It would be easy to dismiss Kitty Pryde—scarlet-haired 19-year-old white women from Daytona Beach, Florida, would not fit anyone’s profile of “the next to blow,” and rap-singing songs about Justin Bieber (“Justin Bieber”) and an object of her affection (“Okay Cupid”) isn’t the most direct path to street cred—and it would also be wrong. Kitty doesn’t have sharp claws; her “hardest” bar, for my money, is from an obscure YouTube freestyle: “I’m Princess Fiona, I’m an ogre at night.” But she does have a sharp eye for detail—she’s earned her self-proclaimed “rap game Taylor Swift” title with precise lines about the imprecision of young love—as well as an ear for hazy, suspended-in-air beats, and a curlicue flow that approximates the ennui of being smart and young and living in Florida and is equal parts Tyler, The Creator and Lil B.
Kitty Pryde, “Okay Cupid”
She’s in New York tonight, playing her Big Apple debut. Her haha, i’m sorry EP, Bandcamp’d and Complex-premiered this week, shows off her winsome approach. “Okay Cupid” remains the draw, thanks to its pitch-perfect video, but the standout track is “Ay Shawty: THE SHREKONING”—one would think that might get its title trimmed if worked as a single—a call-and-response with male suitor Dankte over lilting SELA production that works as well as any flirtation on wax in recent memory. Pryde beseeches “The birds and bees are a mystery, teach me” in one breath and warning “Forget that you never met me/ I bet that when you do, you will regret wanting to be next to me.” Call it blush rap if you need to label it—her spin on “Call Me Maybe,” anchored by GRANT’s elongating the irresistible strings of the original, does as good a job of reproducing Carly Rae Jepsen’s crush-capturing ditty as any of the thousands of covers out in the wild.
Rap’s relationship with white girls, whether they produce or consume, will likely always be fraught: the idea that Peter Rosenberg can try Queens’ own Nicki Minaj on trumped-up charges of not being “real hip-hop” foretells far more tiresome patriarchial prattling should Kitty or Iggy Azalea or Kreayshawn or Uffie or Kay ever become a bona fide star. Rappers have always put “white girl”—cocaine—and white girls—think Kanye’s model obsession—on a pedestal, too: having white girl(s) is good; being one is bad. And it’s a damn shame, though no fault of Kitty’s own, that she blew up faster in a week via The Daily What than Na’Tee, Angel Haze, or Snow Tha Product have in their years of grinding; rap’s (and music’s) meritocratic ideal has always been at odds with capitalism’s need to sell things.
Kitty Pryde, “Ay Shawty: THE SHREKONING”
But there’s nothing inherently wrong with anyone who is not black rapping, because rap is a tool that can be used as responsibly or stupidly as any other, and there’s a chance, maybe a good one, that the next frontier of rap, as popular among white middle-class kids in central Florida (Pryde and I both fit this category; her tweet about 102 Jamz, a beloved rap/R&B station of my adolescences that has shifted to a top 40-heavy format, was not so different from some of my gripes about the station) as any genre, will come as it is produced by different, disparate voices.
Pryde could be one of them, and her aberrational provenance and youth could work in her favor as much as her considerable skill with hook-conjuring and shy smile. (Her savvy manager, one of the bloggers behind Space Age Hustle and a force behind Main Attrakionz, will help, too.) The most curiosity-piquing response to Kitty’s sudden stardom, though, came from beloved Internet denizen and wildly talented YA novelist John Green, a patron saint to hundreds of thousands of smart teens, who tweeted that he was “in love with” Pryde and Tumbld his comparison to, of all people, MC Paul Barman. One of the central tenets of Green’s fiction, which is full of fully realized teenagers who I don’t find all that different from myself and my friends, is that youth should be underestimated only at the estimator’s peril. Kitty Pryde may be one hell of a test case for that hypothesis.