Wait a minute. Remy Ma’s supposed to be gangsta. And gangstas don’t dance. But here she is, in the rough cut of the video for her Swizz Beatz–produced debut solo single “Whuteva,” a crown-rockin’ Remy bustin’ out a few impressively intricate moves.
“I’m no fuckin’ Ciara, Paula Abdul or anybody, but I could get it poppin’,” she says. Sitting in the plush backseat of a turtle-top van, headed to a promo show in Hartford, Conn., the First Lady of the Terror Squad explains the incongruous images on the screen of the overhead DVD player. “It’s not like dancing is part of my routine, but at the end of the day, I’m still a girl, you know what I’m saying? I go to clubs, I have favorite songs, I got my lil’ dance moves. I think every chick that ever lived in the hood at one time or another went to the community center and performed dance routines at the basketball games in the summer. So I’m like, ‘That’s nothing. I could do that.’ The song is mad fun, so it was on some fun shit.”
Wearing a black Baby Phat tracksuit, complemented by several “breezy” bracelets that clickety-clank with every movement, Remy leans back and gets comfortable. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour trek from her stately brick house in Fort Lee, N.J., to Hartford’s Hot Club. Accompanied by her manager, Jennifer; her older brother, Remel, who doubles as her hype man; a hulking security guard; and a nosy magazine reporter, Remy will do her best to enjoy the ride. The fresh bag of herbal refreshments should help.
The upbeat “Whuteva” is a definite break from the thugged-out records that have become Remy’s calling card. Since her debut on Big Pun’s 2000 posthumous release, Yeeeah Baby, Ms. R-to-the-Eazy has delivered nothing but the uncut raw on any track she’s appeared on. But with her long-awaited debut, There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story, due in December, the Bronx native plans to show the world that there’s more to her than has yet met the eye (or the ear).
“I feel like a lot of people don’t really know who I am,” she says, lighting up a carefully rolled blunt. “Even though I been in the public eye since ’99, people still really can’t tell you what type of artist Remy Ma is or what category she goes in. It’s still a mix. But I feel like by the end of my album, you should feel like you know me or something about me. ’Cause it’s based on a true story—literally, it’s accounts from my life and things that I been through.”
Remy’s definitely been through a lot in her 24 years. A 30-second bio of her childhood reads like a war report. “Drugs, violence, guns, killing, jail, parents on drugs, kids don’t go to school, drop out, fights,” she says, nonchalantly exhaling a thick curl of smoke. “Just like every other hood. No new stories you ain’t heard before.”
What you won’t hear often in Remy’s story is its promising beginnings. Growing up the second oldest of five kids in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, she was a straight “A” student who excelled in poetry, spelling bees and storytelling contests, which required her to memorize entire books word for word and recite them back to a panel of judges. But as she got older, Remy’s focus shifted from academics to a cappellas. Battling cats at the lunchroom table, she earned a rep in high school as a formidable MC. A chance meeting in 1999 with the late Big Pun (who, despite selling over a million copies of his debut album, Capital Punishment, continued to live in the Bronx) convinced Remy to pursue rap professionally.
“Without Pun I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” she says. “From the first bar that I spit for Pun, he never told me no lies. He said, ‘I’ma call you.’ He called me the next day like, ‘Yo, I got you. I’ma put you on.’ He was recording Yeeeah Baby at the time, and gave me my own song on that album. What nigga you know that just met someone and give them their own song on their album?”