Twelve months ago, Central Florida native Kathryn “Kitty Pryde” Beckwith was your average teenage girl: an assistant manager job at Claire’s Boutique, a part-time load of college classes, an obsession with Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook, and a love of hip hop and radio pop. After a bitter break-up, Beckwith started laying down her own playful rhymes over Nicki Minaj beats. And when the video for “Okay Cupid,” which features Beckwith dreamily riffing on drunk-dialing boyfriends and her own stalkerish tendencies, first appeared last May, it became an immediate Internet sensation. Before she knew it, Beckwith was catapulted into a celebrity orbit that included New York Times think pieces and glowing Pitchfork.com reviews.
But for every famous rapper like Danny Brown or Riff Raff publicly big-upping her, 100 haters assailed Kitty (she recently dropped the Pryde) for not “keeping it real.” Her My Little Pony-adorned Tumblr page and emoticon-heavy Twitter feed certainly perpetuated that novelty vibe. A year later, however, fans and critics are warming up to the fact that Kitty lends an honest voice to a subset of America’s population that’s usually objectified, vilified or both.
Folio Weekly: How has your recent move from Florida to New York City gone, Kitty?
Kathryn “Kitty” Beckwith: It’s really weird. I’ve never lived away from my parents before, and I immediately moved to New York, which is crazy. I miss my parents, but it’s pretty good. The only thing I don’t like right now is the weather.
F.W.: Have you finally adjusted to your newfound fame?
K.: I never expected any of it. I was really surprised at the reaction to “Okay Cupid” — really weirded out by it, actually. At first, everybody thought I was this contrived, diabolical music industry thing. So I got mad — like, “I did not make a song for you guys! Why are you writing shit about me? Stop!” But I finally embraced it, and now it’s turned into my whole life. It’s cool to see how much influence I have, especially when I never had any before.
F.W.: What was your life like before last year? Did you have any set plans and goals?
K.: I’m only one semester away from having my bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communication from UCF, and I was working in a management position at Claire’s Boutique, which I really loved. I never wanted to be a famous musician; I thought I’d be a powerful businesswoman or something. [Laughs.] But after all this happened, I decided to take a year off from school; I was scared if I didn’t take advantage of these cool opportunities, they’d all go away.
F.W.: Was it difficult for you to adjust to performing onstage?
K.: My first show ever was this big publicized deal in Brooklyn that was so terrifying. And a couple months later, I played on Long Island and there were literally two people there. I went in the bathroom, cried, and told my mom, “I can’t do this — nobody even wants to see me.” I was really convinced that people didn’t want to actually hear my music. At first, it was just press people writing big think pieces about me. But my mom was, like, “You have to put on the best show you can for those two people,” so I went crazy — like, “Fuck it! Who cares?” Now I love doing shows. It’s kind of embarrassing, though, and afterward, I have to cry for 10 minutes to let out my humiliation. I don’t know why, but I’ve done that every single time. After that, I’m totally stoked.
F.W.: Do you think you’ll eventually stop writing such personal material?
K.: The whole point for me is I want to be honest — I want people to relate. A lot of stuff I say in my songs I’ve never heard other people talk about, much less girls my age. So I feel like I’m an influence, and I don’t want to lie to them the way I got lied to by musicians that I liked. The whole, “I’m hot, let’s go party, please have sex with me” crap really freaks me out. So my personal stuff will probably just get worse. [Laughs.]
F.W.: A year later, are you still copping flak for being a suburban white girl in a male-dominated, largely African-American hip hop world?
K.: So much. I get shit just for thinking that I even can call my music hip hop. A lot of people think it’s just not allowed. And other people put me down by saying, “If this girl was black, no one would listen to her.” But I don’t think that’s true; Kilo Kish is black, and her music is similar to mine, and she is poppin’!