KITTY LOVE "I think that there are a billion aspects of me that people hate," says Kathryn Beckwith, a/k/a Kitty Pryde.
Can one artist ruin a genre? Perhaps, especially if it's a genre that needs continuous ruining, if by "ruining" we mean "reinvention." The history of rap is filled with alleged deaths of the genre, all followed by a thousand terror cells taking responsibility for things that they never could have done. Upstart Daytona teenage insurgent Kathryn Beckwith, currently d/b/a Kitty Pryde (at least until she gets big enough for Marvel Comics to shut her down), is certainly content to take the flak. "I did it — I destroyed it!" she says demurely, when I speak to her as she cruises through Georgia on the way to the first show on her first US tour (it comes to Brighton Music Hall August 23). Maybe the tree of rap must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of its own true believers — and maybe this teenage messiah will be the one wielding the axe.
Or maybe not — after all, Kitty Pryde's homemade rhymes and lo-fi beats are notable for, among other things, the lack of swagger that has always been rap's recurring lyrical motif, from old-school to new. "The amount of overconfidence in the rap game could, like, explode the Earth," she explains, giggling. But her explosive success, coupled with her idiosyncratic approach, has made her friends and enemies. "I think that there are a billion aspects of me that people hate," she confirms. Which has led to an out-of-nowhere rap career, but also to some of the unpleasantries of the biz, like death threats. "I get people messaging me, like, 'I'm gonna find you and kill you.' It's, you know, people who are hip-hop heads who sit on the Internet all day commiserating and saying, 'No! This girl is bad!' "
Kitty Pryde's story is one that people who care about the future of music are paying a lot of attention to: a young suburbanite writes and records raps in her bedroom, uploads them to YouTube, generates attention via message boards, and becomes an Internet celebrity in the time it takes a major-label rapper to decide which PR agency to go with. Her music is intentionally amateurish, with nervous giggles and apprehensive asides left in along with acrobatic double-tracked rhyme attacks. The result is not just engaging rap music, but a multilayered critique of the genre, all presented with a "Who, me?" blush that is both calculated and real. "I'm a pretty realistic person. It's not like I don't want a career, because I'm working hard at this, you know? But you never know. I've seen a lot of people just fade immediately and become a joke. I hope that, if I become a joke, I become a really funny joke."
Which kind of gets at why Pryde's music is so threatening — its popularity, even in a niche Internet world, is perhaps indicative of a new rap audience that needs a new narrative. "That kind of 'getting bitches' stuff, it's not real, it's not relatable. I think that there's a whole bunch of teenage girls who have crushes on boys, and they can't relate to a whole lot else in rap, because that shit just isn't meant for teenage girls."