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Ask a Rapper: Karina Nistal Loves Common, Mike Jones Not So Much

The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place - lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good - so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Have something you always wanted to ask a rapper? Email it to [email protected].

This Week's Rapper: Bilingual Latina femmestress Karina Nistal

This Week's Subject(s): Rappers switching genres; Rappers getting that money.

Ask A Rapper: Okay, we might be off base, but it certainly seems like your music - which before used to have an undeniable hip-hop core - has taken on an almost housey, New Wave feel. Kanye switched it up on 808s and Heartbreak. Lil' Wayne made that rock album that no one will ever hear. Jay-Z heavily sampled Alphaville's "Forever Young" on Blueprint 3. Is that what's going on with you? Are you in the "I've Gone As Far As I Can Go With Hip-Hop" phase of your career?

Karina: I've always had some house roots and soulful roots. I actually feel like I'm getting more into hip-hop. I'm taking another route with it; still keeping my Latin roots and taking a hip-hop soul kind of route. Soulful is where I always wanted to be.

Karina Nistal, "Beautiful"

AAR: Is there a ceiling to what can be accomplished in hip-hop or do rappers get bored doing rap? Is that why they switch it up? Or is more just the case of them wanting to expand when they move over to a different genre?

K: Yeah, Common's last album, Universal Mind Control, he actually did that whole album overseas in Europe and he said he wanted to try out more electronic beats and The Neptunes played their part on that. But yeah, absolutely, it's very easy to get bored, that's why I think it's important to fuse styles and try out different stuff.

Hip-hop is so diverse that you can fuse hip-hop with everything. If they get a little creative, they can do whatever they want with it.

AAR: When rappers put something new out there, something that's different than what you typically do, do they get nervous? Like, with the Common album you mentioned, he got killed for that. Everyone destroyed it.

K: Yeah, I know. Which is a shame, because I like it. I get really nervous, man. I say I got 20 Yays to one Not Yay, you know.

AAR: A "Not Yay"?

K: To one "Nay," I should say. It was kind of hard. I took it hard. I know this guy - I'll leave him nameless - he does stuff on the scene. He's done his own Dilla tribute. [Note: Nistal's latest mixtape, And he goes, "Yeah, I did. I couldn't download past track eight, but honestly I expected more. I thought it'd have more spark." And I was like, "Wow. I'm disappointed that you couldn't download pass track eight and that you felt you had to pass judgment." He didn't respond after that.

But that was hard. Up until then everybody was like, "It's great, I love it." Going back to your question, it does make you really nervous. It makes you wonder how am I going to be judged, how am I going to be pigeonholed. You just gotta kind of suck it up.

AAR: Was that "Dynamo Theme Song" thing that you did just something you did just to get a check?

K: Ummm... not so much. Initially when I got asked to do that song it was two years ago. Adidas had some money behind the MLS and they ended up giving it to Mike Jones because he was Mike Jones and I was a nobody. So I was really mad at Mike Jones. I was like, "His 'Orange Crush' song don't beat my shit. I'm sitting here doing it bilingual and he's over here [in a Mike Jones voice] 'Orange cruuusshhh, it's Mike Jones.'"

AAR: [Laughs] How do other rappers feel when they see someone do something like that? Like, when T-Pain did that goofy song with Taylor Swift, it was clearly a "Gimme My Money" situation. Does that bother other rappers? Do you all see it as exploitation of the art? Or is it a get in where you fit in thing?

K: Ummm, I don't condone and I don't support it. If you're going to come together and collab, make it clever, don't make it silly. You have to think about their fan base too. They have a bunch of kids. Kids fall for that corny stuff.

Karina Nistal performs live Friday in the Bronze Peacock Room at House of Blues. In the meantime, download her new mixtape for free via And remember: there are more than eight tracks.

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Shea Serrano