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Cover 03/27/2013

Hello, Kitty

Internet rapper Kitty (formerly Pryde) rides out the Tumblr wave

Photo: , License: N/A

Authenticity is an elusive quality artists are constantly striving toward. Critics delight in debunking mainstream excitement over new music by identifying the derivatives and smirking as fans take sides. In the controversial book The Rebel Sell, Canadian authors Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter made a bold statement that counterculture proves unsuccessful as a concept because mainstream media (or, for the sake of the point here, mainstream music) is frequently sold to the masses by representing itself as equally rebellious. But once the masses begin to invest (emotionally and financially), the music then self-identifies as mainstream, because, well, everybody is listening to it. New rebels emerge, manufactured or genuine, and either fail or lose their edge to consumer consumption. There can be no counterculture, because it exists only as a transient state, ultimately ending in death or popularity. Point made, I suppose, but then, what is it that those people who enjoy inspirational-quote art are always saying about it not being the destination but the journey that matters?

Kathryn Beckwith is taking us all for a ride.

The teenager, more famously known as Kitty (relax, X-Men fans, she’s finally dropped the “Pryde” from her name), released her fourth EP, D.A.I.S.Y. Rage, at the end of January and used it to launch her first real tour, including the requisite mid-March stopover in Austin for South by Southwest. Before this EP, which was produced by A$ap Rocky collaborator Beautiful Lou, she was a homespun rapper who started out her career making goofy videos with her friends on a laptop. Fickle teens, her friends lost interest but Kitty’s fascination – and audience – only grew. Nobody took her music seriously, though –not Kitty, not her fans and certainly not her detractors. The Internet squirmed trying to decide what to make of this oftentimes bawdy, underaged new face in hip-hop, and Kitty did her best to thwart being sexualized by obscuring her age. This was in 2011. By 2012, she suddenly skipped off the web and into the pages of Rolling Stone, which named her “Okay Cupid” one of the year’s top 50 songs. Not everyone agreed, though, and Kitty spent much of 2012 fixated on “the mean people who are always so much more vocal.”

Now she’s getting widespread critical acclaim for the first time ever, but that doesn’t matter to her as much as the fact that she has yet to read a negative Tumblr response to her new songs. It’s got to be gratifying because, at this stage in the game, she’s become more serious about her music and what she wants to do with it. Yet, her omnipresent girlish nerves continue to cast self-doubt on what she’s capable of.

“Before my release, I literally went home to Florida to be at home, like, with my mom, to deal with all the release stuff that was coming because I was so scared,” Kitty says, laughing. “Then a couple days before it dropped, I was just like, ‘Fuck it, I don’t even care, because it was really fun, and I like it.’ … I’ve never really liked my music before. I’ve never listened to it by myself, and I always thought it was so bad. But this is the first thing I actually do like, so I was like, whatever, if no one likes it, no one likes it. But it was so exciting.”

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