For some, she's unsettling. For others, she's just the latest hot commodity. What can't be denied is the fact that Oakland-bred rapper Kreayshawn has got people talking. She's a 21-year-old high school and film academy drop out who was born in San Francisco and bred across the Bay in Oakland. But most importantly: she's white. And while she's not the first white girl rapper to hit the stage, she seems to be making the loudest statement with what she does and doesn't say about race. For young folks these days, that means a lot.
Kreayshawn jumped into the national scene earlier this year with "Gucci, Gucci," a song that quickly became a YouTube sensation and racked up over 2 million hits. In it, she's got all the braggadocio that you'd probably expect from a 21-year-old YouTube sensation: big doorknocker earrings, weed, and lots of posturing by her crew.
She's the leader of what she calls the "White Girl Mob" and an "occasional lesbian." And she's also a member of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA)*, a brash collective of young artists based mostly in California and led by Tyler, the Creator. They're known for a unique brand of what some have dubbed "horrorap" -- a label they've dismissed -- but seems the closest way to describe their outlandish presentation.
The Web's been talking, and that talk hasn't been pretty. Here are some compelling arguments we've seen for why people either love or hate Kreayshawn.
She's exploiting black culture. Meaningful discussions of white privilege aside, there's no escaping the torrid history of white artists profiting off of black music. From Elvis to Vanilla Ice and even on down the line to British singers Amy Winehouse and Adele, history's filled with black artists who've toiled over their creative projects only to see white newcomers run off with the success. Kreayshawn, critics say, is just the latest. "The novelty of a mainstream White female rapper has been nonexistent. It was only a matter of time before a vested interest arose to capitalize off such a rarity," wrote Bene Viera over at Clutch.
There's a double standard for black female rappers. Critics claim that despite all of her 'hood posturing, Kreayshawn represents one of the most insidious traits of white privilege: the inability to even notice it. Of course, the irony is that the rapper has openly talked about being white lots of times. She just doesn't think it matters. Some argue that she's got the privilege of not having to sexualize herself to get attention like many black female artists. Viera writes:
It's ironic how the White girl mimicking Black culture has been viewed as quirky, cute, and interesting in the past. But sisters who fashionably rock bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blonde streaked weaves, will inevitably be considered "ghetto" by society. It's equally problematic that every female emcee post Queen Latifah and MC Lyte who has had massive mainstream success all had to sell sex. Kreayshawn, on the other hand, is able to avoid an over sexualized image because of her whiteness.
Just another industry fetish. Time and again I've heard that Odd Future generally, and Kreayshawn in particular, encompass every record exec and mainstream music journalist's dream. They've gotten lots of mainstream attention little more than a year: New York Magazine loves them, Pitchfork can't get enough of them, and the Los Angeles Times is just as intrigued as everyone else. And their industry supporters are the same: they're endorsed by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Kanye. So yes, they're a big deal. And no one quite knows what to do with that yet. The bottom line is that they're fresh, vulgar and frighten parents.
Haters be Damned. She's entertaining. Despite the negative attention garnered by Kreayshawn and the rest of the OFWGKTA crew, they've got an undeniable cult following. That certainly includes a lot of prepubescent white hip-hop heads and the journalists who love to obsess over them. But as Los Angeles Weekly writes, it also includes a multiracial crop of ordinary consumers who enjoy enjoy their work and keep making them popular.
She's the new kid on the block. The world isn't always too kind to what's new -- especially when the new kid on the block is as brash and seemingly unapologetic as Kreayshawn. She describes herself as a "rap beast", "bitch snatcher" and "cinematographer" on her Tumblr. Of course, instantaneous alarm bells are gonna go off everywhere. But Kreayshawn's critical reception has been similar to that of her creative counterparts in Odd Future: They're a bunch of young artists who proudly sport an "I-don't-give-a-fuck-attitude."
* Correction: While there's been lots of speculation about Kreayshawn becoming an official member of Odd Future, so far she's just an affiliate.