Review: Kreayshawn's style, substance clash at the Orpheum in Tampa
America is in no short supply of reasons to disrespect Kreayshawn.
She’s an Internet-famous, hipster-conscious, thrift-store Pixy Stick from Oakland whose biggest single is a nasal dis of all things couture. If she’s not careful, she could spend her entire career dodging bullets marked NOT ENOUGH – not original enough, not mainstream enough, not real enough, not a good enough singer, not a good enough rapper.
Not that any of these things are necessarily true. But judging by her show Thursday at the Orpheum in Ybor City, Kreayshawn still has some work to do before she can completely shut the door on such criticisms.
Returning to Tampa about a month after performing at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as part of Last Damn Show – an honest-to-goodness bid for hip-hop legitimacy – Kreayshawn half-sang, half-rapped and half-swaggered to a half-full house in Ybor City. She has a certain flair, this much is true, but as with most Internet sensations, the digital hype does not match the meatspace reality.
With all of Kreayshawn’s lyrics about class and conspicuous wealth, one is reminded of Die Antwoord, who recently played a sold-out show at a much bigger venue just up the road. They preach the gospel of zef, which is sort of a satirical embrace of low-culture ambitions, and they do it with ravelike theatricality. Kreayshawn, on the other hand, raps about having “a mouth full of gold; I’m about to throw up” on The Ruler, but does it in such disinterested fashion that it’s hard to tell just how ironic she’s trying to be. When you title a song dissing wealthy women Rich Whores, it’s pretty clear subtlety isn’t your primary concern.
Should Kreay elect to drop the art-school veneer of her digital presence, and adopt her clubbier personality across the board, it might work out to her benefit. Syrup (Breakfast), a detached trap duet with 2 Chainz, fetched a bigger reaction from the crowd than Summertime, a song that actually sounds like a potential Top 40 hit. Her laconic, monotonous flow has more in common with Waka Flocka Flame than, say, Karmin’s Amy Heidemann (who is, frankly, a much better rapper), but that’s not a bad thing; Kreay employs it to great effect on droned, zoned-out singles like Go Hard and Gucci Gucci. Her trump card may be minimalist, early’-90s throwbacks like the Salt ‘n’ Pepa-style K234ys0nixz (pronounced “Kreaysonic”) and the menacing jump-rope jam Ch00k Ch00k Tare. If you want to put Kreayshawn on your next party mixtape, this is where you should turn.
Where you don’t want to turn is any track on which Kreayshawn sings. She tried it on BFF (Bestfriend), and it was tuneless, toneless and difficult to witness. No joke: A fight broke out in the crowd during BFF (though, to be fair, it probably wasn’t over the music). “Can we address the fact that there was a girlfight during Bestfriend?" Kreay laughed afterward. “That’s really legendary.”
Notably, Kreay filled this bill with three other solo female rappers. Rye Rye, from Baltimore, is another blog-beloved pop-rapper best known for her single with Robyn, Never Will Be Mine. Though she beamed and bounced all night, and at times (Hotter) was musically captivating, Rye Rye never caught on with the crowd. For most of the set, she was straight-up rapping to a vocal track, too – seems like a waste of talent.
A few shrieks in the crowd were reserved for glammy Toronto rapper Honey Cocaine, a Tyga protégé, social media queen and the only rapper on the bill who’s actually been shot. Striding with swagger and ice draped from her neck, she promised and delivered “real-ass hip hop from a little-ass Asian bitch,” such as T.O. Gold, an elastic slice of old-school swagger paying tribute to her hometown.
All night, no one was more energetic than opening rapper Chippy Nonstop, who bumped, grinded and booty-shaked her way throughout the venue, from the backstage loft to the front row of the pit. At one point, Chippy invited fans to come onstage and tell a story about getting kicked out of a club, and two tough-looking girls accepted her challenge. One talked about having too much to drink and starting a fight with a woman who’d been running her mouth … then proceeded to drop a very awkward N-bomb. Needless to say, this girl was white.
You can’t call the night a complete hot mess, because many who were there did have a good time. But things were definitely getting warm in the club. Not all of that is Kreayshawn's fault, as so many haters would probably like it to be. But it's just another bullet she'll have to dodge on her way up the charts.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*