Hip-Hop's New Brainiac: K. Flay
But Flay actually is intelligent; there's her dual degrees from Stanford in psychology and sociology, for one thing. Right now, as she phones in from San Francisco, Flay's speaking on the topic of identity, a fitting topic considering that the 26-year-old is in the process of creating one of her own. The thing is, however, it's not the one she originally had in mind.
With shoulder-length brown hair and an endearing smile, Flay is more Bethany Cosentino than Big KRIT; the newcomer is challenging our stereotypes of how an MC should look and act.
But she's also become one of hip-hop's most intriguing new talents. As shown on her breakout three-part mixtape she released in April -- called I Stopped Caring in '96 -- there's a grit beneath her privileged exterior. Flay spits rhythmic licks in terse, agitated fashion, with pristine enunciation and verbal posture.
"It was never something I ever thought I would do in a professional way," says the woman born Kristine Flaherty, of her emerging status as hip-hop's girl-next-door. "People that I grew up with are like 'What the fuck? You're doing this?'
Flay was born into a stable, culturally homogeneous bubble in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. She took up guitar at 11, and after connecting with Dizzee Rascal's Boy in da Corner at Stanford, became engrossed with hip-hop. There was "so much freedom musically, in terms of rhythm and rhyme patterns, ways to tell a story," she says. "The fact that I could write and record, and (a song) was finished 15 minutes later was a revelation."
After gaining a following on campus, Flay graduated and set up shop in the Bay Area, where she refined her production skills. "There aren't a ton of female producers out there that are visible," she says. In the time since, she's lent her deft knob-turning hand to the official Santigold-featuring remix of Beastie Boys' "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win." Her upcoming debut EP, Eyes Shut, sees the multi-talent amalgamating dance, soul and rock grooves into a hook-heavy hip-hop hodge podge.