just been non-stop press and radio promo and just getting my name out there and, you know, the publicists making sure I'm talking to everyone all the time.
You must be exhausted.
You've gone from doing your own thing to, like, boom - now it's a business.
Yeah, I think that's the hardest part, because I went from making my own rules to like? Well, I'm not being told what to wear or what sort of music I have to make, or what to say, but I am being told, "You gotta be here on this day, at this time." So, it's just like having a new job.
What were you doing for a job beforehand?
I was doing indoor landscaping.
What is that?
Cutting and trimming plants - indoor plants.
And this was in Oakland?
How are your folks with all this?
My mom, she loves it; she thinks it's great, because growing up she didn't really have a chance to provide for me or really be there for me?
Why? Was she working?
Well, she was always kinda doing her own thing. When I was born she was 16, and she was in an all-girl punk band.
So, it runs in the family!
Yeah. So she was touring during my childhood, doin' her own thing. She was dating and stuff, know what I'm saying? She was in her twenties.
How old is she now? How old are you?
I'm 21. She's, like, 37.
Jesus. I could be one of your mom's buddies.
You guys could date! Wanna see some pictures?
What? No, no. I'm spoken for. Thanks, though. What was the band called that she was in?
The Trashwomen. They were, like, a fusion band - surf and punk. You gotta check them out; they're pretty awesome. [I did check them out, and Kreayshawn's mom shreds on lead guitar.]
So, coming from showbiz herself, your mom must be pretty stoked about what your doing.
Oh, yeah, she's really excited! I'm making a living for myself and I'm secure, you know what I'm saying? 'Cause she was always worried that, like, since she wasn't there to provide for me, that I'd be, fucked, y'know? I didn't graduate from high school, I dropped out of film school, and I'm getting tattoos on my hands?
You've got a tonne of tattoos. What's that? A hamburger?
Yeah, it's a hamburger with Mickey Mouse inside.
HA! That's awesome!
You've got some tattoos too. What's that one?
Oh, I got that when I was drunk. It's a zombie with boobs, and it says, "Joan Didion".
She's, like, my favourite writer. I was wasted.
It looks good, though. At least the tattoo guy wasn't drunk.
Yeah, but look at those jugs! I draw a bra on with a Sharpie sometimes.
I like the boobs.
Should I leave them?
I don't know. Anyway, that's what I did the last time I was in LA. You live in LA now, right?
Do you have brothers or sisters?
It's just you.
Yeah, I was the only mistake.
There's this great new thing happening in hip hop: there's you, there's the Odd Future guys, and it feels good; it feels new. It doesn't feel like Puffy. What's happening, and why?
I think it's because, like, radio is so contrived, y'know? You've got the 'radio songs', know what I'm sayin'? And then you've got the stuff I make, the stuff Odd Future makes, stuff Lil B makes, and the stuff that a whole bunch of artists that no one knows about make. It isn't that type of stuff?
Yeah, but it's just as good. It's what people wanna hear, and the internet has made it possible for people to seek out artists. It's not like you turn on the radio and you have to listen to what's on there.
There are more options now.
Yeah. And even though in, like, the early- to late-nineties there were some of my favourite songs - hit songs - that you'd hear on the radio back then, I can't say the same of the music today, because I'll turn on the radio and I'm like, "Fuck." You know? No offence to artists like Drake, who makes songs for radio ? but he also makes songs for off the radio that are really fuckin' good?
I know what you're saying.
To have a radio hit, you have to use this formula, you know what I'm saying? People are noticing that it's formulaic?
And they're bored.
And they're seeking different stuff.
On the internet.
Which is so easy to do now.
And I guess having a lot of hits on YouTube legitimises the artist, right? Instead of a record company promoting the hell out of whatever they want and making it the next big thing, an artist becomes popular because people actually dig what they're doing.
Yeah, like when I came to the meeting - when the deal was signed ? the 'Gucci Gucci' video already had two million views. It has more than ten million views right now?
It's actually around 13 million views.
Right, but it'd still be that high if I didn't get signed - you know what I'm saying?
I already had my vision of what I want to do. I'm just really happy that Columbia Records trusts my vision.
What about touring? What's happening there?
Well, right now I'm on a mini-tour - so I go New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and then, like, New Orleans. I actually just got back from the Midwest - I was in Oklahoma; Wichita, Kansas; Flint, Michigan?
You went to Flint?
You're the busiest person I've ever met! What do you eat?
You wanna know the stupidest, funniest thing?
I eat so much steak.
Like, every day?
That's super bad for you!
Yeah, you can't eat red meat all the time! How much steak did you have today?
Well, I ate a steak last night?
Are you gonna eat another one tonight?
I was thinking about it?
How much steak have you had in the last seven days?
Well? I can tell you this month I've had at least nine steaks? Maybe ten [it's 17 August].
That is a lot of steak. You should chill out on it for a while.
Yeah. But if you do decide to have steak while you're here in New York, go to Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn.
The best. How are your fans ? do you have groupies?
Just dudes waiting around backstage?
Dude, I get chicks!
Wait, are you...?
No, I'm not a lesbian.
But you've got girls coming after you.
Yeah. I told my hype man, who I hired two days ago, "Dude, you're gonna get so many bitches now! You have no idea, bro!"
You're hilarious. One last question: what were you driving before you signed the big deal? And what do you drive now?
Well, I wasn't driving anything at all, and now I'm driving a 1990 Buick Reatta.
A 1990 Buick Reatta.
A 1990 Buick Reatta. It cost me four grand. Found it on Craigslist.
Now over twenty million views on Youtube, here's Kreayshawn's 'Gucci, Gucci':
Words: Jason Crombie
Photography: Alessandro Zuek Simonetti