They’re a generally deplorable group of human beings, but in this particular case, it’s hard to resist using YouTube commenters as illustration. The comment in question is one of the top-ranked on Oakland rapper Chippy Nonstop’s new video, entitled “Bitch I Bought It Out,” which begins with a tinkling, Nanosaur-produced synth line and shots of Nonstop (nee Chhavi Nanda), dressed in a skintight white dress, dancing in front of a green-screened flow of pixelated-on-purpose dollar bills before breaking into that high-pitched burble: Call me if you need me/tweet me if you see me/I make the rules so I’m gonna speak freely. By the time the chorus rolls around, we’ve seen Nanda dancing in an empty, smoke-filled room; the rapper, in sunglasses and doorknockers, sitting on top of a car passing a 40 oz. back and forth with her friends; and many more ironically terrible Internet graphics. It’s incredibly fun, if in a slightly lurid way. The comment: “this must be a fucking joke.”
Judging by her videos or her Twitter feed or what she looks like on any given Saturday night — dancing on (and probably falling off) tables in sweaty warehouses or seedy dives, getting, as her latest track boasts, “Kicked Out Da Club”— Nanda is an unrepentant Oakland party monster and nothing more, all Id and ego and smuggled-in booze and incessant tweeting. Judging by the way she looks and acts a little after 11 a.m. on a Friday — tiny, genuine, and without a neon hair extension in sight — it’s a little more complicated than that.
Nanda talks like a profanity-spewing Valley girl, dresses like a Harajuku doll by way of East LA, and raps like a slower Nicki Minaj or maybe a slightly more animated version of one of her more-famous friends, Kreayshawn. On her stomach, there’s a tattoo that says “boom boom” in pink gothic script, and, on the inside of her right bicep, one that reads “imaflirt.com” (she actually used to own the domain, though she’s now let it lapse). The songs on her mixtape, #GLOBALSCHOOLOFTWERK, sound a lot like “Bitch I Bought It Out” — glittery bangers with titles like “Cum Touch This” and “Shake That Ass,” and lyrics about strippers and swag and bitches and boys. She is constantly tweeting, to the extent that it was only about twenty minutes into our hour-long interview that she began stealing wistful glances at the iPhone that remained white-knuckled in her hand the whole time, and that during the not-infrequent periods when she ends up in “Twitter jail” for sending too many updates in an hour, Nanda takes to Facebook with a rapidly-escalating urgency and an almost-Shakespearean specter of encroaching madness.
Nanda is neither the first, nor, certainly, the last, East Bay rapper to turn the social web and an indefatigable love of partying into a branding apparatus, but what sets Chippy apart is her prodigiousness — and her startling rate of success: As of press time, she’d tweeted nearly 57,000 times at a rate regularly reaching a hundred tweets a day to more than 4,700 followers — and that doesn’t include the five or so tribute accounts that have been set up for her by adoring fans, most of them teenage girls, all around the world. A couple years ago, she met Paul Devro, one of the central members of the record label and entertainment company Mad Decent, after he saw her dancing on a table at a bar; months later, when she met Devro’s roommate, Diplo, at a party, it was he who introduced himself to her — apparently, he recognized her from the Internet. (The two just recorded a track, set to be released any day now, though Nanda has yet to hear it — “he probably thinks I’d leak it if he sent it to me,” she said, pausing a beat. “Which I probably would.”) And when she and some friends briefly landed a job running MIA’s website, it wasn’t because they had connections — it was because someone on her management team had seen their Tumblr, an eyeball-searing explosion of homemade neon GIFs that fit the singer’s aesthetic to a tee. She landed a hook on a Stunnaman track after the Pack rapper sent her a Twitter message saying she “seem[ed] interesting,” and popped up in little more than a bra, gold chain, and cutoffs in the video for cult comic Andy Milonokis’ imaginatively-titled joke rap, “Spaghetti (Party with Your Pussy Out).” Last weekend, she met Killah Priest of Wu-Tang Clan at a bar in downtown Oakland; she apparently rapped for him and he called her “a blessing,” but she was blackout drunk so she doesn’t remember. By her own admission, the whole rap thing came as an accident: “It was random, really,” she said. “It wasn’t really a process. I never thought about it. It was just, like, being at parties just drunk and dancing on tables and freestyling and stuff and meeting the right people.” She is twenty years old.
There’s a way in which things seem to sort of happen to Nanda, and it’s hard to tell if she’s just incredibly lucky or if all the gears are actually spinning, silently and secretly, behind it all. Either way, she’s clearly something of a self-starter, even if she may not want to admit it: Born to Indian parents and raised in Dubai, Zambia, Toronto, and San Diego, Nanda completed an accelerated high-school program, moved out at sixteen, and has been living more or less on her own since then — first in San Francisco, and then for a year in LA, and then in Oakland. She spent a year or so after that as a freelance journalist at publications like SOMA magazine and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, largely before she turned eighteen, and is now about a semester away from a degree in media communication at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University. A couple months ago, when she was broke and wanted to get to South by Southwest, she took a Greyhound bus for all of 36 hours; the night before I interviewed her, she’d stayed up nearly all night working on a DJ mix for a blog. The “Chippy” came from her predilection for Flamin’ Hot Lay’s, while “nonstop” is a reference to her unbridled hyperactivity. If you think about it, it might be sort of a perfect metaphor for the Nanda mystique, writ large: Surface-level lightness masking steely ambition — party up front, business in the back.
In person, sitting barefoot in her airy West Oakland loft, she understands the cognitive dissonance all this can produce. “I mean, you don’t act like you’re [an] insane person at all times. It’s like, what do you expect? Like, I’m running around twerking while I’m having dinner? I can be a human.” She continued: “On the Internet, it feels like you’re not talking to anyone, but you’re talking to everyone. That’s something I’ve learned.”
That might be a reference to her legions of fans, the ones that set up the tribute Twitter accounts and who send her fan mail from Australia and New York and Texas, or it might just as easily be a nod to her haters, whom she addresses from a mostly-undamaged and surprisingly self-aware position: “It’s weird when people are trying to judge your lyrical ways and stuff, like, ‘she doesn’t say anything with any lyrical depth’. I’m not, like, a poet. It’s like, nobody says that about Waka Flocka.” She’s well aware of the novelty status often bestowed upon female rappers, especially ones who, like her, came to fame largely through the Internet. But Nanda insists she doesn’t really consider herself a rapper — she’s a hypegirl and a party host, too, an aspiring writer and former website-builder. She’s twenty. But like everything Nanda seems to say, that statement’s shot through with a note of seriousness: as she tweeted approximately forty seconds after our interview ended, “DON’T WANT TO BE A QUICK FAD. ~”