Remy Ma, who was released from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility after serving a six-year bid for intentional assault, gave her first interview since being set free this past weekend with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex. Now going by her actual first name, ‘Reminisce’, she had some interesting things to say about the state of female emcees in the game. First and foremost, she discussed how supportive the Hip Hop community has been, alluding to a countdown to her release campaign on Instagram and Twitter that featured an outpouring of love from many prominent females in Hip Hop, such Missy Elliot, Da Brat, and Rah Digga. As encouraging as that is, let us not lose sight of the fact that Hip Hop is in fact a competitive sport, and it’s some of the things Rem said within that context that I found most interesting, particularly when contrasted with the lyrical content of the track she just put out with DJ Khaled, a remix to “They Don’t Love You No More” which features Meek Mill, French Montana, Jay Z, & Rick Ross on the original.
When Flex asked about the state of female emcees, setting up his question by alluding to the battles of supremacy between Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown back in the day and the subsequent changing of the guard, if you will, from Lil’ Kim to Nicki Minaj, Rem delivered a very intelligent & diplomatic reply.
“I was listening to a lot of the girls that are out right now. And not the ones that you named, but the ones that are trying to get in position. And it’s a lot of dope chicks that’s out there from what I heard… More than what I expected. But what I think happens with females in this game. They tend to allow other people to pit us against each other. They make it seem like it can only be one female. There can be a thousand guys putting out music and rapping and doing what they do, but when it comes to the females in this Hip Hop business, they make it seem like it can only be one… Alright if it’s more than one, [there] can be two but y’all better be at each other’s throat every chance that you get. And any time you say one of them things, you know they be like ‘oh yeah, she HAS to be talking THIS person when she said THAT.’ And I just feel like… it got really crazy, to the point where I wouldn’t tolerate it. I mean me personally, you know… Some people, they’re easily led astray. If you have enough people like ‘she’s coming AT you, you gotta say something,’ or ‘you tryin’ to get on ma, you gotta dis HER to get one because she’s winning right now…’ That’s not what it’s about. “
As previously mentioned, Hip Hop is and always has been a competitive sport. Battle rapping and proclamations of being the best lyricist and having the best DJ, owning the fanciest gear, hooking up with the finest women, rocking the crowd the most, etc… have always been central themes in Rap music. That competition can drive creativity and is typically great for business. That’s not to say that it’s all fun and games, as we can write an entire piece about instances in which battling in Rap music have not gone so well, but let’s be honest here, when MC Shan and KRS One traded dis records, or when Nas and Jay Z went at it, we as fans paid attention, took sides, and most importantly (to the artists), bought the music.
Rem does a great job of addressing how ridiculous it gets sometimes in Rap when it comes to over-analyzing and prematurely reacting to certain lyrics. Again, those boasting and competitive elements in Rap music are nothing new, but when an artist internalizes a lyric as a subliminal shot without his/her name even being mentioned, it can lead to unnecessary drama. Not every track is about you. It’s okay for people to say things on a record that aren’t directed at anyone in particular. Yes, actual battles in Hip Hop do happen, but for the most part it’s supposed to be entertainment. Artists want you to bob your head and rap along because you enjoy the song. Rap lyrics are often provocative, but it’s just music. You’re supposed to have fun with it. In the realm of female emcees, because relative to the men in the game there are far fewer, reacting to a track that had nothing to do with you can kill your career. Sure, it’s great when two heavyweights in the game go at it, but if you’re an up and coming female emcee, already facing the uphill battle of trying to break through and shine in a male dominated industry, is it really the best idea to start dissing your peers without actual provocation? I would argue that it’s not.
As such, to hear Rem, recently released from prison for an incident that involved a gun no less, promote peace and unity among her peers while alluding to the dangers and nuances of being naive within that competitive environment, is refreshing. It shows maturity and growth, and gives me hope that Rem can take on a leadership role within the culture and teach young emcees of both genders that it’s okay to be competitive, but that there’s power in unity as well. Not only that, there’s enough room in Hip Hop for more than one or two prominent female emcees to shine. Later on in the interview, she named Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj as two female emcees with whom she’d like to collaborate. When pressed by Flex about not naming Azelia Banks, Rem again delivered a very honest, diplomatic reply. After acknowledging that Azelia Banks did reach out to her to work on a record together, she goes on to say:
“I’m gonna do what I do, regardless. I don’t have a problem with it. There’s enough room for everybody… Of course if she wants to be on the song, she can be on the song as well. I’m just naming the people that came straight to the top of my head. It’s not like I left anybody out on purpose.”
A younger emcee may have taken this moment as an opportunity to ruffle some feathers, using a little bit of controversy to generate a buzz and get the streets talking. Not Ms. Reminisce Smith however, at least not in 2014. Her reply is consistent with the theme of unity and togetherness among female rappers which she pushes throughout the entire interview. But fans of Remy Ma, fret not. With all her diplomacy and skillful dodging of anything that may be construed as starting any beef, one might think that (gasp!) she’s gone soft. One of the most skilled and most street-oriented female lyricist the game’s ever seen, Remy (along with Rah Digga) were responsible for a faction of female emcees whose content and approach is gritty, raw, and lyrical. Remy’s a good-looking woman, and as the interview displays, a bright girl as well, but you can’t group her with “sexualized emcees” like Foxy Brown and Trina, or “conscious emcees” like Lauryn Hill and Queen Latifah. Remy’s style has always been hardcore street, and she helped pave a new lane for like-minded female emcees after her.
So has she gone soft? One listen to the ‘They Don’t Love You No More’ remix is all one needs to answer that question with a resounding, HELL NO! It’s one track, but she seems to be lyrically on point, hungry, and as gritty as ever. With bars like, “I listened to your CD, you really wanna be me / Don’t care if your name buzzin’, you know who the queen be,” and “Remi, Makaveli, send shots through bellies,” along with several others which I won’t include so as to keep the post curse-free, one thing’s for sure: Remy’s back and she’s ready to bring it. Growth, maturity, and all the unity talk aside, the fact remains that at her artistic and lyrical core, Rem is a monster on the mic and she will absolutely make sure anyone who listens knows it. It’s a common paradox in Rap music, where emcees support each other, but also want to be known as the hottest rapper in the game, and as such situations like Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse occur. He respects, has worked with, and supported the emcees he named, but he let it be known that it’s his time to shine and he’s out to destroy his competition; artistically, not literally of course. That competitive nature that’s so embedded in Rap music is part of who Remy Ma is as an emcee. Combining that with her inherent street edge results in one of the hardest female rappers to bless the mic in any era. She seems to have matured a lot and we should all celebrate that, but it’s nice to have that fierce, take no prisoners Rem back in the booth. And my guess is no rapper, male or female, is going to take any shots at Rem. She’ll eat her competition alive. Welcome home Remy Ma, we’re glad to have you back.