On Saturday night Kreayshawn performed in L.A. for the first time since "Gucci Gucci" went viral in May. I was curious to see the show, but not expecting to be completely captivated by V-Nasty, Kreay's controversial cohort in their White Girl Mob clique.
Bounding onstage, V-Nasty moved with easy confidence, quickly overshadowing everyone else. She can really rap, and she's clearly a natural performer.
But she's known primarily as the white girl who says "n-gga" often, and without apology. She's completely raw, refusing to be groomed, and easily the most controversial person in hip-hop right now.
The n-word has consistently plagued the White Girl Mob, which originated in Oakland. As Kreayshawn has become a rap household name, she continues to be hounded by a tweet in which she flippantly quoted a lyric from the rapper DMX that included the epithet.
Nearly every piece about her mentions it, and when her Twitter was hacked Sunday night, it spewed this message: "Thanks to my wonderful fans. I love you guys. Cept the n-ggers." (There was no hyphen, however.)
Kreayshawn defends herself by saying that she doesn't use the word -- which seems to be true -- but she's been more ambiguous about V-Nasty's casual usage of it. "I don't say it in my music, but that's her," she'll say apologetically, like a mother who knows that she can't control her wild child.
V-Nasty reminds me of girls from the tiny deep Southern town where I grew up. There were two colors there, black and white, and because the burg was so small, there was nowhere for either race to hide. Plenty of white girls talked with the same affectedness as V-Nasty, though I don't remember hearing anyone, black or white, use any version of the n-word -- the one ending in "-a" or the one ending in "-er" -- publicly.
The word is obviously still charged, as demonstrated by the media attention surrounding John Mayer's Playboy interview last year. It's sometimes unclear exactly who's allowed to say it, and who's not; some Latin rappers, after all, seem to get a pass.
It's possible, perhaps, that the word has less of an impact in some parts of the country than others. V-Nasty makes it sound like it's not as big of a deal in the Oakland culture, and Kreayshawn's manager Stretch, who is black, claims this is true. "'Nigga' has never been an issue to anyone in the Bay Area," he says.
V-Nasty has been in and out of jail; maybe throwing around the word made her feel tough and less vulnerable. Maybe she has mixed marriages in her family, and has heard the word since she was little. Stretch has said the woman who raised V-Nasty is black, and calls her the word, too.
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Proclaiming their race so vociferously ("White Girl Mob") might complicate the issue, but I don't think V-Nasty considers race much, beyond what she sees in the mirror. Maybe she literally is, as Weekly contributor Shea Serrano believes, an "ignorant broad." Maybe she dropped out of high school like Kreayshawn and never read Uncle Tom's Cabin.
I'm white myself, and won't defend her use of the n-word. It's still taboo to me, still sensitive. Even if it is some day stripped of its historical implications, I can't imagine I could even whisper it, although -- as someone who listens to rap constantly -- I hear it all the time.
But I can understand her choice of language, when considering the possible context. We live in a landscape of artists perfecting sad-eyed repentance while privately rolling those same eyes. Right or wrong, it's fascinating when a performer, especially one who isn't necessarily trying to be controversial, refuses to become a chameleon.
As evinced at Saturday night's show, V-Nasty has charisma, far more than any other member of her crew, including Kreayshawn. Part of her star power is her unwillingness to be refined. Beyond that she really can spit. Unfortunately, her choice of language might prove louder than her voice.