Elvis Presley was not the originator of rock ‘n’ roll. That would be Chuck Berry. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” is said to be the first hip-hop song to top the Billboard charts (others argue it was “Rapture” by Blondie). Justin Timberlake went from the pop sensation group ‘N Sync to the soulful singing White boy with swag. My point? America has always capitalized off of Black culture. Kreayshawn, the new White girl rapper, is only the latest byproduct.
Her government name is Natassia Toloz. Complex magazine reported the 21-year-old Oakland native is rumored to have signed a $1 million dollar record deal with Sony Music. The petite, sometimes blonde, sometimes brown-haired rapper, sparked buzz with her hit single “Gucci, Gucci” totaling over 2 million views on YouTube. Like Soulja Boy, she’s young, an Internet sensation and plans on parlaying her popularity into a full-blown rap career. She has denied the rumored record deal, but admits she has been in talks with Sony Music. Whether the ink is already dry or not, she will get a deal.
Kreayshawn (pronounced Cri-shon), possibly a play on creation, is the leader of her squad White Girl Mob. Vigilantly watching her video for the first time, I thought, ‘Is it possible for me to be intrigued, humored and disgusted at the same time?’ The huge gold doorknocker earrings. Her asymmetrical bob cut. Her homegirl rocking a similar cut, but with blonde streaks. The tats, the vernacular, the black dude entourage passing her a blunt. I hoped it was satire, while knowing it wasn’t.
Backed by Odd Future, homies with Lil B and co-signed by Snoop Dogg, I knew a record label executive somewhere saw dollar signs within 30 seconds of watching her. 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. But White rappers are not some new phenomenon. Eminem is arguably one of the best lyrical emcees in the game, Black or White.
White rappers aren’t the problem. Exploitation of Black culture is.
Black culture is diverse with various meanings; and how one defines Black culture varies from individual. In the case of Kreayshawn, I’m referring to her misinterpretation of what she thinks Black culture and hip-hop is.
One could argue she is exactly what hip-hop has become–gimmicky, devoid of substance, whack, the glorification of a street life, sexualized and talentless. If that’s the case, is she appropriating Black culture or just a part of a watered down genre?
I don’t believe for one second her image is authentic. It is one derived of the stereotypical “sister girl” trope we’ve seen time and time again. Understand, I’m not arguing whether “sister girl” actually exists. I’m not even arguing that the “sister girl” is to be shunned. But Kreayshawn’s image, how she carries herself, her lyrics are all derivative of her very limited view of Black culture.
Beside her lack of creativity, the fact that she’s garbage on the mic, the inauthenticity of her persona is unnerving. A Berkley Film School dropout, allegedly from the hood, has found her niche in hip-hop. Perhaps her posturing is homage of sorts to what she grew up seeing. And this is what she believes she must imitate to gain credibility in hip-hop.
But with artists like Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and B.o.B., isn’t there now a space in hip-hop that exists for rappers to just be themselves without the need for street credibility? Or a trumped up, unoriginal “sister girl” image? I guess we haven’t reached a point where female emcees are afforded the privilege of not having to be either “hood” or sexy.
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.
It goes without saying that most people don’t take issue with talented White artists excelling in genres Blacks created. We’ve certainly supported artists like Robin Thicke, Amy Winehouse and Eminem. I’d imagine that support was gained from them creating good music and not selling a gimmick.
Clearly I’m not Kreayshawn’s targeted audience, and I’m totally opposed to spending money on a White artist who loosely drops the n-word in casual conversation. My being unimpressed, however, does not negate her following. If only she had gained a following through actual talent, opposed to capitalizing off of a genre and culture she obviously doesn’t care to understand.
Kreayshawn’s existence within hip-hop is a reflection of the very aspects we self-proclaimed hip-hop heads find problematic. She is a result of a genre that was forever changed once America realized there was a huge opportunity to capitalize off of a global influential culture. Kreayshawn, artists like her, and those who co-sign them are all culprits in the auctioning off of our culture to the highest bidder.