Sorry, Haters: Kitty Pryde Is Staying a While
Flower power: Kitty keeps rapping.
"It's a huge accident."
That's how Kitty Beckwith characterizes the fact we're even talking, over chocolate tea at Tarallucci E Vino, about her unlikely success as a rapper. The alleged teenager made waves last year as Kitty Pryde, a Claire's employee from Daytona Beach who appeared, like all viral stars, out of nowhere, with a string of languid rap videos about crushes, a habit of name-dropping Danny Brown in interviews, and an all-time Twitter mastery from the self-deprecating ("Lupe Fiasco is probably anti-me") to the most glorious of non sequiturs ("What if I take this giant Nutella jar from this frat house? Will I get in trouble?"). Oh, and she crowned herself the rap game's Taylor Swift. Needless to say, keepers of the purist hip-hop flame hate this shit.
A typical comments-section smear for Kitty goes like this: "What? This rapper has no talent. I don't get it? Is it an ironic thing? Like, oh, she is really bad, but we think it's funny, so it's cool." Bloggers like Andrew Noz have pleaded that people turn their attention elsewhere, while Gawker less subtly called her an "infant rapper."
The former Ms. Pryde explains to me that she dropped the X-Men referencing surname out of fear of a Disney/Marvel lawsuit ("It wasn't like my manager or anybody told me to") for her new EP, Daisy R.A.G.E. (out January 31), even though it'll be the third record she gives away for free via Tumblr. She giggles at the idea of metal band Kittie suing her for going mononymous.
Kitty's music isn't strikingly confident. She calls her songs diaries, and how else could you describe a line like "I wrote our names on my binder, and everybody laughed at me"? That's from the viral wildfire "Okay Cupid," an overnight YouTube hit that encapsulates a generation, name-checking Frank Ocean, Bud Light Lime, drunk dials at 3:30 in the morning, a real-life lip tattoo that reads "Princess," and a (presumably older) crush who apologizes for doing a line of Adderall in front of her. Beneath the dreamy Robitussin delivery and erotic vapor ("The sky is looking kind of cloudy/So maybe you and I should stay inside and get a little rowdy"), there's a hint of menace. Rolling Stone named "Okay Cupid" the 17th best song of 2012 for good reason—there has never been anything like it.
But even for the Tumblr era, Kitty treats her miniature (but New York Times think piece–certified) stardom casually. One line from the new EP sums up her battle with artistic ambition: "I like to be the trending topic, the pound key/Even though I break out when they hound me."
When I ask her how famous she wants to be, she pauses. "It keeps going back and forth."
"The only reason I met ["Okay Cupid," A$AP Rocky, and Lil B producer] Beautiful Lou is because I was in hip-hop discussion forums and Facebook groups. I really am a fan of hip-hop, and it sucks that when I came out people would just . . . discredit me because I'm a white girl. At first, I was offended, and then I was like, what did I expect?"
She gets why XXL magazine wouldn't pick her for its 2013 Freshman Class but still bristles that the magazine's interviewer asked if she knows who French Montana is.
"I was like, are you serious?" she says, groaning. "I listen to the radio at least. Most people listen to the radio. It was literally like quizzing me. People try to test me all the time on hip-hop stuff. It's so annoying."
Kitty started rapping to make fun of an ex-boyfriend, on what became the hilariously titled debut The Lizzie McGuire Experience, an EP containing rewrites of songs by Nicki Minaj and Tyler, the Creator. Upon hearing it, "he ignored me forever, got a new girlfriend, was like 'Yeah, I was cheating on you.' God, what a douchebag. He started randomly talking to me a couple months ago like, 'When are you gonna be in California?'" she says, smirking. "'I really want to see you. I've been thinking about stuff . . . blah, blah, blah.' " Growing up, she didn't know anyone else who rapped. Last year's more attention-getting Haha I'm Sorry featured online lightning rod Riff Raff and a "Call Me Maybe" rip called "Give Me Scabies."
"The last one was pretty personal, but I still held back a little bit because there were so many people listening," Kitty says. "With a song like 'Unfollowed,' when that comes out, I'll have to hide. I hate a lot of my songs after I finish them. They're embarrassing. Like, I hate a lot of the songs I'm about to put out."
We go to Rainbow Music, up the block, where she smiles upon digging up CDs by Hurricane Chris and Collie Buddz. She's wearing an oversized T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of New Orleans rapper Juvenile. Having rewritten "Call Me Maybe" and "Your Love," she's no pop-hating purist, though she did turn down an opening slot for 3OH!3 ("I feel like that's not what I'm like at all"), and she's the first to admit her complete inability to write a catchy chorus. "Yeah, never. I'm not good at that," she says, laughing. "I don't make party music, and I'm not going for like, a major Top 40 hit or anything."
As a kid, Kitty wanted to be a dancer ("I spent all of my time in ballet. I was really, really insecure about the way I look"), and then a neuropsychiatrist. She skipped a couple of grades and was taking college courses at age 16. She already holds an associate's degree from the University of Central Florida and is studying interpersonal communication there. In person—as on Twitter and in song—she's sharp, witty, and self-aware. All rare traits for someone this young, though she still won't cop to her real age. Keeping it under wraps, she has found, has its advantages.
"Creepy guys would say, 'Oh, you suck, but I'm gonna keep watching this on mute and jerk off,'" Kitty says in her YouTube videos. "And other people would post: 'She's 15. Shut up.' And I was like: '15, cool. Let's go with that.' I think that helped me avoid the whole emphasis on sexiness, especially in rap, a lot of which is so objectifying. And it's harder to do that with a child."
Creepiness is actually her greatest subject, exploring the line between crushes (the sighing "Okay Cupid") and fandom ("Justin Bieber," her closest thing to a pop song). She insists it's not put on for effect: "I would always be obnoxious to boys online who I would have crushes on and be really embarrassingly stalkerish about it." The new EP's "Unfollowed" goes, "I know the stalker thing's a pretty bad plan/But I'm just a little girl, and I'm your number one fan."
Daisy R.A.G.E.makes it a point to get more aggressive, double-time rapping lines like "Why you wanna fucking undercut me like I'm Skrillex hair" and "Bitch, you don't know why all the boys flock to me?/Draw your eyebrows on and then talk to me" with newfound urgency.
"I think it's hilarious that I make people so mad, so it does give me energy," she says. "People are like: 'Don't answer that. It's just gonna make them go harder.' And why would I not want to make them go harder?"
Daisy R.A.G.E. is out January 31.
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