Kristine Flaherty, better known as K.Flay, is a one-woman music experience. On stage, she's a burst of energy as she sings, raps, harmonizes and exhorts the crowd into call-and-response, all while programming beats from her laptop, and occasionally banging on an analog instrument thrown in for good measure. Her songs veer from brightly melodic pop rap to nerdy backpack rhymes to angst-ridden melodic pop rock.
In short, it's difficult to pin her down. Just look at her collaborators: They range from MC Lars, a nerdcore rapper who riffs on various bits of pop culture nonsense while parodying his own stiffness, and with whom she made a 2009 EP, Single and Famous; to Zion-I, a conscious rap group that exhorts positive uplift for working-class communities, and who gave K.Flay her first major cameo on their 2008 album The Take Over; and Danny Brown, whose determination to express personal freedom adds a splash of color to K.Flay's kaleidoscopic EP What If It Is. She sounds comfortable with all of them because, while her music appears self-generated, she's a welcoming host, not a hermetic bedroom artist.
Over the past four years, and through the course of three EPs, including What If It Is, K.Flay has nurtured the sense that she's on the verge of an artistic breakthrough, if only she could focus her ideas. She often raps in a torrent, like she's trying to get the words out of her mouth before she forgets them. (It's another trait she shares with Danny Brown.) But maybe it's that very restlessness that makes her so unique, and we're just waiting for that one great song to be embraced by pop radio to confirm her as a major iconoclast. In the meantime, she continues to build her own weird and wonderful take on rap culture in the new millennium.