[Editor's note: This the first in a series in which All Shook Down will look back at the people, sounds, and trends that reigned in 2011.]
Vanessa Reece, 21, began 2011 in jail. She's finishing the year with BAYTL, a Warner Brothers-distributed album with Atlanta's Gucci Mane, one of her rap idols. In between, the young woman known as V-Nasty has caused -- and continues to ride -- international waves over her attitude toward a single word.
V-Nasty was cooling her flats in Alameda County Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on a six-month stint for robbery when her friend Natassia Zolot (aka Kreayshawn) called for her freedom on a song called "Gucci Gucci." By the time the video for the track exploded on YouTube in May, V-Nasty was free. Probation prevented her from following Kreayshawn on her subsequent international travels, but Reece's name rang out around the world for her casual and frequent use of the N-word, seen largely via multiple videos that were shot by Kreayshawn and posted on YouTube.Her transgressions became a hot topic on YouTube and in the hip-hop community, with major rap stars like Game and David Banner taking shots at her on their own songs ("Uncle Otis" and "Swag," respectively). DJ Vlad, a New York video producer with roots in the Bay Area, compiled a short clip of rappers reacting to what appeared to be a white woman (though it's been said she is part Vietnamese) using the racial epithet. Responses included occasional support for her expression of her background, as well as threats that she'd better watch out before her teeth get knocked out. Throughout the summer, V-Nasty defended her use of the word from the standpoint of where she grew up (Oakland) and who had become her family (she has two children with a black man). But by the end of the year, she had relented, and said she wouldn't use the term on songs -- only with friends back home. She also promised that she had put the criminal life behind her. "V-Nasty is a square," she told LA Weekly last month. She put a lot of her past activities down to growing up in East Oakland. "I wish I didn't have to go through struggles. I could damn near tattoo my whole back with a list of R.I.P.s. That don't feel good. I wish I was from a town where there wasn't a gun in that motherfucker." BAYTL, her project with Gucci Mane, hasn't exactly been lauded for its lyrical prowess. But in many ways it's a brilliant matching of two slightly awkward MCs who are yet somehow endearing personalities with real-life struggles (they've both been in and out of jail for years). More than that, though, it's a sign of legitimate success for a young woman from the Bay Area who, only a few months ago, was sitting in a cell, unknown to the outside world.