Natassia Zolot is misunderstood. Correction; Kreayshawn is misunderstood. While flying below the radar for most of her incredibly intriguing life–a life that consisted of drug dealing, pimping and music video directing, among other things–Miss Zolot has become both darling and harlot for her recent contributions to Hip-Hop. Why can such an interesting figure draw fire so fast for getting behind the microphone instead of the camera? Surely, there are reasons. But perhaps it is time for those of us who seek only to protect and serve the Almighty Hip-Hop to take a step back and do something drastic: enjoy the art form we love being used as a voice for all.
Let me begin with a caveat. This is not a chauvinistic attempt at protecting Kreayshawn. Indeed, a large part of her appeal is that she does not seem to ever need saving. And while I do posses a White Knight Complex–which tends to skew towards those women who fall on the more hep and stylish side of the spectrum–I am not wearing the armor now. This is deeper than that. It is about race, sex, talent and our reconciliation of the differences between what artists are and what they create.
The question of race in the Kreayshawn debate is inevitable and seemingly justified. While it could be argued that any woman on the microphone takes more fire from her peers and critics, being a white woman adds an extra point of contention. Kreay is out there, in every aspect from fashion and fandom to how she approaches a track. But artists like Missy Elliot and most recently Nicki Minaj have stretched the boundaries of the bizarre so widely that Miss Zolot’s bleeding edge New Guard style seems almost moderate by comparison. This opens the door to a sticky question: What makes her different from Missy and Nicki? (Besides lyrical talent; we will address that, I promise.)
I ran track in college. My events, the 100, 200 and 400m dashes, were typically considered the realm of black athletes and those possessing a muscular build. A rail thin white boy looked quite odd next to his hulking companions in the starting blocks. What surely looked odder to some was when that same skeletal sprinter crossed the finish line ahead of those companions. While admittedly a rarer sight than I aspired, each victory seemed to mean more because I was different. It did not seem quite right, and this same kind of feeling is inspired by the rise of someone like Kreayshawn. I do not necessarily believe there is some sort of overt racism that leads to all this hate; just that odd feeling.
There is a belief that certain aspects of Miss Zolot’s life in Oakland are fake. Why does this even matter? If one were to believe all of the things that rappers claim, that person would be very disappointed upon meeting most all of them. Even if everything she said was a lie, and she grew up in the toniest of neighborhoods with everything her little heart desired, are her songs any less fun? Is her sense of style any less venomous? Rick Ross’ best work came after he was outed as a corrections officer. Surely I was not the only person surprised to know that he did not know the real Noriega. Ross plays a part. He is an actor on a stage, and he plays his role brilliantly. If Kreayshawn’s identity as a diamond in the rough dripping in city bred sex appeal is fake as well, her acting job is no less impressive.
The one place where critics have a cogent point is in their distaste for Kreayshawn’s talents on a cut. By admittedly not aspiring to be a lyricist and never claiming any sort of legitimacy, Kreay leaves herself some wiggle room in the same manner as Uffie. The Electro-hop artist frequently utilizes her apparent lack of talent but obvious success to needle her opponents. While this sort of thing assuredly irks those in the Old Guard, I say who gives a fuck? Perhaps in our all encompassing desire to make Art more important than it has to be, we somewhere along the line decided that only rappers who mean something or posses verbiage that the offspring of a dictionary and a thesaurus would kill itself to obtain are true Artists. It is as if for every Kreayshawn, 100 Pharoahe Monchs are put to death, silenced forever. One expression of Art cannot lessen another.
There is a solid contingent out there who believe that rap music must be an intelligent voice of the people to have any true value. That it must be smarter, faster and funnier than before to be any good. That all new music is terrible and just cannot compete with The Masters, except for those fortunate few who posses the talent and intelligence so highly valued to these people. While these people are the most ardent supporters of rap as Art, their position is one that most weakens the claim.
If rap is Art, than why must there be a juvenile need to decry its “weaknesses” and sugar and a desire to point only to the sophisticated? Doing so paints a picture of rap as insecure next to its artistic peers, desperately trying to hide the embarrassing and fun aspects of itself as if on a new date, while keeping its never read copies of The Economist on display to show off how fucking smart it is. Does Painting push pop-art under the rug? Are The Beatles early hits–simple songs about simple subjects–considered a damnable footnote in rock history? If rap truly wants to be taken as an Art, a childish need for acceptance must be abandoned.
In the end, the controversy surrounding Kreayshawn should inspire only one question among critics and consumers: Since when is it unusual for a pretty, captivating white girl to succeed in America?
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