Photo by Brooklyn Vegan
The future is here, and her name is Rye Rye. Onstage, the rapper is a party monster, the spunky, stylish, charming but tough girl you always wanted to be friends with in high school. The 19 year-old moves with the fierceness of a confident dancer, shouts with the commanding presence of an established veteran, and spits with an aggressive spunk her current competitors seem to lack (with the exception of Minaj…yeah yeah we get it, she’s the best). Rye Rye’s trippy accent bounces along to the booming bass of her Blaqstarr-produced jams that never seem to lose their steam. Rye Rye’s live show, an exhibit of b-more culture dressed in miami raver clothes, is but an extension of her loud and captivating freshness. But when you actually speak with Rye Rye, she holds a quiet charm and reserved confidence that makes here all the more likable. She’s young, but she knows what she wants and who she is, and it seems as though a lot of people are down with both. I briefly sat down with the lyricist/M.I.A. protege/modern answer to Kriss Kross to discuss her upcoming album, new single, and how she went from being a high-school kid in Baltimore to a hipster-hop goddess.
You’ve had a big couple years, but let’s go back to the beginning. When did you first figure out you could rap, and how did you get into the b-more style of music?
Well, I just tried to rap at first. I never knew I could, I just wrote all the time, and I would write songs — Yeah, I tried, I just wrote a song and I rapped it into Blaqstarr’s answering machine and he said my voice was amazing. So I went in the studio once after he went up to me in the club and told me to rap the song and I was like “No, it’s hot and sweaty and I just got done dancing.” So we just went into the studio, I ended up recording and we just started from there. And I started doing hip-hop tracks first. And we just sampled some of the lyrics I said and we made “Shake It To The Ground.” So when we saw that it was becoming a success on the internet, we started going that route. And then I’m a dancer at that, so I started making music I could dance to and that the people around me could dance to, because that’s what I am. I’m a dancer, and that’s what I’ve been doing for years. So it just all came together.
Were you nervous you weren’t going to be able to reproduce the success of Shake It To The Ground since it was so spontaneous?
No, I looked at it as fun, so I was always taking risks all the time. I wasn’t sitting there thinking, “I’m actually going to be a rapper,” I didn’t think I was going to actually make a career out of it. I just did it for fun constantly, and then everything else started to come along with it. So it’s sort of like it was meant [to be], because I didn’t strive for it or force it. So when everything started picking up, I’m like “Maybe this is my route. It’s here.”
So did you know Blaqstarr previous to recording with him?
I actually didn’t really know him, I just heard of him. At the time, my friends that I used to dance with always danced off his club CDs, and I just started getting familiar with him and him DJing in the clubs. So when my sister became friends with him, she was talking to him on the phone once and he was like “Can your little sister rap?” Just randomly. But I don’t know if it’s cuz he liked the way my voice sounded or not. And that’s when I met him and we became close and we started recording stuff.
I heard that when you met M.I.A., you weren’t even aware of who she was. How did your relationship with her come to be?
She came to Baltimore to work on her album and Blaqstarr called me once and he said “I want you to meet somebody.” And I’m like “Who?” And he would never tell me. He would just say “I’m coming to get you.” And I was out eating and stuff so I was like “Who is this person?” So he came and got me and we went to the studio and it was M.I.A. and Diplo. But at the time, of course I didn’t know them. So we talked, and I started to get to know her first, just the person that she was, before I even heard her music. We were just talking a lot , and we worked on a song together, and then we [Blaqstarr and I] heard her on that song, we still hadn’t her music, we [were just like] “Oh, she’s dope!” From what she did on the song that we worked on together. And we just talked and got to know each other and she was showing us videos and stuff, and one day she was like “You should just tour with me!” But I was 15, so I was like “I’ts not gonna happen.” I was going to school and I didn’t really know her. A few months after I saw the “Boyz” video on TV and then I got the feel for the type of music she did, and then I was like “Oh, she does Baltimore club music, or it’s very similar, and I can dance to it.” Then I got very excited, because I’m like “OK! I didn’t know she did this kind of music!” So then we just got back in touch .
So did you finish school?
Yeah, I graduated. ’08.
I remember seeing you a few years ago, when you just would pop up on stage with M.I.A. for a few songs. What’s your show like now that you have your own set?
I’m doing more songs, and I have more dancers that dance ilke me. You’re gonna see a lot of dancing, that’s what I’m based around. When you’ve seen me with M.I.A. before, I just came out and performed randomly. But now it’s actually me performing. Me doing my own songs, Me just entertaining the whole crowd by myself.
What can we expect from your album?
Of course, it’s a dance album. But some of the tracks are mid-tempo. It’s all me, it’s fresh. Brand new. It’s not all Baltimore club music. It’s just a clash of different sounds. Heavy bass, drums on some tracks. It’s cool, it’s everything. It’s fresh.
What producers are on it?
M.I.A., of course. Diplo, Blaqstarr. I worked with Pharrell.
Wow. How was that?
It was amazing. I still felt in my comfort zone. And that’s what I wanted for my first album.
Awesome. Anything else?
I got a video coming out soon. It’s my single, “Sunshine,” featuring M.I.A. as well. It’s like a school-girly song. It’s a slow-tempo song, but it’s very catchy. It’s amazing.