Back Issue__ RYE RYE
by: Hana May
photos: Kenza design: Gillian Hurd
It’s Saturday night, 11pm, Montreal, Canada and Rye Rye is supposed to be on stage in the next few hours. Problem is she’s stuck in Chicago. As the anticipatory crowd waits to hear songs like ‘Shake it to the Ground’ and ‘Wassup, Wassup,’ Rye Rye finally makes it on to stage at 1:45am. Immediately the crowd starts snapping pictures, which will end up all over their Facebook profiles and personal blogs the first thing next morning. Bragging rights: ‘I was at the Rye Rye show last night.’
Backstage after the show the lady who, moments ago, had 100-plus eyes trained on her, is sitting in a chair alone with a backpack on and one bystander comments she looks like a young schoolgirl. Even though Rye Rye’s been entertaining large crowds since she was 16, she comes across a bit shy one-on-one. It's surprising, considering this timorous teen has an awful lot to brag about.
Rye Rye is the first artist signed to N.E.E.T., the new label founded by indie-sensation-turned-household-name M.I.A. Already she's toured the globe from Australia to Denmark and has performed with big artists like Pharrell—whom she may be on the road with this May, as her debut album Go! Pop! Bang! hits stores. Rye Rye, now 18, hails from Baltimore, and bears the distinctive accent of her hometown. When we catch up with her a couple weeks later, she warms up as the conversation goes on. We chat about her brightly colored fashion style, transitioning from MAD Decent to N.E.E.T., the celebrity crush she dedicated a track to on her forthcoming album, and what’s coming up next for the young lady that already seems to be well on her way.
Because Rye Rye believes that women today don’t have to exploit themselves to be successful and because she represents real girls who aren’t afraid to be different, she wasn't just the best choice for The Cover Story of hearty’s premiere issue--she was the only choice. Meet Rye Rye.
What influences your fashion style?
M.I.A., Santogold, that’s basically it. When I got into this style and the patterns and stuff it was because of being on the road with M.I.A. and she was always like styling me for the shows.
Would you say that you’ve taken your own approach to it?
Yeah, ‘cause she wear more like baggy clothing and I like wearing tight clothing that fit me, so like that’s the difference.
You started performing at 16, how do you think you had the confidence to do that at such a young age?
I think I was already into it ‘cause I was dancing since I was 8 years old and performing in front of crowds already from when I was like 8, so I was already a little experienced. But when I got in front of a whole bunch of people, I was still shy but I ended up being able to handle it as I kept touring, like coming out for my set and then staying out on stage for the rest of M.I.A.s set, like I kind of got used to it.
How does it feel being the first artist signed to M.I.A’s NEET?
It’s amazing because I think it’s really cool being M.IA.’s protégé ‘cause its like she’s different, she’s not afraid to be herself. And then I’m from a different place too but never got noticed and I’m not afraid to be myself. And like MIA she just tries to make the impossible, possible so I think it’s cool ‘cause I think she works hard because if she got interest in something, she will push for it a hundred percent.
How was the transition from leaving MAD Decent to go to NEET?
Um, it was kind of like crazy ‘cause it was like a whole bunch of drama, it’s something like M.I.A. always say ‘oh you just like me and Diplo’s child, [laughs] like both our child.’ It was crazy because it was a lot of fighting over me going on but like I wasn’t really signed to MAD DECENT, I was just like working with him but it was crazy because you know M.I.A. and Diplo had a personal relations and I always became a part of that, which ain’t fair because I don’t have issues with their personal life.
Are you and Diplo still cool though?
Yeah, we don’t talk as much as we used to though. I talk to him sometimes but he kind of gets angry at M.I.A. cause of our whole new relationship and whatever, so that’s just childish things.
What’s the next musical release we can expect from you?
My first single is going to be Bangin’ which just got posted up on my MySpace and the next single is going to be Rock Off, Shake Off. And the album is supposed to be released May the 5h.
If you could pick any artists to collaborate with who would they be?
Lil’ Wayne or Michael Jackson. I didn’t really push to work with Lil’ Wayne for this album, but I think it would be cool.
What’s your relationship like with M.I.A. is it mostly business or are you guys friends?
Yeah it’s more a friendship than business. It’s business when its stuff like dealing with the project etcetera ‘cause its like a whole bunch of craziness but most of the time it’s more likely we friends, like when we toured it was about business but most of the time we laughed and did crazy stuff and kicked it on the side more than we like talk personal business. So like we friends, I would say she’s like a mother, a big sister, a best friend, she play all those positions.
That must be nice ‘cause on the road it can get tough or lonely so to have someone there supporting you like that, that must be nice.
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from her?
Not to sell yourself out too fast in the industry, meaning like, working with everybody ‘cause then the hype is not hype anymore, and then like just not to be involved in a lot of drama, like just chill. She taught me—cause she always want me to do different stuff—like in order to be different you have to do this and you have to stand out from all these other female rappers and you just have to wear stuff with confidence that’s crazy. Like no people will say ‘oh why did she have that on?’ like if you wear that with confidence there’s nothing they can say and she basically taught me how to entertain a large crowd, like I learned that from her.
That’s not something that’s easy to do. Who else do you look up to?
I look up to my real mother a lot. I mean as someone that’s been there like as far as my personal life, my mother. And like my musical life and some of my personal life that’s M.I.A. like my whole album it was just like me and M.I.A., like me in the studio with M.I.A. so I never got a chance to work with other artists that’s in the industry to become close with them or look up to them, ‘cause I never got to vibe around them.
Where did you learn how to dance?
Just watching TV and just picking it up off the Baltimore style of dancing I don’t where I learned it from it was just one day I met this dance teacher and I just tried out for the group and I already knew how to club dance and then from there every time he taught the dance, I just picked up straight on it.
So it was natural for you?
You’re obviously not old enough yet technically to be going to clubs so how has the Baltimore Club Scene still been able to influence you?
Well most of the time we was using other peoples id’s—our older cousins, older sisters. We was using, not fake ids but other peoples ids and like then they started doing the clubs where it’s all high school, or 17 and older, and we was going to the all high school clubs.
Did you look old enough to be there?
No. I don’t think I used to dress old enough. I think I still looked like a little girl.
Do you still think you look like a little girl?
Yeah people tell me all the time, ‘you look like your 12 years old.’
Where at this point have you toured?
Over in the U.K., Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Australia, and in The States.
What’s been your favorite place so far?
I always say the United States is better ‘cause all the other places is cold and miserable and just freezing. And it’s different, maybe because I’m young I feel like I’m over here in these places I don’t got no one over here with me. But I think, I want to go to Paris.
You’ve performed with big artists like Pharrell.
I performed with him but I might be touring with him this May. Their tour called ‘Music that Make you Dance.’
That would be suiting for you. How was performing with him?
It was cool, like I got to meet Pharrell a couple times before and he was interested because he was really interested in the Baltimore club scene. So we talked about some of the producers that was from here and when I performed with him, of course he was on the stage with us, but M.I.A. came back out for his song and he called me back out on the stage and it was good because he invited me back on stage to like dance around with the crowd and dance around with him and the band. So it was cool.
What are your other hobbies besides music?
I used to skate, like roller skate but I haven’t done that in a while.
You should roller skate on stage.
As a role model for women what message would you like to get across?
That they can be anything that they want to without exploiting themselves because back in the days most female rappers got noticed from, they became a rapper or they became a singer because they was, you know, having relationships with this certain person in the industry or they was showing off their body or being sexually exploited to get noticed. I’m just trying to get the message across that you do not have to do that these days. It’s a new generation and you just don’t have to do that these days to get noticed.
Where’s your heart at?
I thought you were going to ask me the things that I heart. [Laughs.]
Ok what are the things that you heart?
Well, I have a song on my album called ‘I Heart Dante,’ which is Mos Def.
Do you have a crush on him?
Yeah. [Giggles.] I mean I think my heart is in different places right now, like it’s everywhere. My heart is in like the middle of dance floors, everywhere.
That’s a good place for it be. Have you met Mos Def, yet?
Yeah. 3 times.
Did you tell him you have a crush on him?
Naw, I think he know. [Laughs.]