Rapper Kitty Pryde keeps it real, pleases the faithful

Posted: August 24, 2012

Live, Kitty Pryde is a walking paradox, a wound-up ball of nervous insecurity who can summon the bravado it takes to command those in her crowd to bow their heads in prayer to Justin Bieber. ("Dear Bieber, please stop singing about sex.")

Makes sense. She's a walking paradox in everyday life, too, a teenage, white-as-snow redheaded Claire's employee from Daytona Beach, Fla., who, depending on your view, is either hip hop's unlikely savior or the final nail in the coffin of the once-proud genre.

The 40 or so people gathered at the Barbary on Tuesday night were clearly in the former camp. They bowed for Bieber when told to, rapped gleefully along to Kitty's most well-known songs ("OKAY Cupid," "Justin Bieber," "Orion's Belt"), and happily received a healthy coating of the glitter she tossed into the air during songs.

Born Kathryn Beckwith, Kitty Pryde jacked her hip-hop nom de plume from a Marvel comic character a few years ago, when she began rapping over crude beats she'd made in GarageBand about her crushes, pop idols, Adderall, and the general blahs of growing up in Florida. The songs, meant as a goof among Kitty and her friends, gained attention, and an actual producer - Beautiful Lou, who's worked with rap heavyweights like A$AP Rocky and Lil B - came a calling.

The two made "OKAY Cupid" together, an impossibly clever song about teen love in the 21st century, and the accompanying video went viral. Kitty Pryde found herself Internet-famous for doing new things in a genre that's notoriously resistant to change. Ever since, she's sat not-so-comfortably in the middle of the firestorm surrounding her music. She's had more overlong think pieces written about her than she's written songs, and has received a fair number of death threats via Twitter from hip-hop purists who fear what her ascension means.

They see her as an affront to the authenticity hip-hop holds dear - a charge that seems laughably off base once you dig into the handful of songs she's released to date, like "Give Me Scabies," Kitty's catchy take on the summer's biggest hit, "Call Me Maybe." Or like "smiledog.jpg," with this line: "Don't tell my dad, or he'll be mad, and stop paying for the Adderall. Don't want that, no don't want to get fat at all."

This is Kitty rapping about the life in front of her. And if that's not authentic, the word needs a new definition.

Kitty spent a good deal of Tuesday night's show in the crowd among the fans, stomping around the floor with bare feet or sitting, Indian-style, on a tiny riser in front of the Barbary's modest stage.

She was admittedly nervous (she has played only a handful of shows, after all), as well as self-deprecating and unrehearsed.

At show's end, she offered her own review, embarrassed about the turnout and worried she'd said something stupid between songs. "Guys, please don't tell anyone about what happened here tonight. I'd be so embarrassed."

Like her haters, she is wrong.

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