the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
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April 27 2013
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Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
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April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
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April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
I did not want to like Kitty Pryde. Honestly, I hadn’t even paid attention to her until I found out that she had posted to her Facebook “just finished my christmas song for Sufjan Stevens....................(:” Um, excuse me—what? Is that all it takes to get a high-profile collaboration these days—making a YouTube account and rapping about “drunk dials at 3:30 a.m.?”
Kitty Pryde is one of a handful of rappers who are gaining some degree of notoriety using YouTube and Vimeo as their primary outlets, leaving some hip-hop heads confused not only about their skill, but also about their level of self-awareness. One of the most successful examples of this sensation, Lil B, has established a rap career by cultivating followers on MySpace and migrating to YouTube. And then there’s Kreayshawn—you’ve undoubtedly had last summer’s “Gucci Gucci” stuck in your head at some point in your life.
Pryde is a teenager from Daytona Beach, Florida, who put some tracks on YouTube this past year and was pleasantly surprised to gain not only a substantial number of views, but also recognition from other rappers such as Danny Brown and Riff Raff. One of her early songs was called “Justin Bieber.” She writes what she knows, and, as she is a teenage girl, her lyrics come across as neither introspective nor intelligent.
To put this in perspective, Sufjan Stevens has previously collaborated with a rapper named Serengeti, and, on one of their tracks together, they use the literary term “villanelle.” By contrast, Pryde has an affinity for rhyming terms like “pouty” and “rowdy.”
Still, in some ways, the unlikely pairing of Sufjan Stevens and Kitty Pryde makes perfect sense. Stevens’ holiday songs are often covers of traditional carols or extremely personal narratives about crying on Christmas. With the dreamlike quality of her music (something like whale sonar mixed with girlish giggles), Kitty Pryde’s transparency and talk of popping Adderall pills might just fit perfectly into the cadence of Stevens’ latest album—just what you need to get through the holidays with your family. (The album, that is, not the Adderall.)
Whether Pryde will be successful, infamous, or irrelevant has yet to be determined, as she has only just started performing live and working on an album. Kreayshawn, Pryde’s white-female-rapper peer, recently came out with a full-length album, the first-week sales of which (a reported 3,900 albums) placed her at #104 on Billboard’s Top 200, despite her viral fame over a year ago.
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at CUNY, R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, who is teaching a class called Hip-Hop and Social Inequality, says, “At the risk of sounding a little bit ridiculous, Kitty Pryde seems to be more authentic than a lot of [other viral internet rappers].” Despite their differences, he says, blog-rappers share a common ground in their brand of self-marketing. “They bring their image to the table already engineered [...] saying ‘Look at me, I’m different. I have something different from what is being played on the radio.’” But as far as Kreayshawn goes, he speculates that people’s attention spans don’t last long enough to care about her album by the time it came out.
Though she does make a reference to having a “45 on my hip,” Kitty Pryde brings little pretense to the table. She does not stray far from her life as an employee at Claire’s and, before widespread circulation, carried no chip on her shoulder. In an interview with Stereogum, Pryde was asked, “Do you think you (and Kreayshawn) are killing hip hop?” The question referenced the multitude of negative comments she has received via Twitter and YouTube. The comments on her videos range broadly. There are the supportive (“LMAO at all the haters that don’t ‘get it’”), the mixed (“She can’t rap for shit but I still kinda want to marry her ...”), the gentler of the mean (“This. Shit. Sucks. Coke. Balls.”), and the meaner of the mean (examples of which I will leave to your imagination).
Pryde responded to Stereogum, “no, i don’t think either of us are killing hip hop. we’re just doing it our own way. maybe we’re killing some imaginary constraints that a few buttheads put on hip hop.”
Pryde embodies a certain amount of irreverence toward the hip-hop industry, whether intentional or not, that comes through in her collaboration with Riff Raff. On that track, “Orion’s Belt,” Pryde playfully responds to all the people who have been hate-Tweeting her, drawling, “Wee, I can rap/wee-wee, I can rap,” goading them in the sweetest way possible.
Dylan Kario,a sophomore in Columbia College and co-head of the WKCR hip-hop program Offbeat, has followed these viral hip-hop trends, but he remains mostly dubious about Kitty Pryde and Kreayshawn. He feels that these two artists especially do not have agency over their role as cogs in the musical machine, and that there are other rappers who are managing to stir up the scene more effectively.
“The people who end up being most successful at this [...] are people who can generate content in a way that people will get what is not expected,” Kario says. “Over the summer, I saw there was a new Lil B video, and I was thinking to myself, what can he possibly do? He’s done. No more. And then he’s rapping in a sunhat and a bonnet, and he’s so serious about it ... It was just pure genius.”
“A lot of musicians can’t do that, because they’re just not confident about it,” Kario says, citing Riff Raff as another artist who is successfully perpetuating a persona that verges on ridiculous but remains self-aware. Talking about “Orion’s Belt,” Kario says, “I feel like Kitty Pryde was kind of brought along as a side project to highlight Riff Raff.” Of course, there are commenters who disagree, saying that she is the best part of the song.
Lewis-McCoy has a different perspective on how Kitty Pryde fits into the trajectory of hip-hop culture. “It doesn’t appear that she is really interested in being a rapper that folks would go out and purchase albums from, but someone who is more into the creative process and happened to [start rapping],” he says. In this way, Lewis-McCoy believes, Pryde is actually moving back toward the roots of hip-hop, where people were not striving to be rappers or sell beats, but just looking to express themselves in any way they could find.
So, maybe I still don’t really like Kitty Pryde. However, as she is part of an underrepresented demographic in the hip-hop industry, I’m rooting for her to use her newfound fame wisely. You keep doing you, girl—but please start making your rhymes a little better.
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