Kitty Pryde Reveals Receiving Death Threats For Using A J Dilla Beat, Opens Up About Backlash To Her Music
Exclusive: The artist also known as Kitty speaks on J Dilla, "If you want to talk about how great he was, he was great, but why are certain people not allowed to appreciate that? I don't get it."
While chatting about her upcoming release, Kitty (a/k/a Kitty Pryde) admitted she’s having a issue with labeling D.A.I.S.Y. Rage (the title is a reference to De La Soul’s “D.A.I.S.Y. Age”), set for release at the end of January. “What do you think I should call it?” she inquired, unsure if it was an EP, album, project or otherwise. Through the rise of digital media, such terms have become less defined. Her question brought up a good point: with so many forms of media now readily available, how do we begin to define all of it?
The same issue exists within the many avenues of Hip Hop which have cropped up with the rise of the Internet. It’s a problem with which Kitty is all too aware. Starting by making songs on her laptop as a joke, she found fame when her video for “Okay Cupid,” the track itself a tale of teenage longing woven atop a Beautiful Lou beat, went viral. Immediately, she became the new Rap litmus test, with some labeling her the next worst thing to ever happen to Rap. All this for a girl who admits she was just making music for fun.
Before moving on, she settled on an idea. “Mini album,” she suggested before passively laughing it off. As she’s well aware, you can attempt to label something all you like. How an audience chooses to respond to it, however, is another issue altogether.
Having seemingly dropped her Kitty Pryde moniker in recent weeks (she joked that “X-Men fans are getting mad.”), HipHopDX spoke with Kitty by phone in a candid interview that found her opening up about why she was so reluctant to reveal her age and questioning the motives behind the backlash her music has encountered. She also spoke on how her image falls directly in line with her battle against being objectified as a female in Hip Hop.
Kitty Discusses D.A.I.S.Y. Rage Retail Release, Artistic Progression
HipHopDX: Let’s start with your upcoming release D.A.I.S.Y Rage, coming out at the end of January. Is this going to be a similar length to your last release, the Haha, I’m Sorry EP?
Kitty Pryde: It’s going to be twice that long. Some of the songs on the other ones were really short. These are all full-length, actual songs.
DX: I’d noticed with your new song “Ay Shawty,” you had re-recorded parts of your original verse as it appeared on Haha, I’m Sorry. With that said, how much of the upcoming project will consist of re-recorded material and how much of it will be brand new?
Kitty Pryde: It’s all new other than that. I wasn’t even planning on writing a new verse. I just wanted to do a remix with Lakutis to put out on this tape thing, project, whatever. I wasn’t planning on making it a whole new song. When I went to record it with Lakutis, I expected him to write a verse that had something to do with the same narrative the old one did, and he wrote a completely different thing. [I heard the verse and thought,] “Well, that doesn’t fit any more,” so I re-wrote mine and we both had new verses. Everything else is totally brand new.
DX: Will Beautiful Lou be making another appearance?
Kitty Pryde: Not on this. [His tracks] didn’t go with the rest of the songs, so I didn’t use any of his this time, but we still work together a lot. We talk all the time, so he’s definitely gonna be around. I worked with Hot Sugar, of course, and Grant. He made my old “Call Me Maybe” song. Then there’s Mike Finito, who produces for Das Racist and Heems a lot.
DX: I thought that might be due to people aligning you with him through “Orion’s Belt” and “Okay Cupid” and you wanted to get away from that association, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.
Kitty Pryde: No, but it kind of does help though, because now no one can say, “She wouldn’t make any songs if Beautiful Lou didn’t produce them for her.” That’s cool, but I don’t want people to say that about him either.
DX: Can you walk me through first meeting Beautiful Lou? I heard that he had reached out to you online?
Kitty Pryde: On Tumblr, I would get into conversations about Hip Hop a lot. I would look for other Hip Hop bloggers and made friends with a bunch of them. We were all friends on Facebook, and one of them made a Facebook group where everyone would just go and talk about Hip Hop stuff. Every time someone would be Facebook friends with someone who was part of the music industry–A$AP Yams was a part of the group and other people like that–[they would get added to the group]. Someone added Lou because he produced for Lil B and A$AP Rocky. Everybody thought he did such a great job. We all kind of idolized him.
I would always post my songs in [the group] because they were kind of a joke. Everybody would just make fun of them. One day, I posted [“Justin Bieber”]. Beautiful Lou listened to it and sent me a message on Facebook. He was like, “Hey, I just heard your Justin Bieber song. You’re the future. I’m gonna send you some beats.” I was like, “Okay...I don’t know why you like this, but I’m very flattered.” I was really excited about it.
I just sat down and made “Okay Cupid” in my car when I was in traffic. I didn’t expect it to be a thing at all. I didn’t think anyone was even gonna listen to it, but it turned out cool. I just really liked his beat. It was really pretty, and I thought, “This is something I want to use before anybody else.” After that one, he sent me more, and then when Riff Raff had asked if I wanted to do a song, I said “Sure, here are some beats, pick one.” They were all Beautiful Lou beats, and [“Orion’s Belt” was] the one that he liked the most.
DX: So Riff Raff reached out to you?
Kitty Pryde: Mmm hmm.
DX: The partnership seems perfect to me. You two complement each other well.
Kitty Pryde: I just thought he was hilarious. I was such a big fan of him. The day that everyone saw that [“Okay Cupid”] video out of nowhere was the same day he sent me a message. I was so excited. I was like, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m making a song with Riff Raff.” [Laughs]
DX: What was it like shooting that video out in Daytona Beach? It sounds like you both come from a similar place when writing music. Was there a lot of common ground when you guys were shooting?
Kitty Pryde: It was all within a week. He sent me that message, and I immediately sent him beats. He wrote a verse and sent it to me. I did mine, but I didn’t feel good about it. I didn’t know what to write. I used to not really put a whole lot of thought into my music. With my old songs, I would just sit down and do them right off my head and not really worry about what they said. I wrote and recorded [my verse] in eight minutes.
Kitty Pryde: I thought it was so bad at the time. When I sent it to him, I said, “If this sucks too bad, just send it back and I’ll work on it more.” He was like “No, this is hilarious. Me and my camera crew are gonna be in Daytona tomorrow. By the way, they’re also shooting a documentary about you for Vice, just so you know.” They didn’t leave me time to think about it at all.
[That day] was really, really stressful. My car broke down on the way, and my mom was being weird. It was just the weirdest day ever, but I got there and it was really cool. Meeting Riff Raff was fun. He was not what I expected him to be.
DX: In another interview, you had described Riff Raff as a performance artist. Can you elaborate on that point? I’m really curious as to why you label him as such.
Kitty Pryde: I don’t mean that in the way that he’s an act. I don’t think he’s an actor at all. The question that people ask me the most is, “Is he for real? Is he actually as crazy as he seems on camera?” Instead of him being an act, I think that’s his mind. He looks so ridiculously outlandish all that time that I think it’s awesome. I think he looks cool. I kind of wish I could pull off the clothes that he looks cool in. A lot of people will just say, “This guy looks like a fucking idiot.” The fact that he makes people so mad is awesome to me. I wish I could make people as mad as he does. Sometimes I do, actually. [Laughs]
I just think he’s a genius, honestly. Everything he says, it works so perfectly if you just take the time to think about it, but people don’t do that because they’ll [just say], “This white dude is rapping a lot.” They don’t want to give him any credit. I think he just makes other people look dumb by showing their ignorance, and he doesn’t even mean to. The way he is in videos, saying weird stuff, that’s how he talks when he’s talking to you normally too. He doesn’t just turn it on and off. His brain just works this way.
DX: I would almost venture to say the connection works for you as well. You both encounter a fair amount of criticism, but that may come from people not approaching your work on your terms. Instead of trying to discover what you’re attempting to say, you’re denied that chance because you’re a bit outside the norm.
Kitty Pryde: I think that, yeah. [That’s] the one thing I’ve never understood since day one. There wasn’t a time when people would say, “I’m starting to figure out this girl.” At first, everybody who listened to my songs hated the shit out of me. I was kind of pissed off, because I thought, “I didn’t even want you to see this. I didn’t put this on the Internet for everyone to see. I just did it because it was a joke for my friends, and I wrote a song for a boy I liked.” It kind of sucked, but then eventually, I was like, “Wait, I have all these people angry because of something I did,” and I felt really powerful for a while.
[I encountered people saying] “White little girls are not allowed to make Hip Hop,” and “You’re not allowed to talk about stuff like this in Hip Hop.” It just doesn’t make sense. What’s the reasoning behind that? No one has ever been able to explain it to me. I really wish someone could. I don’t know what the logic is. It’s definitely the same way for Riff Raff too. There’s just certain things that people don’t want you to do in Hip Hop, and I don’t know who came up with the rules, the law. It doesn’t make sense.
I could go on forever about that because it’s so confusing for me, but maybe you could explain it to me? Can you?
Kitty Admits Fans Have Threatened Violence On Her For Using J Dilla Beats
DX: [Laughs] I can try. I think there’s a real entrenched concept of the scope of Hip Hop within parts of its audience, yet the music itself is always changing. You and Riff Raff open up that scope of who’s allowed to digest and reprocess Hip Hop. And I think some people have an issue with that because of the perception of what you two represent. Whether or not people see the value in that is a completely different issue, but I think it goes back to people’s notions of what should or shouldn’t exist within Hip Hop’s framework. Instead of watching it develop, parts of the audience feel inclined to defend it, to maintain what they believe to be the form’s essence.
Kitty Pryde: That does make sense. It’s the same people who have these notions of Hip Hop who are always preaching, “MF DOOM is the God” or “Worship Dilla” or whatever. I have songs over their beats, and people like that will send me death threats. I actually got death threats for using a J Dilla beat for a song that I didn’t even release.
If 16 year-old girls are listening to my songs, they have no idea [I’m using those beats]. They like Taylor Swift and they also like me. That happens a lot, but they’ll hear my song and be like, “Oh, produced by MF DOOM. Who’s MF DOOM?” Then they’ll hear him and that’s cool, but that makes a lot of people mad too.
DX: It sounds like for you, you approach it almost the same way some people sample songs. You like to wear your influences on your sleeve when possible to guide your audience toward them.
Kitty Pryde: Yeah. If you want to talk about how great he was, he was great. But why are certain people not allowed to appreciate that? I don’t get it.
DX; I think you speak to a great point here as well. If there’s a young female teenage audience listening to your music, you’re opening up Hip Hop to be discovered by an audience that wouldn’t necessarily approach it otherwise. You become an entry point.
Kitty Pryde: Yeah. I think some of them don’t want teenage girls to like Hip Hop anyway. [Laughs]
DX: What does “Tumblr-wave” mean to you?
Kitty Pryde: I hate that word. I hate being called that by anybody. I don’t like that it even exists, and I think the fact that people put “wave” behind anything is so dumb. It doesn’t make sense to me. “Tumblr-wave” means that my songs sound like someone’s blog posts because it’s whiny and personal and kind of invasive, something that people don’t really talk about. But instead of [labeling it] a journal or diary, they’ve chosen to call it “tumblr-wave.” That’s just infuriating.
DX: Obviously, it stems from your lyrics, which can often reference memes, social media, and Internet culture. Is that a conscious decision for you to make those references, or is that really how you communicate so it’s only natural to see them mentioned into your tracks?
Kitty Pryde: I think that’s just part of my life. I don’t want anybody to think I’m faking by talking about how I’m a gangster and a bad bitch. I’m not gonna pretend that I’m a bad bitch because I’m definitely not. I sit online and look at YouTube videos, so I guess I just reference that.
DX: Would you say this is another case of people misunderstanding your approach? That you’re inherently being honest in the only way you know how?
Kitty Pryde: Yeah. Actually, I do think that. All the time I get asked “What is your act?” I’m not an act. People from some website said, “You’re a marketing genius!” It’s weird that people can’t accept that I just say what’s on my mind. People think I’m trying super hard to relate to an audience, but it’s really just because I’m part of that audience.
Kitty Discusses Sexism, Objectivity In Hip Hop
DX: You’ve always been very mum about your age when people ask. Do you find that mystery to be essential to your music? There can tend to be a lot of objectification of female rappers, and without that clear age line to draw from—I’m talking specifically 18 or over. Did you enjoy how that mystery would almost turn against the audience that’s objectifying you? Were you unclear to leave open the possibility that people might be objectifying an underage girl?
Kitty Pryde: Yeah, that was a lot of it. Everybody knows my age pretty much now. I’m 19. I’ve been 19 the whole time I’ve had any publicity, but I didn’t want anyone to know that because I didn’t want people to talk about me like I want to be hot. I’ve seen it and been in discussion forums [when I] used to talk Hip Hop with bloggers, and a lot of it was always about how hot a girl is. They would be like, “Well, I hate listening to it, but I still do it because she’s hot. I still watch her YouTube videos because she’s hot.” I didn’t want to be part of that at all.
I didn’t want creepy old dudes hitting me up, and I also didn’t want labels and people in the industry to think that they could cash in on me and take advantage of me. I always wanted to have my parents around. I didn’t want anybody to know that I was able to sign contracts for myself. It worked for a while, but then people got really insane about it and were sifting through old files and going back far trying to find out how old I was. One day, I just said, “Please stop stalking me. I’m 19. Deal with it.” [Laughs]
I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I’m not trying to be hot. I’m not trying to have sex appeal and I’m not trying to get guys to want to fuck me. That’s not what I want, so I don’t dress like I want that and I don’t talk about stuff like that. I just don’t want to be taken as a sex object. I want to be a person, and if you want to make fun of me, then you can still make fun of me because I’m a little girl. But don’t pretend you’re not gonna make fun of me because you think I’m hot.