Contrary to popular opinion, not all of today's music lacks lyrical prowess or originality. There are a few artists who are hitting the music scene hard in 2018, redefining what an exception to the rule looks like. One of those artists is Kristine Flaherty—better known as K.Flay. Despite her powerful and direct persona, she’s down-to-earth and contagious, all in a way we can appreciate. These days, she calls San Francisco home. She doesn’t have a palatial estate, but a normal apartment, living, for the most part, a very normal life—just like one of us, which makes her one of us. That, too, is the draw that makes Flaherty special, no matter what name she goes by.
Flaherty is originally from the Chicago area—Wilmette, to be exact. She’s a byproduct of divorce and an extended step-family, which eventually re-located to the West Coast. At Stanford, she pursued a double major in psychology and sociology. She met several people there who influenced her musical style. As with the Beastie Boys, it’s difficult to define her sound, which has been described as genre-defying. Inasmuch as she loves hip-hop, it wasn’t something she intentionally incorporated into her soon-to-be signature sound. It all started out quite innocent, as something fun to do in her sophomore year. The melding of the genres was more of an organic migration.
She also has alt-rock influences, such as Trent Reznor, with his bone-piercing Nine Inch Nails sound; Shirley Manson and her crunching Garbage tunes; and the incomparable Liz Phair. Hip-hop artists who have shaped her thought process include Missy Elliott, Outcast, M.I.A. and Ms. Lauryn Hill. Flaherty is among the artists—such as Twenty-One Pilots, MC Lars, DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels—who can take the hip-hop sound and blend it with some sweet alt-Indy grooves to turn it into food for our ears.
K.Flay began her musical journey in 2003, when she wrote and performed her breakout hit, "Blingity Blang Blang." There's quite a dichotomy in what inspires artists to write: Some write about things that impact us all, be it social or political news, whereas others write from personal experience or experiences from the heart that have impacted them directly or indirectly. With K.Flay, it’s the directness of her music that draws us in and makes us wonder how she knows us so well. The rapper admittedly has written about experiences in her life that has had her bummed-out at one point in time, but she is not bitter or mean. And her fans love her for her honesty, for not being Taylor Swift. K.Flay has said, “You could understand the truth of a situation, the facts, but you can also decide in the narrative of your life because we’re all making up our lives as we go.”
Her first release, in the early aughts, was Suburban Rap Queen. However, in 2011, she self-released the mixtape Stopped Caring in '96, which she conceded was a turning point for her. In 2014, K.Flay independently released her first full-length EP, Life As a Dog. That album peaked on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart at No. 2, as well as on the Rap Albums chart at No. 14. That year, she appeared among a long list of accomplished artists who joined Kevin Lyman’s traveling circus known as Warped Tour. "[Being on Warped Tour] was almost like an exercise in becoming a better performer," she says. Now, the rapper is signed to Night Street Records, a division of Interscope. Taking notes from her very successful Warped Tour mates, she released her second full-length EP, Every Where Is Some Where, on April 7, 2017. "Blood in the Cut" and "High Enough" took off like a rocket, landing K.Flay in the badassosphere. They're currently being played by terrestrial radio and various streaming platforms. "Blood in the Cut" was so good it can be heard in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, an episode of Netflix’s BoJack Horesman and a 2017 NFL promotion. She has also spent the past two years killing it on the road, touring with the likes of Awolnation, Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional and Imagine Dragons.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The biggest challenge for any new artist is being patient and not getting caught up in their own celebrity, creating their own ill communication. K.Flay received two Grammy nods at the 60th Grammy Awards: She was nominated for Best Engineered Album in the Non-Classical category and Best Rock Song for "Blood in the Cut." In the latter category, she stands out as the only female in the male-dominated list, among them juggernauts Metallica and Foo Fighters!
K.Flay has created a dynamic for anyone who needs noise to cope, but it’s noise that we can groove and dance to. Her uber-cool videos for "Can’t Sleep," "We Hate Everyone" and "Doctor Don’t Know" enhance the dialogue between K.Flay and her fans.
K.Flay is currently headlining her own tour, which stops at the Observatory in Santa Ana on Thursday, Jan. 11; the Fonda on Jan. 12; and the Observatory, North Park, Jan. 13. Come out and catch a great show—and say you saw K.Flay before she was the end-all be-all of alt-hip-hop!