Kate Neal, aka "Kritik," has traced her bloodline back to the Vikings. When asked if she has any tattoos, she proudly shows off the skull and cross bones on her calf with her MC name tagged underneath. She says her ultimate goal in life is to make enough money to build a pirate ship just set sail.
Boise Weekly: What was your first exposure to hip-hop?
Kate Neal: I actually hated rap when I was growing up. I didn't want to listen to the negative messages, and it was so demeaning to women. Then, one day, I was driving with my little brother, and he played an edited version of "The Eminem Show," and I turned around right then and there and went and bought the unedited version of that album, mainly because I don't believe in censorship. And for some reason, that album changed my entire outlook on rap.
Who are your biggest influences?
I appreciate any musician who is honest on the mic and takes chances. When you listen to mainstream music, the beats are good and it gets people dancing in the club, but lyrically, the content is crap.
Is there any MC out there that you would compare your sound to?
Lots of people compare my sound to Eminem, which is flattering. But I think the only reason why I am compared to him is because I enunciate my words a lot like he does and, of course, I am white. But our sound and our lyrical content are very different. I wasn't born in the hood, and I didn't grow up in the streets, either, so I can't really relate to him on that level.
A lot of your music is politically charged and carries a strong message. What made you decide to write like that?
I see people on a daily basis being oppressed, and that's where the majority of my writing stems from. Not enough people are addressing the issues that matter, and not enough people are speaking out against them and having their voices heard.
Who do you intend to reach with such intense lyrics?
Obviously, a lot of what I do is preaching to the choir. The people who are my fans share a lot of my viewpoints. I hope that my message will eventually get to the ears of the people that normally wouldn't hear it. I know that President Bush will never hear the lyrics to my "ABC's of America" song, but maybe someone who is on the fence as to whether they support Bush or someone who is just now discovering all the lies we have been told will listen to that song and realize how much of an ass he is.
I think the majority of people know that he's an ass.
Yeah, but there are still a few people that need to be convinced.
I've noticed that you are very open about your sexuality in your music. Do you get a lot of flak for that?
It's definitely an issue I face. I have experienced homophobia, but I have never had anyone react negatively to what I am saying in my music.
Does being an openly queer female MC in Idaho take a lot of courage?
When I get up on stage, it has nothing to do with me being brave. My mom used to have a big issue with me being out in my music. In my opinion, it's my responsibility to do what I do. If I don't say it, who is going to say it? Part of why I do this is because most of what I say completely refutes the status quo of hip-hop, and I am standing up against it and saying "That's not right!" I really feel that hip-hop is what I am supposed to be doing right now.
If you could change one thing about rap or hip-hop, what would you change?
I would like to see hip-hop get back to its roots of rapping about social justice and speaking out against oppression. I don't think that the pioneers of rap would listen to the "Laffy Taffy" song and be pleased with where hip-hop has gone.
If you were given the opportunity to make a public statement, what would you say?
Keeping an open mind is one of the best virtues a person can ever achieve in their life. We all need to treat each other like human beings regardless of how we feel about other peoples' lifestyle and how they choose to live it. Oh, and I would also strongly advocate world peace!
Being a female MC in this overwhelmingly male-dominated genre of music is brave. I remember the first time that I saw you perform; I thought to myself, "That girl has guts!"
I really like being one of the only female MCs out there right now. It's tough, because most MCs are into the mindset of rap being "a black man's game." Eminem did a good job breaking down that barrier because he's white. But regardless of his skin color, he is still a man.
If people would stop getting caught up in my gender, skin color and sexuality and sit down and listen to the content of my music, none of that would matter. It's not about the person I am, it's about what I am saying.
How do you justify taking part in a genre of music that is often so oppressive to women?
If you like a certain genre of music, you shouldn't have to justify why you listen to it. There are songs I listen to that I don't agree with, but I like them because they have a good beat. I'm never going to deny that. But I'm in it to help make the change. You have to start somewhere, right?
What's the story behind you being featured in Curve magazine?
Curve was in Boise this past summer for Pride and they saw me open for Goddess and She. After that, they approached me and asked for an interview. Later in the summer, I did a mini West Coast tour. I did a photo shoot for Curve when I was in Seattle, then the actual interview when I was in San Francisco.
You're famous, dude. Can I have your autograph?
One of the opening statements in the interview that ran in Curve was "Kritik is the best female MC to come out of the Boise hip-hop scene since, well, since anyone even knew there was a hip-hop scene."
You can listen to Kritik at www.myspace.com/kritik17