Kreayshawn, the 23-year-old Oakland-born rapper, video director and founding member of controversial White Girl Mob, says her favorite designer is Goodwill and listens to ‘N Sync when she’s having an emotional breakdown – which she says happens frequently. Following in the footsteps of her mother, who was in a girls’ surf punk band, she started learning the ropes from the age of three. “My mom was a musician, so I would always watch her play. She would let me play the drums or sing a song with her band, stuff like that. So it was just something that I started from when I was like, three years old and it kind of progressed throughout time, you know?” She started rapping due to a massive crush on Lil’ Bow Wow, who became the inspiration for some of her first rhymes when she was just ten years old. “There’s songs that I have of me rapping about Lil’ Bow Wow when I was like, 10 years old. I had a huge crush on him. I was pretty much destined to do rap music.”
She came up with the stage name “Kreayshawn” as a reflection of her artistic identity. “When I made the name, I was also doing film and painting. It comes from the word ‘creation’, and I just like creating stuff… Every day, I like to create something, whether I paint something, or draw something, or make a song, or DJ. That’s really what’s kept me going: my will to make things.” She became an overnight success after her video for the song “Gucci Gucci” went viral, racking up nearly three million views in the first few weeks, after which Kreayshawn was quickly scooped up by Columbia Records. “We didn’t plan on it to get that many views … We were shooting the video, and I kind of just had these ideas like, ‘Oh, let’s shoot here on Fairfax’ … ‘Oh, there’s a house party. Let’s go to the house party.’ Everything just kind of flowed nicely. It was a really fun day… A lot of [rap] music caters to wearing expensive clothing and thinking because you have something that’s more expensive, to wear your money, and stuff like that. ‘Gucci Gucci’ was just poking fun at that. And at the end of the day, I got a record deal from poking fun at something that people probably rap about to get a record deal!”
Considering she only did her first show in 2010, her ascension to one of the most buzzed-about female artists on the scene is largely attributed to her intense social media status and online following, with Billboard ranking her as No. 34 on their Social 50 chart of most dynamic online influences. Following three different mixtapes released to drum up online buzz and maintain momentum, her first full-length album, Somethin’ ‘Bout Kreay, was released for digital download in 2012, with a CD release following a few weeks later.
“Music is everything. It’s the best medicine; it’s always there for you. No matter how you feel, there’s always a song for it, whether you’re in a pissed-off mood and you want to listen to some Waka Flocka and go crazy, or you’re feeling an emotional breakdown coming on – there’s always something there. Music’s the shit, man.” Passionate about everything to do with music, she not only creates it, but directs music videos for up-and-coming local artists, as well as some heavy hitters, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “That was an amazing experience… to direct a music video with such a big budget. More recently, I’ve been concentrating on doing videos for a lot of female artists. I’ve had a little bit more time since my album came out to focus on the things that I want to do too.”
She is currently touring the country with a host of other female emcees. “I’m definitely working on a whole bunch of crazy things,” she says, “I’ve put out a couple songs since the New Year. I’ll probably put out some mixtapes or some EPs or something. Definitely put out a lot of music videos this year, dropping some exclusive somethings that I can’t talk about.” Whatever those things may be, she certainly pushes herself to continuously reach the next level of artistic achievement. “’Be better,” she insists. “Do whatever you’re doing now, just be better at it.”
Here’s the full-length, exclusive interview with Kreayshawn for The Music Issue :
Indira Cesarine: How did you get started with music?
Kreayshawn: Well, my mom was a musician, so I would always watch her play. She would let me play the drums or sing a song with her band, stuff like that. So it was just something that I started from when I was like, three years old and it kind of progressed throughout time, you know?
IC: So your mother was a musician. What kind of music did she play?
K: She was in like, a girls’ surf punk band. So it was like, surf-inspired punk music. Really different.
IC: Did you always know you wanted to be a rapper?
K: Since I was around ten years old, I did start gravitating towards rap music, listening to it a lot. So, it was just something I just started doing. There’s songs that I have of me rapping about Lil’ Bow Wow when I was like, ten years old. I had a huge crush on him. I was pretty much destined to do rap music.
IC: Is Kreayshawn your real name?
K: No, that’s the stage name I came up with. Basically, it was an artist’s name. When I made the name, I was also doing film and painting. It comes from the word “creation” and I just like creating stuff. So that name reflects that.
IC: How long have you been performing professionally?
K: Probably since like 2010, I did my first show.
IC: What inspires your work? Your songwriting, your performing and everything?
K: Just trying to be creative. Always making something now. Every day, I like to create something, whether I paint something, or draw something, or make a song, or DJ. That’s really what’s kept me going – my will to make things.
IC: That’s amazing. Is that how you direct videos as well? What kind of videos do you make?
K: I do a lot of music video for local artists. More recently, I’ve been concentrating on doing videos for a lot of female artists, so I’m excited to get back in to directing. I’ve had a little bit more time since my album came out to focus on the things that I want to do too. Just having fun with that.
IC: Have you done videos for any established artists or bands that we would know of, or are they up-and-coming?
K: Yeah, a lot of up-and-coming. I directed a video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers once, but it ended up never coming out because something happened on their side. But that was an amazing experience… to direct a music video with such a big budget and have it go so successfully, other than it not coming out (laughs). But it really was a great video. It looks really nice.
IC: That’s incredible. How old were you when you did that?
K: I was probably twenty. Yeah, twenty.
IC: That’s amazing. So what about “Gucci, Gucci” – how did you feel when that went viral? Did you do that video as well?
K: Yeah, it was a crazy situation with the video, just ’cause we didn’t plan on it to get that many views. So it was just another group of directors wanting to do a video for an up-and-coming artist. It was their first time in Los Angeles and I kind of just had these ideas like, “Oh, let’s shoot here on Fairfax.” And that day, there happened to be a whole bunch of people there, so everything just kind of flowed nicely. I was like, “Oh, there’s a house party. Let’s go to the house party.” It was all just a really relaxed shoot that ended up flowing really nicely together.
IC: So quite a bit of it was accidental?
K: Yeah, it really was. It was a fun day.
IC: What do you consider your breakthrough moment? Do you feel like you’ve had a breakthrough moment yet?
K: Definitely signing a record deal. It was like everything was becoming real. But other than that, I think I’m still waiting for a real breakthrough moment, you know?
IC: Signing a record deal’s not too bad, you know, for a 23-year-old!
K: No, it’s definitely not at all (laughs).
IC: Do you have a favorite band or musician?
K: I listen to so much different types of music. It’s really hard to have a favorite. I listen to music as much as my emotions change, my music taste changes and stuff, so… just anything new, or anything really old, I like.
IC: Who do you consider the most inspirational person in the music industry?
K: A lot of the people that I look up to are usually people who aren’t really part of the music industry. If anything they kind of shade the industry, but if it had to be someone who’s in the industry, I think about Rihanna. Just because she has to go through so much, she’s put out like, seven albums and she’s a machine when it comes to working, it’s really inspiring for me. I really can’t handle a lot of pressure, but to see somebody handle the pressure, spit it right back out at them, flip everyone off and then put out an amazing album… It’s always really cool to see that. And be a woman at the same time.
IC: Have you ever had a mentor or anything?
K: Definitely my manager helps me. Not only does he help me with getting shows, but I’m really an emotional person, so he also knows how to balance that out and give me advice, calm me down when I’m going crazy and stuff. If something happened where I couldn’t work with him, I definitely would just not work in the industry at all, probably.
IC: Wow. If you weren’t in music, what would you do?
K: Probably be a dope-ass director or painter or something.
IC: Can you remember the most difficult performance you’ve ever had?
K: I did a show in Japan, and it was for like, 80,000 people. It was huge arena and my first time in Japan. I had a really hard time, ’cause I couldn’t smoke weed out there, so I wasn’t really eating as much as I usually do. And the food was really different out there, as well. So, before I even got on stage, I was already feeling a little sick, and looking at 80,000 people was a little daunting, as well. It was really just, a crazy show, you know, you’re performing in front of 80,000 people that don’t know English (laughs), so you really have to sell yourself. You really have to be up there having the best time of your life, because that always translates. Your body language always translates. So me not feeling well and trying to have the best time ever is really intense. But it ended up being an amazing show. When I got offstage, I projectile vomited the most insane I ever did. You know, in those scary movies, when your vomit goes straight out? Like, it doesn’t fall down or anything, like (makes projectile vomiting noise). It was cool.
IC: So funny! Oh my god. Very visual. Wow. Speaking of that, how did you come up with your look? Is there any particular sort of direction or ideas you came up with to create that?
K: I just try to be as comfortable as possible. I really admire girls who get up there and create the outfits and the heels and stuff like that. I could not do a good show if I personally felt uncomfortable. So I’m usually just wearing a white t-shirt and jeans and sneakers. Or I’d just take my shoes off and perform barefoot and just have fun, interact with everybody in the crowd and try and make as much eye contact as possible.
IC: Considering that, you probably don’t have a favorite designer, do you?
K: No, probably not. Goodwill’s my favorite designer.
IC: I love that. Because everyone would think with your single titled “Gucci Gucci”, you know, you’d be really into designer clothes, and I love how you’re not.
K: No, it’s definitely the opposite.
IC: You were obviously kind of making fun of that whole thing with that song.
IC: What was your intention with that song?
K: It’s just a funny song. A lot of music like this caters to wearing expensive clothing and thinking because you have something that’s more expensive, to wear your money and stuff like that. So it was just poking fun at that. And at the end of the day, I got a record deal from poking fun at something that people probably rap about to get a record deal.
IC: Do you have a motto that you live by, or a favorite motto?
K: “Be better.” Do whatever you’re doing now, just be better at it.
IC: What is it about music that you love?
K: Music is everything. It’s the best medicine, it’s always there for you. No matter how you feel, there’s always a song for it, whether you’re in a pissed-off mood and you want to listen to some Waka Flocka and go crazy, or you’re feeling an emotional breakdown and you want to listen to ‘N Sync – there’s always something there. It’s always something fun and it’s always changing. Music’s the shit, man.
IC: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve ever produced?
K: I think “Bumpin Bumpin” is probably my favorite song, just ’cause it came from such a funny, random moment and it ended up translating into “Gucci Gucci”. It’s just… it’s a cool song.
IC: What should we be looking out for you in 2013? Do you have any projects that we’re gonna be hearing about or seeing coming up soon?
K: I’m definitely working on a whole bunch of crazy things, but I guess I’m not supposed to talk about them. But, I’m definitely working on music. I’ve put out a couple songs since the New Year. I’ll probably put out some mixtapes or some EPs or something. Definitely put out a lot of music videos this year, dropping some exclusive somethings that I can’t talk about…
Photography and interview by Indira Cesarine.