It’s a story as old as time itself. OK, perhaps it’s not that old. But if you follow the careers of up-and-coming rappers trying to make it in the major music biz, you’ve definitely heard it before.
The rapper in this case is Kristine Flaherty, better known in some circles as K.Flay. While studying sociology and psychology at Stanford University, the Wilmette, Ill., native started dabbling in writing rhymes after she and a friend had a discussion on how most of contemporary hip-hop was formulaic, misogynistic and downright wack. By her junior year, she became a full-fledged hip-hop artist, performing at shows and even releasing a mixtape called “Suburban Rap Queen.”
After college, K.Flay released a number of mixtapes and EPs, which led to her being signed by the all-mighty RCA Records in 2012. And although she recorded many songs while at the label and released a 2013 EP titled “What If It Is,” K.Flay found that things weren’t moving along as they should for her.
On her own
“I left RCA late last year,” says K.Flay, 29, on the phone from Kansas City. She got a spot on the Warped Tour this past summer, and she and her team needed a full-length to promote. “We were operating under a really, really tight timeline. And within the infrastructure of any label, it’s very difficult to say, ‘I wanna put out a record in four months from now!’ and for that to happen.”
In an effort to get something out there before her Warped run, K.Flay went to the people for help. In April she announced on PledgeMusic.com that she was finishing an album and needed some outside funding.
“There was certainly a part of me that was considering, you know, OK, what would it be like to sign again, whether that’s to another major label or to an indie label,” she says. “You know, is that something I want to get involved with? And I think the resounding conclusion – from my experience, I would say – was that not only did I want to have complete creative control from both a writing and recording, and also a kind of online-based video perspective, but I also wanted to have a real level of control over the timing of things.”
A new album
A couple of months and many donations later, she released “Life as a Dog,” her full-length debut. The album is practically a reflection of all the different directions she was getting pulled while at RCA. There’s some hip-hop on the album, but there’s also some indie-rock, electronica, experimental, etc. While certain folks at RCA were looking to put her in an exact category, K.Flay refuses to be placed in a box.
“My entre into the world of music was through hip-hop, and that’s how I got started and that’s obviously at the core of everything I do,” she says. “But I think as I’ve learned to explore melody in songwriting – in a different way, that sort of comes from an indie-rock perspective… It’s kind of like a game of Twister, like my limbs are all in different kinds of genres.”
Although she’s currently in the indie thick of it, K.Flay isn’t ruling out signing with a major label again, or even getting in bed with a legendary indie like Seattle’s Sub Pop.
“I think, at this point, I’ve sort of learned not to rule anything out without giving it a fair shake,” she says. “Because, you know, the landscape of this industry is changing so rapidly and I think what makes sense and what’s viable and what’s good for artists right now potentially is not that way in a year, or potentially more so though in a year.
“You know, I’m not gonna say no just out of hand. But I will say that putting this record out, putting kind of our hearts and souls into it and forming a label and going through all of that process – it’s been incredibly gratifying.”