Much like other facets of the entertainment business, perception and labels play interesting roles in Hip Hop. Prior to May 13, 2008 Remy Ma was labeled as a “female emcee,” as if that noun subjected all women who rap for a living to some sub-genre within Hip Hop. Remy appeared on notable records with M.O.P. and Fat Joe but also landed at the #33 spot on Billboard magazine’s top 200 albums chart with her 2005 effort, There’s Something About Remy: Based On A True Story.
But a 2008 conviction for intentional assault stemming from the shooting of Makeda Barnes Joseph caused most to label Remy as merely one thing: convicted felon. This despite being a mother, wife, Grammy award nominee and an aspiring entrepreneur. Having served six years of prison time, Remy Ma returns with a clean slate of sorts while still answering some of the same, old questions. People want to know if she has aspirations of going at Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea, and shade is being thrown from other sources.
“Even now, do you know how many people say, ‘She’s a criminal, why’s she on this show?’” Remy said, during an exclusive conversation with HipHopDX. “I feel like I paid my debt to society. You guys made me do however much time you wanted me to do, so why should I not be able to continue and live my life?”
With more new music on the way, a steep learning curve to face on the tech side and access to simple pleasures most take for granted such as bubblegum (the latter is considered contraband in most prisons), who says she can’t? Perception isn’t necessarily reality.
Remy Ma Explains Not Catering To Radio & Adapting To Technology
HipHopDX: With “They Don’t Love You No More,” you jumped right back into the hardcore content as far as lines like, “I’ma take these bitches’ jobs and give ‘em work like Loaded Lux.” But the Top 40 debut of Something About Remy showed you have commercial appeal too. How do you balance them?
Remy Ma: I don’t know. I just be me. I don’t do anything consciously like, “Alright, I’m gonna try to come hardcore or street, but at the same time be mainstream.” I just say what I want to say, and I write it how it comes out. It’s not a conscious thing that happens. It’s a great thing to be able to be myself and still fit into different categories, because everybody likes to compartmentalize things. It makes them feel like, “OK, if you rap like this, you have to rap like this all the time.” I guess I’m blessed with being able to do both and still be received in a good way.
It’s crazy because I’ve seen people say, “I gotta make a radio hit,” or, “I gotta get back on my street shit.” And it just makes me say, “What? Who are you, really? Who sent you?” It’s weird how some people feel they have to change who they are, change their style and sometimes dumb things down just to be accepted by certain fields.
Is that your phone beeping or mine?
DX: I believe that’s you.
Remy Ma: OK, I’m not quite used to this new phone just yet, so I’m doing all kinds of wild stuff by accident [laughs]. I’m just making sure.
DX: The phone actually brings us to another topic, though. Twitter was kind of in its infancy when you went down and there was no Instagram. You came back with hashtags and a “The Ruler’s Back” IG campaign. How are you getting used to documenting your life?
Remy Ma: It’s very different. I don’t know if Twitter was out yet when I was home. If it was, like you said, I wasn’t aware of it yet. And Instagram, I know for a fact, did not exist. It’s kind of weird because everything that you do now is immediately online. I’ll take a picture with somebody, and five seconds later, I’ll get tagged on my Instagram timeline. I’ll be like, “I just took that picture!” So everyone’s their own photographer and videographer, and people are going, “Wait, the lighting’s not right. Hold up, we need a better shot.” Everybody is out here trying to professionally film people with what’s basically a little film crew in your pocket [laughs].
The other day, I came out to do 106 & Park, and everyone just had their phones. All you saw was a whole bunch of arms sticking out everywhere with phones, and people are not even looking at you directly. They’re looking through the screen on their phones even though they’re standing right there in your face. That’s a crazy thing.
If I was 17 or 18, and I saw my favorite rapper, I would want to actually look at them as opposed to just holding up a phone. You kind of miss the moment of being there with the person. It’s one thing if you have your phone to the side to catch the view, but people don’t do that. So it’s just really, really weird to me.
Why Remy Ma Says Females Get Pressured Into Dissing Each Other
DX: Yeah, I can understand that. One thing you spoke on early was the cattiness between female emcees. How much of that do you attribute to the lack of female executives?
Remy Ma: I would say about 10%. You can’t really blame the executives. I never really got it from an executive. It’s the females themselves that allow people in their camp or the fans or whatever to do that. They make it seem like you have to attack one another. If you as an artist don’t have the willpower and strength to push your instincts aside to take the initiative and say, “No, that’s not what I want to do. I shouldn’t have to do that to be the best,” then you’ll be sucked into it. You’ll catch yourself.
If I listened to people that I’ve encountered in the last 19 days since I’ve been home, people in prison or just people in the street, I would probably have hits out on Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea and every other chick that ever decided to do anything. They’ll tell you to go at them, and I’m like, “Nah, I’m good. Let her do her, and I’m gonna do me. If you’re a fan of me, then you’ll rock with me anyway.” Why do I have to try to annihilate someone else in order for you to support me? If you’re gonna support me, you should support me no matter who’s out, right?
DX: How do you balance that with being competitive? Nobody comes out of the gate saying, “I wanna be number five.”
Remy Ma: Right. You’re not supposed to. Every last one of us is supposed to feel like we’re number one, and if you’re not number one yet, [you feel] that you’re gonna get there one day. Until you get there, just behave as if you’re number one. That’s my motto. Before I had money and success, I moved like I had money and success. I talked like, “This is what it is,” because that’s what it’s gonna be. I refuse to lose, and I think you talk things into existence. If you walk around saying, “Oh, I’m gonna be number three,” then you probably will. That’s what you put forth. You have to put forth that effort to be number one, and I would never feel like somebody disrespected or was going at me because they said they were number one. You’re supposed to! And if I feel differently, then guess what? I’m going to do what I need to do to prove that I’m number one, and we’ll leave it to everyone else to decide. You’re not going to be my archenemy or my nemesis.
DX: Right. In terms of these 19 days you’ve been out, how many songs have you recorded?
Remy Ma: About seven.
DX: Is there a bidding war? Are labels approaching you with different situations?
Remy Ma: It’s a combination of the two. People are trying to put their bids in, make sure that I go with them and convince me that’s the place to be. But ultimately, I’m sitting back and paying attention to everything. I’m going over everything with a fine-toothed comb to see what’s the best place for me to be. A lot of times people make decisions based on what other people want them to do and what others say will be good for them. I want to do what I believe would be best for me.
A lot of times, things are one-sided and it’s much more beneficial for the label, the executives or whoever you’re dealing with as opposed to the artists themselves.
Remy Ma Draws Parallels Between Wesley Snipes & Chris Brown
DX: Yeah, you mentioned to Sway that you didn’t really want to be under somebody else. What characteristics would make the deal appealing to you?
Remy Ma: Right, I feel like at this point in my life and my career… Even before I was arrested, I was working on signing a new deal that wasn’t limited to me being under another rapper or just a girl on a label’s roster. I definitely feel like I have more to offer than that. I would love to be able to have my own situation, my own imprint or even a joint venture where I can bring other people into what I was blessed with being able to do. People gave me a shot and believed in me, and I’d like to be able to do that for someone else one day. It’s kind of hard to do that when you’re under somebody.
DX: True. Before your arrest there were a lot of rappers talking about the so-called Hip Hop Police. Do you have any opinion on that, given how many high-profile rappers were cycled through the industrial prison complex?
Remy Ma: It’s not just rappers. You have to look at it in a bigger spectrum with people like Chris Brown, Ronald Isley and Wesley Snipes. It’s bigger than rappers. I think a lot of people aren’t happy with minorities coming from where we come from and going places the average person will never see in their lifetime. We own homes, drive cars and achieve things that people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on college degrees will never be able to achieve no matter how much work they put in. In turn, I feel that plays in a major part in it. It’s not just rappers. You have singers, actors, athletes, and if you look at the pattern, most of them are people of color or minorities that were able to make it to a different tax bracket. They made it to places most people wouldn’t make it, and that’s a big issue.
I say that because of some of the comments I’ve heard thrown my way during my ordeal from the date I was arrested until the date I was released. Even now, do you know how many people say, “She’s a criminal, why’s she on this show?” I feel like I paid my debt to society. You guys made me do however much time you wanted me to do, so why should I not be able to continue and live my life?
DX: Good question. Let’s end this on a really serious note. One of your first tweets as a free woman was about finding some good bubblegum, since it’s not allowed in most prisons. Mission accomplished?
Remy Ma: I hate chewing gum, because you can’t blow bubbles with it. It’s just corny. You pretty much have to eat the whole pack, and even then it’s not really equipped for blowing bubbles. I like bubbles—the Hubba Bubba, Bubblicious, Big League Chew and stuff like that. On my tour and performance rider, I used to always have bubblegum, and it would be an all out war if I got there and it was chewing gum. It was like, “Why don’t people read the pack? This is chewing gum. I need bubblegum!” About a week ago, in one store, I found a bubblegum version Juicy Fruit. It came in a big pack like Bubblicious, and I was like, “Finally!” I swear somebody somewhere stole my idea, because if I have to get chewing gum, Juicy Fruit is the one. So to take that and make it into bubblegum form with the regular Juicy Fruit flavor too? Then they have a strawberry flavored Juicy Fruit, which is also bubblegum. That’s my favorite right now. You see, I get excited when I talk about bubblegum. That’s what prison does to you.