Two new Internet stars were born this month. Operating under the monikers Kitty Pryde and Kilo Kish, the two young women employ a sweet, sing-songy talk-rap style over synthy, provocative beats, and have gained their momentum more through Tumblr reblogs than YouTube views. Both started their music careers on a whim: Kitty Pryde began rapping to entertain her friends; Kilo Kish would drop the odd rhyme or two over beers with her rapper roommate. “For the most part, my general attitude is that it’s just like, it’s funny. It’s fun for me. It’s a joke,” says Pryde. Kish may agree, as she says in an interview with Vibe: “I’m still just kidding around which is kind of the point.”
Their straightforward, intimate rhymes about everyday “girl” topics—feelings, relationships—are insightful and familiar. Pryde and Kish quickly garnered interest from young producers affiliated with champions of the DIY rap scene, and soon began putting out music that caught the eyes of critics, and gained them rapidly growing fanbases online.
While they both share similar origin stories and possess a penchant for rapping over ambient, trippy production, Kish is older, and her maturity is reflected in her songs. She’s helped along by the finesse and direction of The Super 3, a production duo associated with Odd Future, the popular L.A. hip hop collective that’s enjoyed a meteoric ascent from internet to mainstream fame over the past two years. Kish often feels at arm’s length from her music, and her online presence is more guarded than Pryde, who doesn’t seem to filter much. Kish answers fans’ questions and posts images of aspirational home décor. Pryde writes about her family, her boyfriends, her mall job, her insecurities, and agrees with Internet haters’ comments about herself.
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Growing up in the blog age forces young upstarts like Pryde and Kish to operate in a constant mode of reflexive evaluation; both are self-deprecating, quick to point out that they don’t take themselves quite as seriously as everyone else does. In response to a long analysis a fan posted of her song “Justin Bieber,” Pryde writes: “mostly I was just talking about myself literally being obsessed with justin bieber but i mean this is cool too.” For Pryde—and Kish, too—it’s just a good time.
Who is she? Real name Kathryn Beckwith, a Daytona Beach, Florida-based girl rapper who works at Claire’s Accessories, has a boyfriend named Kevin and a celebrity crush on rapper Danny Brown. She named herself after an X-Men character, because “the X-Men kick ass.”
Age: Pryde is coy about her age, feeding into a fetishized “but is she legal?” debate. But a look back through her Tumblr reveals a post celebrating her 17th birthday, and she attended her high school prom in April.
Rise to Internet fame: Kitty Pryde first started messing around with rapping a year-and-a-half ago, after getting a MacBook for Christmas, she says (although there are videos on her YouTube account dating back to 2010). “My ex-boyfriend was making me mad so a few of my friends and I started freestyling over Nicki Minaj beats (badly) about how much we hated him. Long story short, we recorded it on Garageband just because it was funny,” she said in an interview.
After posting the song on her Tumblr, Pryde began to get positive feedback about her “potential” from fans who stumbled upon her page and fellow young producers, which encouraged her to keep experimenting and recording, “just for the sake of making [her] friends laugh.” Eventually she caught the attention of Texas producer Beautiful Lou, who has worked with prolific Internet rapper Lil B and the Harlem-bred A$AP Rocky. Given that Pryde’s hip-hop education is more rooted in the works of Lil B than in Rakim or even Jay-Z, the two’s collaboration worked out well. The pair started making music, and Pryde released her EP The Lizzie McGuire Experience late last year to little immediate attention.
Produced by Lou, “Okay Cupid” is the mesmerizing, warped track that ultimately got the attention of the New York Times and nearly everyone else on the Internet. Released in early May, the accompanying video that catapulted her to fame features Pryde lounging on her bed, surfing the web on her MacBook covered in stickers, her friends drinking beer in the background. Titanic is on the TV, and they look at photos of her rapper crush Danny Brown online before browsing a yard sale.
A quick look through Twitter mentions and Tumblr comments indicate that listeners haven’t made up their minds about Pryde: “Cant tell if this is good or not,” one post reads. Another blogger gives up his faith in music. “So much discussion over a song I wrote in traffic to impress a boy,” Pryde blogged about “Okay Cupid.” “It’s like making a grilled cheese and listening to hundreds of thousands of people bitch about how it isn’t gourmet.”
On the Internet, cries of disgruntled listeners may be a sign of success.
Pryde is working on releasing another four-song EP, produced entirely by Beautiful Lou, and will soon unveil a track in collaboration with rapper Riff Raff.
Her Sound: Pryde is like Lil B’s coherent female cousin; she raps over Odd Future beats (on “he”) and rhymes in dreamy, sometimes uneven cadences that stop just short of stoner-rap territory. She has a breathy, girly voice that she dials up on some tracks (“Hood Friday,” “sickfit”) and can leave the listener feeling unsettled. Pryde’s soft-spoken raps feel like a little girl whispering her secrets in your ear, but there’s a disconnect when you realize she’s talking about her relentless crushes on bad boys who do drugs. Is this for real?
An initial listen of Pryde’s “Okay Cupid” can be jarring—her syllables are drawn out and meandering. If you’re thinking, “What the heck is this?” visit her Tumblr; Pryde’s own blog banner proudly reassures the visitor that she’s totally aware: “My music is bad.”
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But it isn’t, really. Lou’s beats are hypnotizing and ethereal, and Pryde’s voice navigates them well. Her flow is weird and disjointed at times, but she succeeds in her clever and often complicated rhyme constructions. She giggles and laughs at herself, her lyrics reading like confessions from her diary. Kanye West changed the way the hip hop game could be played by giving suburban upbringing legitimacy, inspiring backpack rappers everywhere that just because you couldn’t rap about selling cocaine in the streets, it didn’t mean your own experience wasn’t something worth rapping about. Pryde is taking it a step further: Why not have teenage girls rapping about crushes and lazy summers? What’s more hip hop than “keeping it real,” anyway?
Notable tracks: “Okay Cupid” has gotten Pryde the most attention, but it’s not nearly her most clever. “Thanks Kathryn Obvious” stands out in its utter rejection of braggadocio and self-congratulation, which have been all-important requisites of anyone in the rap game. Instead, Pryde acknowledges her privilege and is quick to lay to rest any notion that she might take herself seriously:
“I’ve been hot since grade school soccer/ When the coach tried to put me on the bench/ I fuckin’ shot her!/ Nah, just kidding I’m a lawyer’s daughter/ I’m not a badass/ I’m not awesome/ I’m a little ginger what some bubbles I’m not blossom/ On the V.I.P list I’m at the bottom”
Rather, she raps about what she knows:
“I’ve been hiding in my closet all summer and autumn/ Watching Jimmy Neutron/ Dying of boredom/ And all of my friends hate me, because I ignored them”
On “Okay Cupid,” Pryde deftly plays out a classic scene of hopelessly falling for the bad boy, of unrequited loves and teenage awkwardness. Her drawn-out syllables emphasize her attempt to seem nonchalant in front of her crush, who she feels is cooler than her: “You apologize to me when I see you do a line, but like/I’m open-minded and it’s fine/ I don’t do the shit, but I don’t really mind it.” Her earnest delivery of such lines and the peek into her interiority elsewhere in the song help “Okay Cupid” feel a lot like a scene from a play. Pryde’s more talented than she probably admits to herself; the self-awareness and acuteness with which she describes teenage crushes is more impressive than any Taylor Swift pop song out there.
Will she last? Will she want to?
On her blog, Pryde seems to be mostly in awe and counting her lucky stars:
“i can’t believe how fun and exciting my life is getting just because i’m doing fun music stuff, i never understood why anyone would actually want to be famous or successful for music because it seems so shallow and unstable but now even though i still can’t picture myself getting famous or anything, i could see why someone would want it. i am so so grateful to beautiful lou for helping me have so much fun, without him i would never have gotten to do any of this cool stuff. i’m also grateful to my main men walker and stewart who for some reason think i can do anything and are supporting the hell out of me.”
For now she’s still holding on to her job at Claire’s Accessories.
Who? Real name Lakisha Robinson. Kish, originally from Orlando, Fla., comprises 1/3 of hip-hop crew Kool Kats Klub, and is a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Her rap name is a play off Atlanta rapper Kilo Ali.
Rise to Internet fame: Kish started off rapping as a joke; her old roommate, rapper Smash Simmons, had a home studio set up in their apartment where she would sometimes mess around and drop rhymes, the Village Voice reports. After meeting at a party, Kish showed Simmons’ friend Matt Martians of The Super 3 (the psychedelic hip-hop duo with Hal Williams, also known as The Jet Age of Tomorrow) a few songs. Martians quickly took her under his wing, promising to help her find her sound.
Her bouncy, sweet, spoken word-like rhymes first propelled her to Internet attention on The Jet Age of Tomorrow’s stellar spaced-out track “Want You Still,” and later on “Ode to a Dream,” produced by The Internet (made up of Martians and Syd tha Kyd). Eventually, she self-released her debut EP, Homeschool, to positive reviews in April.
Still, “it’s difficult to get Kish to admit she is in fact a real rapper or a gifted lyricist or little more than an average senior,” Jackson Connor writes in an interview with the Voice.
Now she’s performing alongside The Internet in shows, and collaborating with the likes of Childish Gambino, and plans to put out an album called Junior Varsity by the end of summer.
Sounds like: Kilo Kish is easier on the ears than Pryde, but their sounds are very different. Her voice is syrupy sweet without ever veering into the annoying or kitschy (“Her voice is just so girly—you can’t not like that voice. It’s just so loveable,” Martians told the Voice.). Her tone is both light as a feather and cuts like crystal, sounding innocent even through the occasional expletive. “It’s just me talking softly and being sweet over a beat,” Kish says of her style.
Perhaps the real star of the whole Kilo Kish sound, though, is the brilliant production that surrounds her: the glittering, lush production of the Super 3 and The Internet helps her voice shine and feel at home in the spaced-out, dreamy beats. Her flow is mellow, carefree, but not lazy. However, she also displays moments that reveal her as an amateur, that she’s not really of this world but rather just playing around in it: “I never know when the song starts,” we hear her say on the beginning of “Sick.” Later in the track she says, “Matt’s making me do ad libs.”
Her lyrics verge into the raw, explicit territory that the mysterious, grimy R&B artist The Weeknd’s made his signature; on “Crosstown,” she raps, “Let’s get real f***ed up/ We won’t know which way is up.”
Notable tracks: “Want You Still” is a gem; on “You’re Right,” off Homeschool, Kish’s voice is grittier and darker, buried underneath a heavy drumbeat and ominous synths. “Navy” is yet another standout track off her EP; “You know the stars/ they don’t just shine for you/they don’t just shine for me [….] I don’t just shine for you/you don’t just shine for me” she warns her romantic interest. She’s always self-aware and pragmatic; even her raps about love have a healthy dose of skepticism attached.
Sometimes she slips into more abstract territory. “Tore me to pieces when I heard the news/ You know you could have just said that you wanted something new,” she says in “Julienne,” a song that’s punctuated with ad-libbed scenes playing between Kish and an ex-boyfriend she can’t help but stalk. The imagery eventually veers off into Kish half-laughing, half-seriously describing murdering her ex, and yet it still somehow manages to sound adorable. “I think I need to call the cops?” we hear a guy laughing at the end.
Will she last? For Kish, who describes her music as her “little art project,” it’s unlikely that she even wants to make music a real career. That doesn’t mean she isn’t enjoying the moment, though. “Yay making music today with fun peopleee” she tweeted on Sunday. “When it’s not fun anymore, I’m just going to stop doing it because I’m not a musician,” she told Vibe. Not all art emerges from pain and tears.
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