Last Saturday night, Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob played a sold-out gig in Hollywood. And according to Spin Magazine, it was an insane show.
“…the audience rushed the stage where they proceeded to completely freak out — bouncing, stripping, cooking, and flipping into the crowd — until the music was done and they were forced bodily from the limelight by the venue’s security. It was intensely electric.”
The next day, she hit the VMAs, where she was nominated (and a favorite) for the Best New Artist Award. She lost to like-minded and equally controversial Tyler, the Creator. Like Kreayshawn, Tyler and Odd Future rose to prominence through YouTube, blogs and social media, don’t fit in any radio format, and have sharply divided critics and fans.
A lot of people aren’t taking Kreayshawn and Odd Future seriously. And that’s understandable. When something comes along that is so alien to mainstream standards and tastes, it always gets dismissed.
But don’t be fooled. Their success is organic and real; not some record label’s scheme. The rise of artists like Odd Future and Kreayshawn (as well as Lil B and Waka Flocka Flame) is subversive to Hip Hop’s status quo. And it might end up being a big deal.
Rock music was once in a place very similar to Hip Hop today. By the early 90’s, it was the sound of Pop music. Corporations had co-opted the genre as its most-prized cash cow, flooding the market with self-important “Metal” bands with big hair and spandex. The vast majority of their albums were filled with random filler, with the exception of a few radio singles and music videos that look and sound absolutely ridiculous today. One after another, the major labels rolled out a new band. They ruled the airwaves with a formulaic, cookie cutter sound and absolutely zero shame. They looked the same. They sounded the same. They sucked.
And then Grunge showed up. Nirvana was not hyped as the next big thing when they released Nevermind in 1991. And it wasn’t an instant hit, either. MTV picked up the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video midyear, and its popularity steadily grew throughout the latter half of 1991 before exploding by early 1992. Things were never the same. Their sound was simple and raw. The lyrics were dark, personal and sincere. And they dressed like average people. The generation coming of age in the early 90’s could actually identify with the ethos of Grunge music and culture, and seemingly overnight Hair metal bands were the epitome of uncool.
Don’t get it twisted; this can happen again. Odd Future, Kreayshawn and Lil B are completely at odds with Hip Hop’s recent trends. Their primary influences are artists like Eminem, M.I.A. and Lil’ Wayne; unpredictable, perpetual Hip Hop outsiders who (in the case of M.I.A. and Weezy) revolutionized the genre with their use of the internet and social media to build their legends.
Did you watch the VMAs? Odd Future looked insanely out of place up there. Everyone’s decked out in designer clothers and jewelry, and these kids stroll up looking like a bunch of skater punks. Which they are. And their fans are, too. And that matters.
Especially when all someone like Kanye West wants to talk about is how not down to earth he is. And especially when all you hear on the radio these days is this electro-dance-pop-Rap shit. Hip Hop has lost its recklessness. It’s sense of danger and unpredictability. These are intangibles that were once essential to Hip Hop’s initial hold on its fans (same with the Blues, Jazz, Rock N’ Roll, Funk, etc.), and this is at the core Odd Future’s appeal.
Obviously Kreayshawn is no Lauryn Hill, and Flocka is certainly no Nas. But that’s irrelevant. What they bring to the table is a certain kind of humanity and spontaneity. Like Punk, their music feels ragged and reckless, purposefully unpolished and unrefined. Its appeal lies in its flaws; in the fact that their fans feel like they could do it too. And it’s an aesthetic that is certainly not for everyone, but you’re missing the point if it’s your primary complaint.
I can’t foretell the future, but I can’t help but feel a generational shift coming on. For better or for worse, the rules and standards regarding what “Hip Hop” is, and who a rapper can be, are changing before our very eyes.
Ballers and Gangstas are being replaced by atheist, black skaters kids, ghetto-hipster white chicks, and a tiny pants, tiny shirt-wearing thug that named his last album I’m Gay.
The times they are a-changin’…