Thursday, August 18
Better than: no other concert I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to a lot.
Maybe Kreayshawn is hip-hop’s Andy Kaufman, a high-concept satirist pulling an elaborate cultural prank with her sister V-Nasty acting as the crowd-baiting Tony Clifton. Maybe she’s misunderstood, an artist to be looked at—years from now—as a genius. Watch it through that light as Kreayshawn putters around the stage in her mom-jean shorts, muttering her quasi-lyrics while staring downward and flipping her arms up like a parking lot gate. That’s her statement on performance as an artform; that’s her stretching the boundaries. When she opens up a song—her third, “Wavey”—by meowing repeatedly and drooling out non-sequiturs, those aren’t the untended musings of a stoner; they’re the scrawlings of a modern-day Picasso.
Or maybe, and more probably, this was an exercise in how far down rock bottom can be.
Being at the Highline Ballroom last night gave me Vietnam flashbacks to her show one month ago at The Box, an endless nightmare that lasted fourteen minutes. (Sony, in signing her for so much money, raised expectations too high; not her fault as much as it is her record label’s.) Her Highline concert was, therefore, branded as her first ‘official’ show in New York, a PR spin move after her actual debut didn’t go over so well. So, fine: she swung, she missed, she took a mulligan, and now we’re trying again.
But even if the Etch-a-Sketch had been shaken, things hadn’t changed. Gone is her mystique, replaced by interviews focused around the N-word and V-Nasty’s incorrect usage of it. Kreayshawn recited a verse from her song “Left Eye” on Cosmic Kev’s radio show, never quite finding her rhythm, or any rhythm for that matter. The Red Hot Chili Peppers shot a big-budget music video with Kreayshawn in the director’s chair; it was scrapped in favor of something else. Her million-dollar record deal seems even dumber with each passing day.
Last night, the most exciting rapper to watch was the DJ, and he didn’t even have a microphone. Kreayshawn wandered as if in the halls of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, left-foot, right-foot walking. She rapped as if on training wheels: “We’ll put you in the trunk, the white girl trunk,” over an invisible snap beat—a shitty trapeze artist without a net. Her shoulders were sunken, her chin hid her neck, blasé glazed over her eyes. Kreayshawn rapped like Silkk the Shocker, talking over her doubles at a different speed than they’d been recorded. She was most comfortable while lost in the scrum that was her finale, a dance party to “Saturday Love,” joined by all of the other acts from the night as if it were a curtain call on Broadway. (When a girl threw her bra onstage, the sisters and their token Brother dove for it like it were a bouquet. V-Nasty curdled: “It’s sweaty!” Kreayshawn wore it on her head.) Did I mention that she performed “Gucci Gucci” twice in a row? No? Oh. Well, that happened.
Her set at the Box was made up of four copies of the same song: chanted chorus, tick-tock rhyme patterns, 8-bit beats. Last night, though, she performed “Pick It Up,” three minutes of dusted-off Ace of Base memories that could maybe play in MTV’s Spring Break House in 1993. She sort of groaned, “You are my obsession. You are my fantasy.” (I’d heard word that Sony is trying to turn her into a pop star rather than a one-trick rapper. Her voice and spine aren’t strong enough in person, but studio magic could make her a diva, I suppose.)
It wasn’t difficult, but V-Nasty stole the show. Her doing so wasn’t the result of being surprised by watching YouTube in person; it was because she has charisma, a quality her higher-profile sister makes up for in self-awareness. It was uncomfortable to watch as V-Nasty high-stepped around Kreayshawn’s latest hypeman—a Nick Cannon-type trying to pull off Tyler, the Creator moves with a smile. (It’s all good that V-Nasty says the N-word; there’s a black man!) She strutted at the front of the stage, smile wide and hip cocked, grasping at fans’ hands while Kreayshawn hid in the shadows. She had been one-upped, completely and totally, when V-Nasty jumped into the adoring front three rows. (I compared it to when Kanye came out during Big Sean’s show; a writer felt my thought was correct, though blasphemous.)
When Kreayshawn walked out onstage last night, I looked for improvement, any improvement. Even with the slimmest expectations, I was disappointed. (“Left Eye” is better, but not great.) She may not have a follow-up to “Gucci Gucci,” but she has put out two shitty performances in a row.
Critical bias: I try not to kick while someone’s down. I really do. I find no enjoyment in this.
Overheard: “I need another beer.”
Overheard II: “You say you’re all Kreayshawn fans, but y’all not dancing or nothing!”—the hypeman, after “High”
Overheard III: “V-Nasty is a problem.” “In a good way?” “(Uncontrollable laughter.)”
Random notebook dump: I don’t know anymore. I just don’t know.
Set list (some of these songs are unreleased, so titles might not be correct):
Pop That Dick Up
Pour It Up, Light It Up
What’s My Name (with V-Nasty)
I’m a Real Bitch (with V-Nasty)
Swaggin & Mobbin (Swobbin) (with V-Nasty)
Pick It Up
Saturday Love dance party