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Need To Know: Rye Rye


Two moments defined the start of club-beat sensation Rye Rye's career. The first was rapping into producer Blaqstarr's answering machine, which led to collaboration on a single. The second was meeting MIA, which led to a record deal. With Blaqstarr defining her sound and MIA guiding her look and performances, Rye Rye quickly rose from her Baltimore club roots to break into the mainstream and tour internationally. At 19, Rye Rye's gearing up to release her first album, Go! Pop! Bang! with the lead single, 'Sunshine,' already grabbing attention. Out chatted with her to find out what it's like being a young musical mother, how she's handling the pressure of her career and where she stands on Lil' Kim vs. Nicki Minaj.

Out: Dance is essential to your sound and your image as a performer. So what's going through your mind when you dance?
Rye Rye: I'm in my own world when the music plays and the base hits me. I'm just, like, gone -- out of this world.

Why do you think club music is now breaking into the mainstream?
Because it's refreshing. Of course everyone loves hip-hop and R&B, but it's a new generation now. Everything changed about the industry and the type of music everyone's doing. Even with the creative, futuristic stuff, it's all about the time. Nowadays, people are into dancing more than anything. People are taking to it in the mainstream because they're looking for a new sound.

Beyonce, for example, said she turns into another person on stage. Is that what's happening when you're in your own world?
I feel like I have two different personalities, like I'm Ryeisha when I'm chillin' and I'm normal. But when I perform, I feel like I'm Rye Rye. When I get on stage it's like I blank out -- because of the crowd reaction, because you're in that mood and you just love music. You release everything. You're focused on making everyone happy. When it's show time, I transform.

What goes into making a memorable performance?
Being happy on stage plays an important role. Interacting with people and giving off that positive energy, because that's what they feed off of. When they feel you're connected and you're just being real and you're having fun, people remember that. It's like a shining light and they're trippin' off that energy. They'll take it from you.

MIA's obviously you're #1 collaborator, but who are some of your dream collaborations?
Missy Elliot, Michael Jackson -- that's really it. I've always said I want to collaborate with other artists that dance. Jay Z could be cool as well, because he's one of my biggest inspirations.

When it comes to the Lil' Kim/Nicki Minaj feud, are you Team Kim or Team Minaj?
I'm neutral. I don't indulge in female beef because I feel like it's silly. Only the females do it. I'm just focusing on my own grind and staying in my own lane and letting them go ahead. I feel like Lil' Kim, she was the greatest -- some people still call her the greatest -- but I feel like it's a new generation. Everyone has their time. You gotta give it up at some point and let other people do it.

Your album is called Go! Pop! Bang! so where are we going, what are we popping and who are we banging?
[Laughs] I could say you're banging. I just wanted to go everywhere and spread my sound and allow everyone to experience it. I wanted to go for it.

Of all the places you've performed worldwide, where have you had the most surprising reaction to your sound?
I just did a show recently on the MIA tour in Belgium, and there was a huge crowd. It was one of the festivals. The reaction was crazy. It was great.

When you look at other artists who've started out at such a young age -- everyone from Lil' Bow Wow to Christina Aguilera -- it's been a big challenge to keep their careers relevant and successful as they've gotten older. Is that something you think about?
No, because I feel like they were commercially made. I hate artists that were made -- I mean I don't hate them -- but with me, I feel like I'm just raw. I'm being myself. The industry was very tight back then and they wanted somebody who was a certain look and sound. But now everything's changed about music. My label and the people I work with are very supportive. They let me go out and do me. Christina and Bow Wow started off made and now that everything's changed, they're trying to fit into different markets. But people are still looking at them as the people they were back then, so it's hard to branch out. The team that I have don't control me.

When you look at Willow Smith, who's so hot right now but so young, do you see that going far for her?
It depends. I've watched interviews where Jada [Smith] said she lets Willow be comfortable and do what she wanna do, like shaving her head and doing all this creative type stuff. I don't know how far she will go. Will the pressure be too much or is this what she really wanna do? I'm trying to figure out what song she's gonna do that's going to top 'Whip My Hair.'

How does the pressure of being a mother add to the pressure of being a performer?
Since I've had my baby, it hasn't been pressure, it's just been more responsibility. I was always a mature person. I had to grow up. I had a lot of support at home, so when I'm performing and have interviews, I have people around helping me. I'm able to still do everything I wanted to do. But it's hard when your baby is back at home and you miss your child and you spend days away. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

In 'Hip Hop Changed,' your collaboration with Crookers, you sing that 'hip hop saved my life.' What does that mean?
It's about music. The idea of music saved my life because if I wasn't doing it, I don't know what I'd be doing. It's an outlet. It's a breath of fresh air.

MIA said what struck her most when she first met you was your level of confidence for someone so young. Where'd you get that from?
It had something to do with the way I was brought up, which was taking on a lot of responsibility. I was always the mother out of all my brothers and sisters. But honestly, when I met MIA, I was very shy but she just picked up on the fact that I wasn't afraid to be myself. I got a lot of confidence from her. She was like, 'You can wear crazy stuff as long as wear it with confidence. You don't have to worry about what anyone says.' And I watched her perform and that's how I grew as a performer. My whole mentality changed. This is what you're doing, so you have to own it.
You and MIA have a pretty similar sense of style. What trend are you loving right now?
I wear leggings all the time. And cropped shirts. MIA always wanted me to look hard. But I was like, 'Why can't I look hard and pretty at the same time?' I started growing up, so I put on heels. I still be futuristic, but I look like a lady, as well. MIA can't accept it. She's like, 'You look like a grown woman!' But I feel like I've grown.

That's a pretty good description of your sound too: that mix between hard and playful.
When I'm making my music, it's all about having fun. But at the same time, I still let the hood side of me come out. At the end of the day, I'm just enjoying myself. I'm just doing me.

For more on Rye Rye, including upcoming tour dates, visit her official website.

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Phillip B. Crook