Kreayshawn Reconsidered

Some of the best – and some of the worst – writing I’ve done has been in a fit of pique and/or passion, with words spilling out onto the page faster than I can reflect on the full extent of their meaning.  Or meanings, I should say, because it’s a rare word and a rarer sentence that doesn’t admit a multiplicity of interpretations.

I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s piece on racial stereotypes, but I used to know Kreayshawn’s mother.  It’s been a long time since I saw or talked with her – maybe not since Kreayshawn was an infant or little girl – but we used to move in the same punk rock circles, and had a number of friends in common.

If I’d been more aware of this, if I’d have stopped to think it through, would I have written about Kreayshawn in the same way?  Probably not, and I’m a little ashamed to say that, because ideally, writers who set out to tell the truth about the world should, as Joseph Pulitzer said about newspapers, “have no friends.”

I don’t think he meant we were fated to live solitary, alienated lives – though it can sometimes feel that way – but that we can’t afford to play favorites, give one kind of treatment to those we know and like, and another to those who exist only as anonymous media presences.

For 1980s punk rockers, Maximum Rocknroll, especially its letters section, functioned like a low-tech version of the internet, filled with endless shit-talking and Talmudic examinations of hopelessly arcane principles.  Accuse a band of charging a dollar too much for its shows or records, suggest that their lyrics lacked the appropriate sensitivity to the crucial issues that consumed us, and you could set off a firestorm of charges and countercharges that sometimes rose – “sunk” might be the more appropriate word – to threats or even acts of physical violence.

As author of a monthly column in MRR, I was often in the middle, if not the instigator-in-chief, of these disputes.  I was quick to judge, quicker to criticize, and did not always bother to have all the facts in my possession before I let fly with my opinions.

As a result, there was always somebody, if not several somebodies, mad at me about one thing or the other.  I figured that went with the territory, and didn’t think too much about it until the first time I really upset someone in my own immediate circle of friends.

He had editorialized against the gentrification of San Francisco’s Mission District (yes, the argument has been going on that long) and I pointed out that he, having recently moved into a large warehouse in the Mission, was himself part of the process he was criticizing.  He called to complain, and when I didn’t immediately see things his way, slammed the phone down with such anger that he broke his hand.

We became friends again, but it took a while, and I began to reconsider – something I’m still doing today, almost 25 years later – just where to draw the line when it comes to offering advice and opinions, whether to strangers or friends.  Some people follow the course – a course, incidentally, which has often been recommended to me – of having, or at least expressing no judgments at all, of simply accepting that different people view the world in different ways, and embracing the diversity.

Others maintain – and I guess I’ve always leaned more in this direction – that we have our critical faculties for a reason, and that we have both a right and a duty, to use them.  “I try to keep an open mind,” MRR’s Tim Yohannan used to say, “but not so open that any old crap can fall in.”  If no one points out what’s wrong, this view holds, how can we expect it to be righted?

The trouble is that most of the time none of us knows with any certainty what is wrong and right, especially since a great deal of what goes on in the world falls somewhere between those extremes.  This is how I’m feeling today, in the wake of some very strong reactions – both positive and negative – to my Kreayshawn article.  It’s inevitable that this will happen when one wades into the thicket of race and class issues, as I should know, since I’ve been tackling this subject, from a variety of standpoints, ever since my 1980s MRR days.

If I should have learned anything over those years, it’s that I need to be extremely judicious in my use of words like “racist” or “racism,” perhaps so judicious that I banish them from my vocabulary altogether.  I’m not sure who first said it, but it’s been observed that these days, with the n-word having become such a conversational commonplace that it’s lost much of its sting, “racist” has, at least in some circles, replaced it as the ultimate insult.

Maybe I was subconsciously thinking of this when I deployed such heavy verbal artillery against Kreayshawn; maybe it was a cheap shot on my part because I felt unable to come up with the words to say what I really meant.  I don’t know: what I do know is that I was wrong to accuse Kreayshawn of being a racist, at least in any normal sense of the word.

I still feel – and feel strongly – that some of what she says and does has the potential to do great harm, and that whether or not she’s aware of this, it needs to be talked about, broken down, studied and understood.  I don’t doubt that she’s an intelligent woman, and her friends and family tell me that she’s a kind, gentle and loving person as well.

Put it that way and I almost – almost – feel bad for bringing the subject up at all.  But while I’ll cop to being wrong for hauling out the r-word (it might have been more accurate to say that her glorification of ghetto stereotypes provides fuel for real racists), and wrong for trying to psychoanalyze her reasons for acting the way she does, I’m standing by my main point: that with great power comes great responsibility.

Kreayshawn needs to recognize that she’s becoming a major role model – she probably realizes this anyway – and that the words, images and attitudes she employs have real effects on real people.  It’s been pointed out – and it may be true – that I’m not knowledgeable enough about hip hop to critique her style and flow, but that’s not what I’m here to do.

The values I’m talking about transcend musical and cultural genres.  What I’m hoping is that Kreayshawn will use the ability and opportunities she’s been given to step up her game and lift people up with her instead of dragging them down – and letting herself be dragged down – to the basest street level.

17 thoughts on “Kreayshawn Reconsidered

  • September 7, 2011 at 1:15 am
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    Larry, oh, sheesh, Larry, Larry … glad to see you are still not above stepping into a pile of dogshit just to see if it stanks. I was turned onto your face Of Racism post by the mother of the above mentioned “wigger” since we all have run in the same underground punky rawk circles… at least you now know that you just don’t know…

    Boy, I was surprised to see you still blither aimlessly about subjects you have little K-N-OW-L-E-D-G-E of, but at least you don’t have to kill trees to do it anymore.

    For someone who exploited the youth of yesteryear for all they were worth, your snide codger commentary seems awfully artless.

    I hope you’d notice by now that it’s a big ol’ small whirled…and these days, judging ain’t really valued (if it ever was) unless it’s done by old over-paid white guys in robes…maybe that woulda been your calling. As someone who has met both of you, I’d say Anthony Scalia and you actually have more in common that you think.

    In fact, tomorrow I’m doing sound for the California Supremes, that’s a court, not a singing group…and you’ll still be bitter & powerless behind a keyboard pickin’ fights with imaginary enemies…

    Only now, it’s not Maxxam or the Major Labels, its cute little girls that weren’t even born when we first met & put on shows and put out records by kids that are either dead, derelict, dishwashers, dealers, doctors, roofers, roustabouts, rock stars, mechanics, musicians, moguls, junkies & janitors now.

    I sadly expect you’d likely be as apt to get yer leg broken at a Kreayshawn show as Jello was at Gilman back in the 90’s…so be careful out there ol’ dog. Timmy Yo ain’t around to back you up, it’s a new generation and they’re as tired of yours as you were of the people that lambasted you as a youth…

    Stay Gold PonyBoy

    yer pal Lil’ Mike from way back on Landers St…

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  • September 8, 2011 at 12:08 am
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    @Lil Mike you are so angry and bitter. It’s not about age, it’s about what is appropriate . If it was about age how would you explain all those young people on Tumblr who take a stand against Kreayshawn (check it out yourself). Lil Mike, if you want your opinion to be fully examined one should avoid at hominem attacks. Someone will completely disregard what you say out of spite which would be a reasonable response.

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  • September 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm
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    Kreayshawn and her Mom are awesome and thats pretty much the end of it. bye!

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  • September 11, 2011 at 11:13 am
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    According to Kreayshawn, she has that right to diss or make fun of anyone (Rick Ross) but anyone else can’t express an opinion about how talentless she is (sounds kinda fashist). Who the hell she thinks she is? The queen of England? Times have changed we live in a free world!
    “If you are young and don’t like Kreayshawn, you are a hater
    I you are old and don’t like Kreayshawn, your opinion doesn’t matter because you are not Hip enough!”
    Can’t even do the big sales despite all that publicity! Gucci Gucci should have been in the top 10 Billboard songs by now and it never made it! That’s call a reality check!

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  • September 12, 2011 at 3:02 am
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    She is not talented, she got lucky. Most of the top “artists” nowadays aren’t talented and it’s pretty fucking sad and pathetic.

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  • September 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm
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    Exactly…artists today are more lucky than talented. Fucking pitiful.

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  • September 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm
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    Look Anonymous #3, dissing the girl because her sales numbers ain’t massive enough yet is a bit premature. She’s currently writing and recording her debut album for crissakes. All the attention Gucci Gucci has gotten was because of a YouTube video that went viral. Pretty impressive, I’d say.

    As far as the racist label goes, Larry went way overboard with his first tirade and this attempt at walking it back a bit was…halfhearted at best. A 22 year-old girl who isn’t used to having her every utterance dissected by every yahoo with a keyboard and an axe to grind is probably a skill that takes some time to master.

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  • September 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm
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    I already acknowledged that I went way overboard with my first “tirade,” which is why I made a second post about it. But your claim that there was anything “halfhearted” about it suggests that you misunderstand my point.

    My regrets and apologies for the excessive language I used were wholehearted as could be. That doesn’t (nor should it) mean that I take back everything I said; it means that I regret throwing around the word “racist” and some of the other strong language that I used against Kreayshawn. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think there’s a problem with the images and the values she’s putting out there, and it doesn’t mean that these things don’t need to be talked about. It’s just that I wish I had spoken more temperately in addressing them.

    Oh, and I also wanted to make clear that I don’t agree with some of the people here who’ve been suggesting that Kreayshawn has no talent; I think she has a lot of talent. I’m just questioning the ways she chooses to use it.

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  • October 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm
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    How is a viral video considered impressive? It is LUCK. She is famous because she put out some stupid video that a bunch of other stupid people thought was cool, Hell half the people that talked about her talked about her in a negative way. Look at Lil Wayne, he calls himself ‘the greatest rapper alive’ but the dude couldn’t hold a torch to Biggie or Tupac. I feel the same with Kreyshawn, she’s just a hipster chick trying to act ‘ghetto’ but in reality she’s just a white girl who would probably shit her pants if she had to spend more then 24 hours in the ghetto. On a side note I’m not sure if anyone here watched the MTV music awards, but when they were announcing best new artist (it may have been best new artist video I can’t remember fully) while they were announcing the nominations the camera panned to her when they mentioned her name and she was pointing at herself pretty much saying “Yeah, I’m gonna win.” but as we all know Tyler, the Creator won. Either way everything I’ve said is based on opinion. But to me Kreyshawn isn’t very talented and I know there are so many more artist who deserve more recognition then her. Ask yourself this: If Kyewshawn was 50 pounds overweight or was really ugly do you really think half the people who listen to her still would? This industry has become more about ‘style’ then the actual music.

    P.S. I kinda of agree that the first article Mr. Livemore made was a little much, but I agree with a lot of what he said. To me any girl who goes on twitter posting things like “In the hood looking for something to shoot” should never be taken seriously as a actual artist.

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  • October 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm
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    …haven’t even read it–and it’s your best you’ve written this year!!! Good work!!! I didn’t know you had the same birthday as Jesse!! Mine’s on the 24th, too many Scorpios up in here!!

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  • February 11, 2012 at 3:00 am
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    Does anyone read this self-contained stuff? Whose your audience?

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  • March 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm
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    I WAS a fan of Kreayshawn until her racist remarks on twitter last night. Whether or not you are young or old, whether she has talent or not, whether you know her folks or not none of that is the issue. The fact that she blatantly disrespected an entire race of people on twitter while trying to build a RAP career, and at a time when she could possibly be influential to others IS. I don’t understand why you are defending her as if she is a child Lil Mike she is 22. I am 22. I live on my own, I pay my bills, I work, I go to school, I wipe my own ass and I WILL be held accountable for EVERY word that comes out of my mouth at ANY and EVERY given moment. She is an adult. An ignorant ADULT.

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  • March 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm
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    And Larry, what the fuck? Did your old pals bully you are you that much of a dickless and spineless man that your first opinion just didn’t feel right?

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  • June 7, 2012 at 12:56 am
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    It’s ashame that many people gang up on her because of the things she says or does. Its a free world, she should be able to say whatever she wants when she wants just like any of the other rappers (which i dont see y’all pointing out). Whether she has talent or not, shouldnt be your “decision”, yes, she’s famous, GET OVER IT, they have plenty of people with out talent that is famous these days, & just because she doesnt have talent in your eyes doesnt mean everyone else thinks the same. Anyways, why get all on her being racist when other rappers (black) say things like “FUCK THEM CRACKERS” or “WHITE PEOPLE ALWAYS TAKE MY BLACK PEOPLE FROM ME”, i dont hear yall saying anything about them..

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  • June 25, 2012 at 6:59 am
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    This is sad. The first article was right one – you shouldn’t have reconsidered.

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  • October 25, 2012 at 1:23 am
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    Coming very late to this party… but I’ve been following this whole phenomenon since I was around for the Trashwomen days and have lived in Berkeley/Oakland for over 20 years. Like her or not, Kreayshawn is ‘genuine’ — she grew up in much more difficult circumstances than 90% of the suburban anarchists/crust punks begging for change on Telegraph. At least she hussled her ass to make a buck (when her mom left her at like 15?). If she waves a gun around while smoking a blunt it’s not like she’s doing it from her parent’s McMansion. It’s the way these kids live in EO, right or wrong. I think it would be *in-authentic* for her to edit or censor that part of her life, because it’s real (the casual glorification of guns/drugs). Whose right is it to demand her to be a role model?

    Now, the part I think you really just flat out mis-interpreted was the tweet ‘looking for something to shoot’. First and foremost she’s a videographer. Did you consider the possiblity that she was referring to something to ‘shoot’ in the photographer sense? That’s way more likely than her trying to be ‘gangsta’. That really isn’t her style. Listen to her songs — do any of them reference guns or violence? Not as far as I can tell. Tons of weed for sure, but not gang stuff.

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