Kathryn Beckwith calls herself Kitty, the self-proclaimed “little white girl ruining hip-hop.” She raps by talking fast; her flow is the emcee equivalent of the sassy bitches from Mean Girls. And her lyrics are uproariously ridiculous: “I’m All-American but I’m not a reject / Why am I your dirty little secret? / Is it because of all the undies that I peed in?” Raised on MySpace, meme culture, dirty rap songs, and AOL Instant Messenger, Beckwith is a 19-year-old with no filters and heaps of fodder for her hyper-referential rhymes. Her Kitty persona thrives on these traits. It’s a caricature of the internet-savvy female circa now, taken to its raunchiest extreme.
In many ways, Kitty is a concoction of the internet. Her debut mixtape, the lizzie mcguire experience — seven bedroom-recorded songs by a cute redhead with a penchant for Pikachu references and Madvillain samples — was first shared on 4chan’s /mu/ board in 2011. Nobody really knew anything about the girl behind the wacked-out rhymes, but she sounded nerdy and cute and scandalous. Naturally, 4chan ate it up, and naturally, some people hated it. But it garnered a response, which was enough for Beckwith to release a follow-up, haha i’m sorry, last year. The lead single, “okay cupid”, and its accompanying video went viral. Thus began the battle of “Kitty vs. the Bloggers and the Tumblr’ers and the Tweeps”.
Post a nasty comment on her page and she’ll counter. “shut up bitch,” she replied to one particularly aggressive commenter on Tumblr. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Beckwith admitted to reading most of what’s written about her — a sign of self-consciousness (and a cardinal sin according to most artists). How can someone who cares about criticism make such polarizing music? As Kitty, Beckwith is nonchalantly self-deprecating and equally casual about writing off the backlashers. But outside of her moniker, Beckwith obviously cares. That’s why her latest EP, D.A.I.S.Y. Rage, was conceived as a serious effort, not a disposable .zip file to be shared and made fun of. “I was like, ‘If I don’t make something good, then everybody’s just gonna assume that this is all I can do,’” she said. “And I don’t want people to think that anymore, I want people to know that I can do something that’s worth listening to.”
On D.A.I.S.Y. Rage, Kitty’s girl-next-door antics are still in full effect. Beckwith may be aiming for professionalism, but she hasn’t ditched her bread-and-butter. “Scout Finch Bitch” describes a struggle that many teens can relate to: leading the double-life of being a goody-two-shoes when mom’s around and partying/underage drinking/having sex when she’s not. Following a solid guest spot by Cali emcee Antwon, Kitty grabs the mic: “I’ve been runnin’ yellow lights and making sure that everything I type I fucking spell it right / And I’m learning how to blur out all my cellulite or write about how bad I want to have a Cinderella night.” You might cringe when you hear her voice, and you might think her subject matter is inane, but you can’t call her dumb or uninspired.
Kitty’s rhyme schemes are bizarre — often defying the beat, bars, and patterns dictated by conventional hip-hop wisdom. She’s essentially rapping about what she knows: teenage girl problems, and with more conviction than any other teenage girl rapper before her. On “NO OFFENSE!!!!”, after dumping a boyfriend who wasn’t what he appeared to be, Kitty reduces her ex to an accurately icky metaphor: “You’re cubic zirconia / Had you wrapped around my finger / Now there’s a little green ring there, eww / How will I get your residue off?”
The beats on D.A.I.S.Y. Rage are simple and unobtrusive. For Kitty, this is ideal — her flow should always take precedence. And she’s best when she’s just riffing away, rattling off non-sequiturs and humorous anecdotes. On “$krillionaire”, she shoves stanzas where stanzas shouldn’t fit, rapping rapid-fire over a crackling drum sample. She’s somebody’s sex-on-the-side and tired of all the sneaking around: “I got a problem with incontinence / And why should I make promises that I’ll remain anonymous?” Unlike her past mixtapes, her songs have a focus this time around, albeit a loose one that still gives her lyrics wiggle room — at least for the first half of the EP.
D.A.I.S.Y. Rage ends with three weak tracks that see Kitty in songwriter mode rather than endearing-rapper-chick mode. The former doesn’t suit her. “Ay Shawty 3.0” sports a slower tempo, and Kitty forgoes humor for limp melodies and pseudo-Drake posturing. “Hittin Lixx” suffers a similar fate, featuring an awkward chorus of, “I’m more mischievous than previously thought, and I’ll admit it.” There’s no random hilarity, no despicable raunchiness. She doesn’t sound like herself.
Mild criticisms aside, this EP is a step forward for Kitty and her puppeteer, Kathryn Beckwith. By acknowledging the haters, she’s systematically debasing them. Her rhyme schemes are too inventive to dismiss as e-schlock, and she exercises too much talent to be discarded like Kreayshawn. The only thing that scares me is D.A.I.S.Y. Rage’s latter third. First, the EP would’ve been concise and complete with it. Secondly, such tracks sound like a musician playing it safe, shying from the idiosyncratic polarity that reaped both fans and detractors.
Dear Kitty, if you’re reading this, please stick to the humor and just rap. Do what you’re good at. Just be yourself. Fuck the haters.
Essential Tracks: “NO OFFENSE!!!!”, “$krillionaire”