That kind of vulnerable admission is eons away from the swagger you might expect from someone tagged as one of the “new faces of rap.” But Kitty’s mere existence in the extended galaxy of hip hop signals that the genre’s conventions have officially been turned on its head.
Kitty Pryde is unabashedly white, small-town, stridently anti-cool and reluctantly embracing her ascending stardom. Her raps about loving Justin Bieber are 100 percent serious, zero percent ironic. She’s completely guileless, quick to make fun of herself before someone else beats her to it. While these are all qualities that are easy fodder for cynics, in real life, they give Kitty charm.
We meet at her grandmother’s house, in, of all places, DeLand, a small town in Florida’s Northeastern corridor. This house is where Kitty grew up and spent most of her formative years before moving to nearby Daytona Beach with her father. The decor is tidy, cozy, country chic, and there’s the smell of delicious apple cinnamon wafting from the kitchen. Her younger brother lazes on a couch and various cousins, aunts, and uncles come and go, all happily waving.
“You know how in Roseanne, the family always ends up back at the house? That’s what this house is like to me,” she says, taking a cross-legged perch on a patio sofa. Her trademark hair bow is only half attached, and the rest of her outfit, a heavily laundered T-shirt and leggings, is almost an exercise in anti-style.
Kitty’s status as a new, hot rapper to watch befuddles even her. This past May, her big internet-driven break came in the form of her song “Okay Cupid,” and its accompanying video, a shambolic homage to doing nothing much at all in the exurbs. Over a MacBook-mixed beat, she half-talks, half-mumbles a stream-of-consciousness, bashfully rapped love letter to a new boyfriend. “I don’t care how long it takes to get you after me I wrote our names on my binder/ And everybody laughed at me/ But it really doesn’t matter, you are radder and cooler,” she raps. The song even starts with every well-fed American teenager’s favorite refrain: “Get out of my roooooooom!”
In essence, the song and subsequent slice of life video, in which she clicks around on a laptop in her friend’s bedroom, then hits a yard sale, reflects the ultimate form of keeping it real. And thanks to a quick reblog-retweet-replay wave of social media momentum, it seems to have struck a national chord with her fellow millennials. “I’m not some hot girl. I don’t have a fancy life,” she says. An aunt strolls by, walking a dog through the house's backyard. “I'm getting interviewed for a magazine, again!” she yells.
“I don’t have the cool friends and cool clothes,” she continues. “People are like, ‘She looks like I went to high school with her.’ I think that’s the appeal. They can read my blog and look at everything I do, and think, ‘This girl is normal.’”
Normal, and even happily nerdy. Not nerdy in the lensless-glasses-on-Instagram way, but nerdy in the school academic competition team kind of way. The bloggers and sarcastic podcasters interviewing Kitty anticipating her to be dumb will find the joke’s on them. Thanks to a duel enrollment program she started at age 16, she’s a few credits shy of completing her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications.
The whole rap thing started largely as a joke, an outlet between classes and mall shifts at Claire’s, and she doesn’t pretend otherwise. “People are writing these think pieces and taking it all way too seriously. It took me half the time to make the whole song and the video as it did for someone to write a long column about me,” she says, running fingers over the screen of her phone, revealing chipped black nail polish. The phone suddenly buzzes. “Another random number calling me,” Kitty mutters.
But as the random numbers continue to call and as the internet verbiage flies, Kitty says she's still unlikely to change her musical work ethic. “I could, but then that would ruin it, and then it wouldn’t be a fun thing. It would be another thing I have to do, and then it wouldn’t turn out the same,” she says, pulling her legs back onto the wicker loveseat where she's perched. “I want people to stop thinking about it so much, and if they enjoy it, enjoy it and laugh about it, but if not, shut the fuck up and leave me alone. You don’t have to make internet comments about my nose, you know?”
Still, the mounting attention, especially after the release of her EP, Haha, I’m Sorry, is leading to stress—and more nosebleeds. “I’m too busy to do some of the things I want to do now. I’m totally booked. Usually I have everything planned out. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll finish school, and then I’ll get an internship, and it’ll be normal and it’ll be fine,’” she says. “But now I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t like that uncertainty.”
The recent months have been one appointment after another. There was a photo shoot with Danny Brown, her ultimate rap crush, who makes a cameo via Google image search in the “Okay Cupid” video. There was a video shoot with weirdo rapper/performance artist Riff Raff, for a collab-track called “Orion’s Belt.” There was her debut New York show to deal with, at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, for an audience comprised largely of music critics and bloggers. There are photographers, circling A&R guys, and 30-something dudes snapping up tickets to her shows, maybe a little too quickly. There are obsessive Tumblr fans biting her style and refashioning themselves in her likeness.
But Kitty is happily riding it all out for now. Otherwise, plan B is her original one, to finish her degree, get an internship, and work in public relations for Universal Studios, Florida. The hype and interest could all be gone tomorrow, a prospect which she’s more than prepared for. “I’m just kind of living this whole Lizzie McGuire movie kind of deal,” she says, adjusting her headband. “If I woke up and nobody cared any more, I’d say, ‘Okay,’ and go back to doing what I was doing before. I wouldn’t have lost anything, and what I would have gotten out of it was to meet Danny Brown, so I don’t fucking care!”