Exclusive Q and A: Kreayshawn Talks Gucci, BAPE, Debut Album
About a year ago, a relatively unknown rapper from Oakland, Calif. dropped a song that took the web by storm, gathering millions of YouTube hits in a matter of weeks. Kreayshawn’s track, “Gucci Gucci,” was a goofy, subversive send-up of brand label mania, and immediately earned her equal amounts of praise and scorn. People called her an amateur rapper, an industry fad, and a one-hit wonder. Now, she’s out to prove them all wrong. Kreayshawn’s debut major label album Somethin’ Bout Kreay will be released this September on Columbia, and the Bay Area rapper is ready to take her haters head-on. We caught up with Kreay to chat about the inspiration for the album’s title, her love of BAPE, and why nobody really seems to “get” the meaning behind her first hit.
OS: You recently teamed up with Tragik, Grimes, and Blood Diamonds on the track “Don’t Smoke My Blunt Bitch.” Are you all planning on doing more music together as L$D, or was that just a one-off deal?
K: It was just four musicians hanging out in a room who ended up making a song. We really just did it for fun. It was like, “Let’s make a song in ten minutes!” We literally said that before we made the song. Maybe if we all sit in a room together someday it’ll happen again, but it was really just for fun. It was like that for the video, too. We shot it the next day. Tragik is a legendary-ass filmer and editor, and she was able to turn it around in less than a day. It’s cool to see something like that happen.
OS: Obviously you’re more focused on the new album right now. What can you tell us about the title? It immediately brings to mind the ’98 Farrelly brothers movie¦
K: It definitely has that same type of feeling. It basically started when I was talking about how hella guys are in love with me. Well, not hella guys. But there are always guys who are trying to talk to me through a friend. They’re all like, “Hook me up with Kreay! Hook me up with Kreay!” This was in the middle of me trying to name my album about anything that I saw. I’d be like, “Look at that pole! Let’s name the album¦Really Long Pole.” So I’m thinking of album names, and my homie’s like, “Damn. There’s just something ’bout Kreay that makes the guys go wild!” And I was just like, “That’s it! Something ‘Bout Kreay. That’s it!” It came from that, but I realize there’s also just something about Kreayshawn that people either really love or really hate me. It’s never in between. It’s always something about me that either makes them hate me or makes them love me.
OS: Speaking of the polarizing effect that you have on people, a lot of listeners seem to misunderstand “Gucci Gucci.” You’ve said yourself that it’s against the trend of people defining themselves by the brands that they wear, but it also seems kind of like a satirical take on the general hip-hop obsession with name brand labels. Is there some of that in the song too?
K: Yeah! It’s funny, ’cause there are lots of discussions about that song and a lot of my homies that are in college now hit me up during the first couple months after the song first came out. They would be like, “Yo, we discussed your ‘Gucci Gucci’ song in my world art class today.” Or like, “We discussed “Gucci Gucci” in our psychology class today.” One of my homies was like, “We were discussing about how you shout out all these name brands and how you’re superficial and blah, blah, blah.” I had to break down the song for them and show them that it was actually the opposite! There are a lot of people who think that the meaning of the song is actually the opposite of the meaning of the song. They’ll be like, “All she wears is Gucci and Louis,” and I’ll be like, “No, the whole song is about how I don’t wear Gucci and Louis.” It’s always that people don’t understand me [laughs].
OS: You’ve probably already heard of Kitty Pryde, who references “Gucci Gucci” on her own track “OK Cupid.” How do you feel about influencing artists who are even younger than you?
K: It’s cool, because at first I felt like I was the youngest generation. But now, as time goes on, I realize that I’m not the youngest anymore. There are generations below me that look up to me, and it’s crazy. I never tried to do that, you know? I never wanted to have the responsibility of having people look up to me. That’s why I still tweet about whatever I want. I’ll tweet about porn. I’ll tweet about smoking weed, and all kinds of shit like that. I just want people to feel like they don’t have to look up to anyone. I want people to look up to me and think, “Wow. I want to get to know myself better, and to be more comfortable with myself.” That’s what I feel like a lot of people do. They look up to me because they’re like, “Kreayshawn doesn’t give a fuck about what people think about her. That’s what I like about her.” I want people to be like, “Well, I don’t give a fuck what people think about me either.”
OS: You do have this very strong sense of personal style, and especially visual style. Is there ever any friction between you and label executives who want to exercise creative control over your music or music videos?
K: A little bit, but not to the point where I’m being overshadowed at all. Everything has to run past me. I helped design the album art, and I approved it. I always write the treatments for all of my music videos too. The thing is that sometimes, I put my hands in so much stuff that it’s hard to keep up with everything. Sometimes people will get mad because I’m lagging on approving something. Sometimes they’ll send me stuff, and I’ll just be like, “No. This is not gonna work.” [laughs] You know? It’s good. I have a really good amount of creative control, and that’s one of the big reasons why I signed with Columbia to begin with.
OS: You’ve mentioned how it’s annoying to be pigeonholed as just a white girl rapper, when you’ve got a lot of other skills in design and film as well. Do you feel comfortable building off of that success in order to accomplish other things that you want to do in the future?
K: Yeah, ’cause I’ve definitely made a lot of good friends who are also musicians. I know that if I wanted to shoot a music video for them, they would be like, “Yes!” And the label would know they could trust me with the budget because I’ve worked with other labels’ budgets before on my own videos and on other people’s videos too. I definitely feel like I’m building an enterprise.
OS: You recently teamed up with BAPE to release a custom Baby Milo t-shirt. Do you have any other future fashion projects in the works?
K: I have a couple things, but approving the designs for clothing is literally the hardest thing for me. We’ve been going back and forth on merch forever. I really haven’t had a solid merch line at all. I made some Kreayshawn shirts back in the day, like during the first month of everything poppin’ off. I designed some that were really crappy. Other than that, merch is really hard for me to sign off on. I’m always like, “No. I don’t like that. No. I wouldn’t buy it.” I know my fans would buy it ’cause it has my name on it, but if I don’t like it, then it’s a definite “no.” I really want to do some fashion stuff, but I’ve got to find the right way. I mean, anything BAPE does is going to be wonderful. I’ve been a fan of BAPE forever. I’ve just got to find the right person to work with so we can come up with some good, solid-ass shit. ‘Cause I’m pretty damn fashionable. You know?
Pick up Somethin’ Bout Kreay when it drops on September 18, and check out the video for the latest single “Go Hard (La.La.La)” below.
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