The Italian-Jewish-American queen of trash hip-hop wants you to know there's more to her than a foul mouth and Eminern comparisons
WITH A UNIQUE MIX of raior-sharp rudeness, trashy ghetto chic and an extremely bad attitude, Princess Superstar is the thinking man's hip-hop minx. Her recent surprise hit, "Bad Babysitter", is a shocking but irresistibly funky fantasy tale of a sociopathic teenage childminder, containing lines like "Kid you gotta go to bed/I know it's only six but my boy just came over and he wants me to give him head." But, there's a lot more to 27-year-old Coneetta Kirschner than the "female Eminem" label that's so often slapped on her.
Born in a graffiti-covered manger to Italian-Jewish-American parents, Princess Superstar's eclectic upbringing has led to a genre-bending musical style and a strong independent streak. For a start, the immodestly titled NewYork rapper has been running her own record label, A Big Rich Major Label, for eight years. Furthermore, her cheeky challenges to racial and sexual boundaries have won her the respect of the notoriously cynical rap scene and a diverse international fan base - including William Orbit and Jarvis Cocker, who invited her to perform at his club night in the Pentonville Prison officers' social club last year, as you do. We teamed up with her majesty in Berlin.
ESOUIRE: So, how's the European tour going?
PRINCESS SUPERSTAR: The shows are great, but I'm so busy it's kinda depressing going to all these places and never getting to explore. I always take the chance to hang out with local people in the bar after shows. I'm pretty accessible. I mean, what am I gonna do after a show - go home and stare at the wall?
ESQ: Are you trying to tell me that you get lots of groupies?
PS: You know what? I do! [Laughs] They're strange, though. They seem really keen when they hang around after shows, and some of them are pretty hot. Most of them come from the UK. But usually, when I actually talk to,them, they don't know what to say. They get really scared. You don't think I'm scary, do you?
ESQ: No way! But you sound scary - and pretty smutty - on your "Bad Babysitter" single. How do you feel about little kids listening to it?
PS: I didn't expect it to become a big pop hit, and I was really aiming it at an older audience who get the irony of the joke. Kids today seem to understand a lot. I don't really mind the 15-year-olds listening to it. I was pretty bad when I was 15. It's more the 11 and 12-year-olds listening to it that kinda bothers me. I get crazy emails from little kids now saying, "My morn won't let me listen to you. But I do anyway. You 're the best." They're so cute.
ESQ: You seem to be pretty against the idea of being a pop star. After all, you turned down quite a few major label deals. Why did you do that? Are you mad?
PS: There's nothing wrong with selling a lot of records, and I did get a few offers from the majors when I started out. But they either wanted me to stop rapping or stop playing instruments or stop writing my own stuff. Or else the'd offer me lots of money and not come through with it. I wanted to do things my own way, which is why I set up my own label.
ESQ: Are you a feminist?
PS: Yeah, but it's not your typical brand of feminism. When they call women bitches, all these rappers like Dr Dre are rapping about what's true to them. I don't think it's great, but that's the way it is. I'm not trying to stop anyone doing what they do, but I think women should be able to say all that sexual stuff, and I like to turn it on its head sometimes, but I try to do it in a clever, witty way.
ESQ: For instance?
PS: On my song, "I Love You (Or at Least I Like You)", I fuck around with hip-hop conventions. I call the other rapper my ho and my housewife. I also did a skit on my last album called "Kool Keith's Ass". I was persuading Kool Keith, who's like, a really major rapper, to pose for my record cover in a thong. It was taking the piss out of the fact that you always see women in thongs and G-strings in rap videos.
ESQ: But you didn't fancy donning a thong for the infamous Penthouse?
PS: Nah. A few months ago they asked me to do a shoot for them. I agreed, but said we'd style it ourselves, so we styled it like a 1975 soft porn shoot. I had a really cheesy sun visor and some nasty clothes, with no nudity. It was a lot of fun. They'll never publish it [laughs]. Don't get me wrong, though. I definitely don't hate men. I love men, and I do like to look sexy. I just thought what they were doing was really tacky.
ESQ: That's a relief. So tell us, what kind of guys do you normally go for?
PS: I sometimes go for the real rough, street kind of guy, and then I'll totally go for a super-intellectual guy. I kind of need both, I guess. I need someone who's wicked smart so they can keep up with me, but not like a dweeb. He's definitely got to be down with street culture and have good musical taste, I guess that's why I'm single at the moment! It's a good thing I've got my birds.
PS: I have two little birds. A cockatoo and a budgerigar. People are sometimes surprised how much I care about them, but they're like my little babies. Ernie and Barney. I have a bird sitter to look after them while I'm away on tour.
ESQ: A bad birdsitter, perhaps?
PS: [Sighs] No. A good one.
Words: Chris Ellwell-Sutton, Photograph: John Stoddart