Whatever you’ve heard about the Bay Area musician and director, Kreayshawn (“kray-SHAWN”) is nothing if not scrappy. Born in September 1989 in San Francisco, as Natassia Zolot, to a teenaged single mother, the diminutive artist relied on her wits to navigate the roughest sections of The City—the Fillmore, Mission and Tenderloin. “I don’t flaunt growing up in the hood,” says Kreayshawn. “I saw things no little kid should have to worry about.” While Kreayshawn was hamstrung by poverty, she was never starved for information. In 4th grade, her eccentric grandfather Stanley taught her to build computers from scavenged parts and the two would surf the web for hours. “I was an extremely lonely child,” says Kreayshawn. “I’m an only child to a single mother and my grandpa was crazy. I was in chat rooms because those were my friends—the internet was there for me.”?
The two moved around a lot and in 1999 her mother, Elka Zolot, a member of an all-girl garage/surf punk band, The Trashwomen, took her kid across the bay to Oakland. There, they moved in with her mom’s boyfriend, a DJ, who allowed Kreayshawn free reign on his mic, turntables and drum machine. Beat-making and freestyling came naturally and the younger Zolot made dozens of mixtapes inspired by the music that Elka constantly pumped throughout the house, from Screaming Jaw Hawkins to Kool Keith to Tito Puente. Elka was enormously creative but frequently absent for supervision and discipline and Natassia dropped out of middle school. Constantly truant, she dropped out of high school too and loafed until at 16—on an afternoon that would permanently be etched on her mind—her mother and grandfather abandoned her. “They both drove off,” she remembers, “My grandpa drove to L.A. and my mom drove to the airport to live in Canada. On the same day, at the same moment. It was surreal. I don’t know what the fuck they were thinking.”
After months of partying just to have a roof over her head, the teen had had enough. She signed up for Job Corps, a training program that provided room and board, got her GED and landed a job at IKEA. At 17, finally wresting control over her living situation, she moved into her own tiny apartment. Inspired by “Creation” and a life of her own making, she gave herself the name Kreayshawn.? She also saved up for a MacBook and a camera. Over a decade of making connections on the internet proved resourceful, as did an 8-month stint at The Berkeley Digital Film Institute, where the budding videographer had been granted a full ride. She didn’t complete the 16-month program but learned enough to direct simple, vibrant, documentary-style music videos for DB Tha General, a well-regarded rapper from The Bay.
Through him she met Lil B for whom she shot videos and also met Chioke “Stretch” McCoy, DB’s manager, and the first person to ever tell her that she should take her own music seriously. During this prolific period, she’d also make and distribute a mixtape named after her beloved cats called Kittys & Choppas through DJ Woogie of Soulja Boy fame, who mixed the tape for free. An open call on Twitter to aspiring producers also resulted in a beat tape from a relative unknown named DJ TwoStacks. Even with the eyeballs and the accolades, it still took Kreayshawn six weeks to get the gumption to call Stretch. By the time she did, however, she was ready. The two went into the studio and laid a slew of tracks on TwoStacks’ beats among them, “Gucci Gucci.” At this time, seeing potential, Strange Customs, a production company from Canada, reached out to Kreayshawn and offered the budget for a music video. They handpicked “Gucci Gucci” and Kreayshawn wrote a simple treatment to include her all-female crew—Lil Debbie and V-Nasty—known collectively as the “White Girl Mob,” but V-Nasty wasn’t able to make it to LA for the video shoot so only her doppleganger Lil Debbie made the cut.
A few months earlier, Kreayshawn had moved from Oakland to LA for a change of pace. Staying true to LA’s promise of everlasting sunshine, the weather on the day of the shoot was perfect and everyone was out on Fairfax, including Odd Future member Jasper and producer Left Brain whom she’d known from his days in art school as a photographer. Free that afternoon, they hopped in the loosely sketched video shoot to provide memorable cameos. It took 3 months for Kreayshawn, who had wanted to direct and edit herself, to be happy with the cut. In 8 days, the earworm of a song garnered over a million YouTube views. Within two weeks she was taking meetings with major labels, and she quickly signed with Colombia Records. Despite a rumored million-dollar deal, Kreayshawn still wears jeans from 7th grade and kid-sized Jordans from Goodwill. She’s much more focused on the work to come.
And now Kreayshawn is busier and traveling more than she ever has. Between tackling countless interviews that have landed her on the covers of SF Weekly, Complex, the UK’s fashion bible i-D Magazine, and Thrasher Magazine, traveling around the world performing at festivals such as Norway’s Hove Festival, Belgium’s Rock Werchter Festival, Frane’s Main Square Festival, Holland’s Pitch Festival, the UK’s Wireless Festival, Japan’s Springroove Festival, and the US’ Voodoo, POPPED!, Bamboozle, and VICE’s Noisey tour, and working on clothing collaborations with A Bathing Ape and Hot Topic, Kreayshawn churned out 13 genre-bending tracks for her debut album, Somethin ‘Bout Kreay. Drawing inspiration from a myriad of genres including everything from sissy bounce to juke to 80’s rap to pop and beyond, Kreayshawn’s album is a reflection of her vast musical taste.
With so much going on Kreayshawn barely finds time to snuggle up with Kitty & Choppa at home to do what she loves most; listen to instrumental and beat CD’s religiously looking for new songs and raw talent. She hopes to someday own a label to foster like-minded artists. Ultimately though, she just wants to continue working. “I’m not a person who seeks fame,” says Kreayshawn. “I’m happy that people are watching me but I want it to go as far as I want it to go. I’m an artist when it comes down to it. I just want to create. I want to be something that’s not there yet.”