Not many people can claim the achievements that Kristine Flahert can. The 20-something woman has a psychology and sociology degree from Stanford University. She’s taught SAT classes, done some GRE tutoring after graduating. She loves her family.
And she’s toured with Snoop Dogg and Ludacris. No, the path to hip-hop success that Flahert (aka K.Flay) has blazed isn’t exactly a well-traveled one, but regardless of how she reached this point, her skills as an emcee and producer speak for themselves. Her beats are driving, her delivery is sharp. Not bad for someone who only haphazardly picked up the mic.
“I was actually never interested in becoming a professional musician,” Flahert says. “I never even had aspirations of performing music until I got to college.”
It all started with a dorm room conversation, when Flahert criticized mainstream rap to a friend. Her friend challenged her: Could she write a rap song?
Flahert threw together a song with a kid down the hall who made house music. And, almost immediately, she was hooked. K.Flay was born.
“Hip-hop drew me in because, with rap, as a lyrical genre, there’s so much you can say in a song. And I’m a very talkative person,” she says. “It was really conducive to my verbosity. It was like a puzzle to me.”
After sharing the song with friends and getting positive feedback, K.Flay began performing around campus. Eventually she caught the eye of Bay Area hip-hop figures MC Lars and Amp Live, who encouraged her to take music seriously, despite her own misgivings.
“At the time, I think I was making pretty shitty music still. So I’m sort of baffled as to what they even saw in me. I think they saw the spark of a little something that hadn’t really been developed yet.”
Soon K.Flay became known both as an opening act and a producer, making her own music to rap over (usually 16-bar loops) and, eventually, doing remixes for the likes of the Beastie Boys and Young the Giant.
Her early focus on beat-building influenced how she performs today. K.Flay doesn’t merely play over a recording — she recreates the sample and builds beats live onstage. Recently, she started playing with a drummer.
While K.Flay says she hasn’t really faced any discrimination being a white female emcee in the hip-hop game, people still have a hard time accepting that she produces her own music. Hip-hop production is a notoriously male-only profession and K.Flay is doing all she can to dispel the notion that it’s something women can’t do.
“Usually people just assume some dude is making all my music for me and I just sing over it. Whereas I’m kind of in the trenches mixing stuff, and creating it, and producing it,” she says. “I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to technical stuff.”
It’s helped that her parents didn’t freak out when their Stanford-degree-earning daughter suddenly became a rapper. She says they remain supportive (Flahert was hanging out at her mom’s house while doing this interview) despite the fact that this burgeoning career came out of left field.
“It’s really super-random that I’m doing this. I’m very close with a bunch of kids I grew up with and from time to time they’ll be like, ‘Wow. What are you doing? Why are you doing this? This is so strange.’ So it’s kinda bizarre,” she laughs. “But good bizarre.”
K.Flay with Cherub and Jaeda • Tue, April 17, at 7:30 pm • A Club • $8 • All-ages • aclubspokane.com • 624-3629