K.Flay Does Hip-Hop Her Own Way

Sure, there are plenty of people changing the face of hip-hop, but K.Flay is doing it on her own terms. Mentioning that she’s a white, female, and Stanford-educated rapper is inescapable, but she’s aware of that. Born Kristine Flaherty, she’s done her best to put image aside and lets her confessional, pop culture-savvy rhymes speak for themselves since her self-titled debut EP came out in 2010. Her latest release, the Eyes Shut EP, showcases tight songwriting over punchy productions–her own.

On stage, she’s the slacker who actually cares. On tour, she keeps a photo diary of innuendo-laden street signs. (Ann Arbor, Michigan is apparently home to a Hiscock Street.) In person, she’s laid-back and personable, and it’s easy to see how she’s developed a devoted online following. I caught up with K.Flay at the end of her recent tour with Colin Munroe.

So this is the end of the tour. How’s it been?
It’s been good, it’s been really hot everywhere we’ve gone. A lot of Midwest dates, they’ve been having record heat. It’s been warm, but it’s been great. We’ve been to a lot of new cities. Some cities, like New York, we’ve obviously already played, so it’s been a really good mix of that.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you?
I’ve had a lot of weird things. We’ve gotten some weird presents. They’re all really nice, but just some random things. Like, I guess I had said to some dude that I liked McFlurrys, so he gave me a McDonalds gift certificate. They were super sweet, just kind of random things. I’m trying to think of what else weird happened. Probably not that much. I can’t even remember. Is that sad? I can barely remember yesterday.

Where’s the most unusual place you’ve been?
Oh, I know something weird that happened. We were in Mobile, AL stopped at a gas station. Basically a homeless guy was approaching this other dude on a motorcycle, and the guy on the motorcycle got off and pulled out a gun on this dude. At a Mobil or whatever, just a gas station. So that was pretty intense. But I have to say that Mobile was awesome, the people who came to the show were great, and it was a lot of fun. But that was pretty intense, everyone was really scared. We were just like, “Yeah, we need to get the fuck out of there.”

How did you start doing the dirty street names thing?
I’m trying to remember the genesis of it. I think I was talking with my manager, who’s my super good friend, and how it would be fun to find [these signs], because there’s a Boner Street in Oakland, which is awesome. So we knew about that, and we were like, “Oh, wouldn’t it be funny to just take pictures?” Just as a fun thing to do. It’s been really cool, because I’ve gotten to see all these different parts of cities that if I just went straight to the venue, I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to actually explore. Some of the streets have been in really fancy, nice areas, some have been total middle class, some have been impoverished areas of the city. So I’ve seen a lot of different neighborhoods, it’s cool.

So do people just tell you about where these streets are?
Oh no, I look on a map. It’s my task in the van, looking on my phone to find the street names. Because that way, sometimes you can find some that are more creative. A lot just have “wood” in them. That’s a classic, that’s standard. I just look on a map.

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