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Kreayshawn Fights For Her Right To Rap

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LANGUAGE ADVISORY: Videos and links in this story contain language that some readers may find objectionable.

Kreayshawn (real name: Natassia Zolot) is among the most talked-about new artists in the world of rap and hip-hop. Her song "Gucci Gucci" became a hit after she posted a video for it on YouTube this summer. She recently signed a reported million-dollar deal with Columbia Records, and is now on tour. A breakout moment in Kreayshawn's career came in July when she received a Best New Artist nomination from the MTV Video Music Awards.

In an interview with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Kreayshawn attributes her independent and "crazy" nature to having a mother who was a musician. Her mother was part of a surf-punk band called Trashwomen. Kreayshawn was born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland.

She often performs with two other rappers in the group White Girl Mob. She says they created the name before they began rapping together, and says she knows that the name is "crazy." But Kreayshawn notes that success has come to other groups with names that some may find objectionable — for example, N.W.A., also known as Niggaz with Attitude.

Kreayshawn's songs also deal with issues of race and class. She describes her song "Rich Whores" as fun, but also talks somewhat seriously about the types of women who inspired it. "There's definitely a culture of women from upper-class families who end up going to art school, or going to school in New York or San Francisco or L.A. And I'm not saying, like, they all, you know, like party-party. But I have to say a good percentage of them party. That song is just kind of a song for everyone to get wild to, for sure."

And when it comes to "Gucci Gucci," Kreayshawn says it was inspired by the cultural differences she noticed between Oakland and Los Angeles. She describes L.A. as overly materialistic, and as a place where dress and possessions divide people.

Response To Critics

Kreayshawn's lyrics and style have been pushing many people's buttons. On music blogs and elsewhere, critics question whether her persona is authentic, and some argue that she's pretending to be black to build credibility.

In response, the artist says, "I grew up in Oakland, and I've seen every race all get along, and all live on the same street and be in the same community. ... For people to say, like, someone is supposed to act a certain way because of their race or they're not supposed to act this way because of their race — I think that's racist. ... Is there a class I'm supposed to take to learn how to be white, you know? ... I'm just being me. That's why I don't even read all that stuff, because all they say is a bunch of made-up stuff, most of the time."

When it comes to language, Kreayshawn refuses to use the "n" word but liberally uses the "b" word, which people may view as equally disrespectful. She says that some people have called her a "feminist rapper." She responds by explaining that groups of girls may call each other the "b" word to jokingly get each other's attention. So, she says, she uses the word to connect with female friends and fans.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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