We're In Love With K.Flay
If you look up "Girl Crush" in the Urban Dictionary you’ll find a picture of K.Flay looking effortlessly cool, wearing a pair of secondhand neon green sunglasses, probably leaning against something because that’s what cool people do. And then you’ll see my lame ass somewhere in the background staring at her googley-eyed. This, of course, is not true (I’m sure some of you checked). But it should be. You see, I spent less than half an afternoon with this girl and that’s all it took for her to completely steal my heart.
I met up with K.Flay a few weeks ago, just before the August 6 release of her EP What If It Is and the kick off of her month-long tour alongside Icona Pop. She was wrapping up her photo shoot with Koury Angelo in a little corner room at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel above Swingers. I was a bit nervous going in because not only is K.Flay one of my favorite new artists, but damn near everyone seems to point out that she graduated from Stanford with a double major in psychology and sociology — I was going to interview a haughty, intimidating, pointlessly-huge-word-using snob. Thankfully, as soon as she shook my hand and flashed a bright, genuine smile my nerves were immediately calmed. We didn’t have a ton of time (as K.Flay’s sweet, soft-spoken manager peeked up from behind his smart phone to remind us a handful of times) because she had a recording session to get to on the other side of town, so we wasted no time getting down to business.
There were a million things I wanted to ask, but first I wanted to know how a white girl from just outside Chicago ditches everything she knows to start a rap career.
"It’s weird," she said with a laugh. "It’s really weird. I was in school studying sociology and psychology and it was at the same time that hyphy was at it’s peak. That was everything on the radio, and it was also a really weird time for mainstream rap. Not as much creative weirdness was happening in the mainstream. I feel like right now we’re at a really high point. I was essentially talking about that with someone and he was like ‘You can’t really talk shit because you don’t make music.’ Which is actually a valid point."
So she did something about it.
"I thought it was really cool and fun and I could do it and I could rap really fast from the beginning," she said. "So he and I did a couple more jokey songs together but then that summer I went back to Chicago, or outside Chicago where I grew up, and I was working in a restaurant at the time. I would come home — I bought a little keyboard — and I started making beats. I literally had no idea what I was doing. I was so bad. And I had a little mic and I made music all summer. Then I got back to school and met this other dude who did music and he went on a tour and was supposed to play a show on campus and was like ‘Oh I know this girl who raps.’ So this guy called me and was like, ‘Will you play a show?’"
K.Flay is precise in conversation, careful to articulate every thought so as not to let any story go unfinished or unexplained. I enjoyed talking with her not just because this made the interview easier but because the more you talk to her the more charming she becomes. The only time that K.Flay isn’t smiling or laughing is when she’s speaking.
"I didn’t drink. I mean, I went out, but I was very focused. So I did it. And I started playing house parties, frat parties, campus events, shows at other campuses. I started opening up in San Francisco, and then it just kinda became a bigger part of my life. Though still not anything that I thought I would do in any serious capacity."
Now I’m sure you’re wondering what K.Flay figured she WOULD do in a serious capacity then, right? That was my next question, too. Her eyes floated around the room, like she’d either thought about this question a million times or had never considered it once.
"I think I just wanted to go to school forever," she answered finally. "I love school still, I would go back. I kind of feel like now I would be a book editor if this doesn’t pan out."
Well, it seems to be panning out. But I’m sure having the diploma to fall back on doesn’t hurt.
K.Flay isn’t exactly what you’d picture a Stanford graduate to look like and she’s definitely not what you’d picture a rapper to look like, but the influences of both lifestyles are clear in her behavior. Talking to her is like talking to a really, really smart version of your best friend from ninth grade. She loves PBR and E-40 but she can probably recite Pi. When I asked about her EP "What If It Is," she lit up, excited to share what she’s been so diligently working on in between tours for the last year.
"The spirit of it is… it’s kind of a cross genre thing." She was talking with her hands. "It’s a little bit electronic, a little bit indie. You know, I think all of those disparate elements kind of make sense sort of. Because it’s one voice and one perspective. It all really came together."
I dug a little deeper into the record and the process. I wanted to know when she stopped making campus house party music, or "joke tracks."
"At some point you realize there’s a degree of emotionality that you invest that actually makes it sort of integral and that happened maybe two years ago when I finally started writing things that had a certain emotional valence where I was like, ‘Okay, this makes me feel fulfilled’ where I think in the past it was more just a little bit of fucking around."
As we wound down our interview and said our goodbyes, K.Flay began to pack her things for her trip across town to the recording session. She was gracious and humble when I thanked her for taking the time to sit down and we made plans to shoot some whiskey at her upcoming show in town. Girl crush level: off the charts.
Photos by Koury Angelo
Art Direction: Kalvin Lazarte
Styling: Dagmarette Yen
Hair: Crystal Pray