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Pre-Gaming With K Rizz, Rising Pop Queen and the "Baddest Cowgirl on the Block"

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“I am the whole package,” squeals rising Filipina American artist K Rizz (aka the “Baddest Cowgirl on the Block”). “If you want dinner, I’ll give you the main plate, a side dish and dessert. You want a drink, too? Call ‘Slay Rizz.’” The 22-year-old Queens native spews out these one-liners with impressive ease and talks about having prepared for the spotlight her entire life. Switching to third person (and referring once again to her alter ego, "Slay Rizz") she says, “deep down in Slay Rizz’s baby heart, she always knew she wanted to be a pop star. She didn’t know how she’d make it happen, but she knew.”

Stocked with more cowgirl hats and assless chaps than a porno set in Texas, K Rizz has consciously crafted an image that’s simultaneously a throwback to Madonna or Christina Aguilera's early-00s "urban cowgirl" schtick and also very different from anything else happening in music today. While overtly glam and overtly sexual, there's still something about her look that makes you think of performance art. And, in fact, she's been embraced by certain segments of the avant net art community (her 2014 music video, "Sabalhe," was premiered by DIS Magazine, for instance).

As for her music, the New Yorker's rap-pop sound has a sharper bite than Rihanna and glossier sheen than Gaga, which you can hear on her buzzy tracks like "Imagine" and "Yes Bitch." Her debut album is finally slated to drop this spring. We had the chance to catch one of her high-octane performances at Verboten in Williamsburg after spending a night pre-gaming with her crew. Take a look at photos by Rebecca Smeyne and hear K Rizz's thoughts on her Queens upbringing, self-proclaimed "gay spirit" and impressive cowgirl hat collection.


“‘Salbahe’ [Tagalog for "bad"] represents my style and confidence -- everything about me. If I could make a genre, it’d be ‘Salbahe'; if I could have a clothing line, it’d be ‘Salbahe.’ I called last summer, ‘Salbahe Season,’ but eventually I was like, ‘Why does it have to be just one season? It can be the whole lifestyle.’”


“When I was a young girl in the 2000s, I used to see these girls in cowboy hats and they really didn’t give a fuck. They were the party -- they were so sexy. I was drawn to that woman because they commanded attention. They let everybody look and let everybody have it. I decided then that I wanted to be that woman. I was always the ‘Salbahe Cowgirl’ in my heart -- I just wasn’t confident enough.”


“When I first started doing performances underground, I was around a lot of sly, cut-throat people who were just in it for the come-up. I could feel that energy -- I’m really good at reading people’s auras. Now, I’m so happy with the circuit I’m in. We go off, we have fun; we catch the spirit, we give the spirit. That’s the ‘Salbahe Lifestyle.’”


“I’m the next big pop star -- I really feel it. I can see how contagious I am. My album is going to be one of the most exciting things of 2015 because it’s not just the album, it’s the lifestyle -- it’s everything. I’m giving you something catchy with a poppin’ beat. Definitely club bangers up in there.”


“I grew up speaking Filipino with my family, so for my first few days of school, kids were laughing at me. I didn’t understand why but I had an accent and quickly started to realize it wasn’t a normal thing. I grew up in Queens suburbia, so there were a lot of Europeans and Latin Americans. Nobody really understood my art there, so I eventually moved to Brooklyn.”


“I started go-go dancing when I was 18 or 19 for Frankie Sharp’s Westgay parties and another one called, ‘Friday.’ That’s where it all started, honey. I never got carded because Frankie would always come out and get me.”


“I never really had an idol that I could relate to completely. Eventually I was like, ‘I’m going to become my own hero.’ I never thought it was actually going to be real, but I’m obsessed with Slay Rizz, now. I wouldn’t say she’s an act. I’m Slay Rizz even without that cowboy hat, honey. It’s an inner beauty that shines brightly out of my body.”


“The idea my parents had of America was like any first generation person. If your parents aren’t from America originally, you can relate. What they saw on TV in Asia about America was the cliché four family members, two cars, a driveway, a dog, a big house and a mother to stay home and cook. When they got to America, they realized the struggle continues; they thought it wouldn’t be here no more.”


“I have such a gay spirit and it feels good. My gay friends have always understood me.”


“Taking selfies and videos is a big part of the pre-game ritual. If I’m with the girls, we edit that caption and say, ‘Oh girl, maybe it should say this.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, what angle looks better?’ You know, preparation for the ‘Gram -- put it out there that Slay Rizz is coming out.”


“My whole room is full of cowgirl hats and the collection keeps getting bigger and bigger. When I wear them, I feel like a fierce Taurus. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m fierce. Look at me, everybody -- I’m the baddest cowgirl on the block.’ I’ve been doing this look since 2012.”


“I’d rather go to the club to be something better than someone who’s there to just get drunk -- I don’t drink. Maybe I’ll hit a joint before we go out to feel good.”


“I want to give it all because I have it all -- that’s how I feel when I perform. I always make sure I have the people in my hand; I go the fuck off during my live shows. That’s my natural being, to go the fuck off -- that’s my soul.”


“My song, ‘Yes Bitch,’ really surprised me. I was going to perform in LA, so I made that song because I felt like LA wasn’t going to accept me, right away. I wanted the song to have a hip-hop, west coast beat, but my producer Roc’Well is so Brooklyn -- he’s so east coast. He was out of his element, but I just started writing and we released it before Soulja Boy and Nicki Minaj ever put out, ‘Yasss Bish.’”


“I feel like my album, Wanted, is the future of music. It’s not now -- it’s next. I think we’re in a transition musically to better things and this album is definitely for later. I’ve let a lot of people listen to it and some aren’t even getting it yet. It was supposed to come out in January, but I’m waiting for the right time.”

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