Don’t get me wrong white people rapping can certainly be an issue, but in my opinion, it is not THE issue. Black youth culture has long since been the cultural capital of America and hip-hop is its language.
by Xan West
What do you get when you cross a Bay Area cultural tendency to confuse overcoming past racial injustice by ignoring its painful effects in the present, a musical genre where young people can rise to superstarmegawealth before they’ve had many complicated thoughts, and a nation with a penchant for producing stereotypical renditions of oppressed communities while rendering them helpless and/or completely decimated. You get Oakland’s overnight viral white rap star Kreayshawn.
Kreayshawn, in her own words, is no cultural appropriator and not just an image. In fact, she claims East Oakland’s “Murder Dubs” and says she grew up so hard she got a bonafide ghetto pass. And while she did apparently grow up in the flatland and go to Oakland Public Schools, if that’s the measure of street cred, well, Tom Hanks is gangsta (He went to Skyline).
But to me, who Kreayshawn really is, matters much less than how she is who she is (or wants to be). It’s not a question of is it ok for white people to rap, as much as why is white America so obsessed with black-people-love-me white people who are unaware of their white privilege on every level?
Don’t get me wrong white people rapping can certainly be an issue, but in my opinion, it is not THE issue. Black youth culture has long since been the cultural capital of America and hip-hop is its language. However, most true hip-hop heads aren’t still having the argument can white people contribute to the rap game. Not since Brass Monkey. Not since MC Serch produced Illmatic. Not since Eminem hog-tied the alphabet. The real problem: Kreayshawn ain’t any of the above. Kreayshawn chooses to use the platform she has been given as white-girl rapper to further perpetuate white supremacy. What’s that saying: It’s better to be thought of as invested in white privilege than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. When I had the opportunity to talk with the hipster-hopper; she removed all doubt.
Perhaps the most insidious manifestation of white privilege its sheer lack of self- acknowledgement; and Kreayshawn is no exception. When I asked her if she thought being white has helped or hurt her career, she quickly said, “Honestly, I think it’s hurt it”. While half my block is more talented than Kreayshawn, she insists upon imagining herself a “rap beast” who has hustled her way to the top, seemingly entirely unaware that it is tiny white girl hip-pop swagger that she’s selling. In fact, of all the pro arguments I’ve heard for her, lyricism has never come up. Let’s keep it one hunnit: she garbage on the mic and the only thing less complex than Kreayshawn’s 1-2, A-B flow style is her thought process.
While selling bootlegged hood swag, she plays by the boys rules of misogyny and sexualization of women in hip-hop. Sadly, in this case she’s pimpin’ her own self: vacillating between ghetto misogynist with bad bitches and “no raging lesbian”. She’s doubled-down for a sexualized misogynist, how ya like me now? As a femme myself, I find this identification of a mythological “raging lesbian” stereotypical, simplistic, revolting and a product of her own internalized homophobia.
Further evidence that Kreayshawn is deeply immersed in her white privilege is her wielding the Bay Area white supremacist tendency to assume an engagement in a deeper race conversation, through the usage of “post-racial” rhetoric. She exploits the image of the flower-child Bay Area to justify her own bad behavior. A couple of weeks back, while visiting New York, Kreayshawn tweeted : “I’m from somewhere race in music don’t matter”. She continued this thought when we chopped it up: “I’m an artist above all. When I put out music it’s not Black music; it’s just art to me”. Kreayshawn is completely unaware of the legacy of people like Elvis, Pete Seeger, the Rolling Stones and Amy Winehouse; who have made millions off making black music more white palatable for the masses.
But contrast that with someone like Eminem, who has many faults, yet on this particular topic has been known to say things like “you do the math/ if Shady was Black/ he wouldn’t sell half”. While Slim Shady gets that his blue-eyed soul got him into Middle America, Kreayshawn’s lack of understanding for how she arrived at her own prominence is beyond tired.
“People are ignorant. It makes me sad because I don’t think there should be such a thing as acting a race. Any race and any person in this world no matter what gender or color or sexuality should be able to do whatever you want,” she says. “Just like Obama’s president. No one is sayin’ Obama’s actin’ white for bein’ President. It makes me sad to hear people say things like that because you can’t put people’s actions into a gender or a race because it’s like stereotyping”.
This statement is so outta pocket it shouldn’t need a breakdown, but here’s a humble attempt. Rapper is not an elected office. President is not a cultural expression. Stereotyping isn’t a benign omnidirectional act; it is something people with power do to overlook, group and ultimately exclude those with less power. Many people of oppressed races, genders and sexualities are in fact not able to “do whatever they want”: hip-hop is actually an expression of this oppression as much her corny kumbaya is an expression of her white privilege. Once again, she uses her privilege as a cover for white supremacy, dreaming of a world where everyone has the access she does, instead of acknowledging the world as it is for all her alleged hood posse.
Perhaps most controversially she has given several interviews in which she claims she doesn’t use the n-word, yet YouTube and her own website are full of videos of her and her friends using the word. Perhaps the most offensive is a video clip, apparently filmed and edited by her, which portrays White Girl Mob bandmate V-Nasty shouting down a Black man on Telegraph yelling, “Aye, nigga… Nigga what? … On my mama, nigga!” According to Kreayshawn, this is the Oakland she grew up in where “black people call white people nigga, white people call black people nigga… and it’s all good,” she told Complex Magazine. As if this wasn’t enough, Kreayshawn has found Black males on the paperchase to support her claim, including her manager and Oakland rapper (and labelmate), Mistah FAB. While I am never one to argue authenticity or that people ain’t keepn it one hunnit, am I the only one that is starting to believe she is from Oakland, Mars? I’m jus sayin’, in my 23 years in Oakland I ain’t never seen it go down like that and if she bring it to my neighborhood in Oakland, well, I’ll just say, I won’t be able to protect her.
Sadly, in some ways Kreayshawn’s lack of understanding of her white privilege does represent an Oakland I’ve seen. An Oakland where people of color’s most accessible hustle is through white coat tails and therefore, making white supremacy legit. But an Oakland where white people is callin niggas, niggas! You trippin’, Kreay Kreay.
Xan West is currently the senior producer of Childhood Matters and Nuestros Niños (Spanish language), two parenting radio programs that air throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. A proud Oakland native, Xan has lived in the Foster-Hoover area (more familiarly referred to as “Ghost Town”) of West Oakland for the past six years. She has worked in community organizing in West Oakland with organizations such as Critical Resistance and People’s Grocery.