09.19.12

Kreayshawn on Gays in Hip-Hop, Marijuana, and ‘Fine Bitches’

Her song “Gucci Gucci” caused a viral sensation, and now the tattooed rapper is back with her debut album, “Somethin ’Bout Kreay.” She dishes to Marlow Stern about homosexuality in hip-hop, her love of weed, and more. Plus, watch video of Kreayshawn bowling with the Beast.

Kreayshawn is in a sporting mood.

We’re hanging out in the private back room of 300 New York, the flashy bowling alley inside New York City’s Chelsea Piers. A striped bowling shirt obscures the sleeve of tattoos—which includes food and cartoon characters, among other things—lining the diminutive femcee’s spindly right arm. Perhaps it’s the unique interview environment or the fact that the Summer Olympics are in full swing, but the notorious rap instigator seems, well, rather chipper.

“There are some fine-ass girls. Some buff, fine bitches,” Kreayshawn, who has described herself as “an occasional lesbian,” says of the Olympics. “How does it feel, as a guy, to know that there’s some really hot girl that can kick your ass?” 

The 22-year-old rapper is in town to promote her debut album, Somethin ’Bout Kreay, in stores Sept. 18. After the music video for her first single, “Gucci Gucci,” went viral in 2011, notching more than 3 million views in its first three weeks on YouTube, she landed a deal with the major label Columbia Records.

“When it came out, people thought I was dissing on bourgeois bitches, and I’m not. I don’t hate on every girl who has a Gucci bag,” she says. “It’s about how you wear it. People wear name brands and think they’re better than someone. That’s where the term ‘basic bitch’ came from—all these basic bitches wearing name brands thinkin’ that it’s chill, but it’s not.” 

Kreayshawn, meanwhile, wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

Born Natassia Gail Zolot, she first lived in San Francisco before settling in East Oakland. Her mother, who is of Russian ancestry, was a member of the San Francisco punk band the Trashwomen and introduced her daughter to an eclectic array of music at an early age, everything from Afro-Cuban jazz to heavy metal and rap.

Video screenshot

‘Kreayshawn goes disco bowling.’

“When I was 11, we moved to Oakland and she was dating a DJ who also rapped and made music,” says Kreayshawn, who does not know the identity of her biological father. “My mom would rap with him, so me and my homegirl would come home from school and just freestyle about anything. We had a song called ‘Chili and Rice’ about how that was our favorite food combination.” 

When her mother moved to Canada to live with a boyfriend, 15-year-old Kreayshawn was forced to live first with her grandpa and then her aunt. During this time, she says, she did her “wild-child thing,” which included getting expelled from a few schools.

“I went to Alameda High for a couple months and wasn’t going to class. Really bad,” she says. “There was this tall, Abercrombie model chick and we picked on each other. I told her I was going to throw a watermelon at her and I guess her dad was a lawyer, so they took it as a death threat and I got expelled and sent to a continuation school.”

At 16, she moved out of her aunt’s and began living on her own, taking a job at IKEA as well as enrolling in the GED work program Job Corps. She also began selling drugs on the side to pay her rent.

“It was definitely to get by. I wasn’t trying to kingpin it out,” she says. “Selling weed and pills was easy for me to have my freedom, but that gets really constricting too because you can go to jail. I was driving a pink Mustang everywhere without any license or insurance.” 

A year into selling weed and serving as a pimp of sorts for a pair of women who advertised on Craigslist—she wrote the ads, arranged the deal, and drove them to the “meeting”—Kreayshawn began exploring cinematography. She filmed her friends getting wasted at parties and would edit the videos, giving them slick soundtracks.

“I used a Diplo song and he posted it on one of his blogs as a fan video, and I went to MadDecent.com every day to get music and shit, so when I saw my video up there I was like, ‘What the fuck! This is so amazing,’” she says. “It instantly snapped in my head that I gotta do this for real, so I saved up all the money I could, by dealing drugs, and got a camera. As soon as I got my first camera I quit all the stupid shit I was doing and got in the film game.” 

“I’m a big porn watcher, so I follow PornHub, naturally, on Twitter. I saw that PornHub tweeted [Azealia Banks’s video] so I retweeted it and she thought I was sneak-dissin’ her.”

She filmed music videos for a host of Bay Area artists, including Lil B, and her work caught the eye of Patrick Kriwanek, dean of the Berkeley Digital Film Institute, who offered her a full two-semester scholarship to study film. Kreayshawn met her future manager, Chioke “Stretch” McCoy,” after a move to Los Angeles while shooting a video for the rapper DB tha General, and it was Stretch who convinced her to embark on a rap career of her own.

Following the success of “Gucci Gucci,”  the outspoken rapper made headlines when rapper Rick Ross’s entourage came after her while she was serving as a red-carpet interviewer during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. In the past, Kreayshawn had repeatedly criticized Ross, a former prison security guard, for being “fake,”  which presumably set him and his crew off. Thankfully, she had her hulking manager there, Stretch, who leapt to her defense. Video of the incident went viral.

“I was doing interviews and he just came down and saw me, and I said some foul-ass shit I shouldn’t have said, and it caught up with me,” says Kreayshawn. “We had issues, but now it’s all good. It wouldn’t have been a fair fight.” 

She did, however, take another jab at Ross on the standout track “Left Eye” off her debut LP, with the line: “You trynna play me like a boss / but you’re faker than Rick Ross,”  but she edited the line out of the final mix.

The pint-size spitter also recently found herself embroiled in a Twitter feud with the rising rapper Azealia Banks.

“I’m a big porn watcher, so I follow PornHub, naturally, on Twitter,” she says. “I saw that PornHub tweeted [her video] so I retweeted it and she thought I was sneak-dissin’ her. We ended up working everything out, and we’re going to work on a song together soon. She’s one of the hardest spitters out in the game, period. Male or female.” 

Like Banks, Kreayshawn has spoken frankly about her sexuality, saying she has dated both women and men. Hip-hop/R&B star Frank Ocean’s recent coming out as bisexual has turned the once homophobic hip-hop genre on its head, she says.

“I think it is becoming more accepting, and with stuff like Frank Ocean coming out, it raises awareness that gay people don’t have the right to get married…That’s fucked up, and it shouldn’t be like that,” she says. “People are born gay just like people are born whatever color they are.”

When it comes to bowling, however, Kreayshawn is struggling. After hurling several gutter balls, she becomes despondent, eventually wandering over to a nearby table to munch on a platter of buffalo wings. Her manager, Stretch, is faring much better, mixing in a few strikes. When she later retrieves her bowling ball, I notice an interesting tattoo on the back of her right hand, a sexy alien-looking girl smoking weed on a beach.

“I got a prescription from my doctor that says I have to smoke weed,” she says. “When you’re hella stressed out and frazzled, it’s really hard to get creative and clear your mind. Weed can really help you clear your mind, or you’ll think of new, crazy shit while you’re high that you would’ve never thought of sober.”

She pauses, and continues: “It’s amazing that I’m not in jail for selling pot or something hella wack like that. Obviously, I’m lucky to be where I am right now, so there’s definitely an angel watching me.”