DETAILS: M.I.A. took you on tour when you were just 16. Did you bring any friends or family?
Rye Rye: No, I went by myself. When I think back on it now, it seems crazy, but I trusted her. She really took care of me. I grew up on that tour. I knew nothing about the industry, nothing about how to deal with my career.
DETAILS: That's a crazy thing to be going through while still in high school.
Rye Rye: Yeah, it was crazy, but I was always really nonchalant about it. I wouldn't get excited about anything until it actually happened. They told me that I was gonna get signed to M.I.A.'s label, but I was like, "I'm not gonna believe that until I hear it from M.I.A. herself." At first I'd be chill about it, but then I'd get excited. It was a lot of pressure, though. It was a blessing.
DETAILS: How have you worked to become a better rapper since starting out?
Rye Rye: I try to concentrate harder now, but mostly I'm just more confident. I stopped worrying about other people and started trying to have fun, and things got so much easier—and better—after that. I'm not ever mad about nothing. I always got a smile on my face.
DETAILS: You were mentored by another successful female artist. Why don't we see more of those relationships in hip-hop?
Rye Rye: Women look at it like competition. Dudes in the business become fast friends and bond easily over what they have in common. You don't often see that kind of camaraderie with women. It's a jealousy thing. I try to avoid that. I like that I've gone off in my own direction. I'm here in my own lane, and I'm gonna run this lane, so get out of the way.
DETAILS: What has been the most important thing you've learned from M.I.A.?
Rye Rye: Just to be true to myself and my sound. Anytime something started to sound too mainstream or unlike me in some way, she'd always stand up for me. She always encouraged me to just do me.
DETAILS: Your early singles helped bring Baltimore club music to a larger audience. Now that sound is everywhere. How do you feel about that?
Rye Rye: I like the idea of taking something unusual or cool and helping bring it to a larger audience, and it's cool to see people take that basic sound and combine it with other things in ways that are new. I do know that a lot of Baltimore club artists feel a little bit ripped off, though. It's like, if you're gonna go make a classic Baltimore club rack, at least work with an artist that's from Baltimore, you know? I feel like I need to represent for that scene.
DETAILS: You're only 19, but you have a 1-year-old daughter. Do you still feel like a kid?
Rye Rye: After I had my baby, everyone thought I was gonna get real serious. But I still act like a kid, and I look like a kid, and I sound like a kid—and legally I still am kind of a kid, so whatever. I've been through some stuff, but I don't feel like it's my job to deliver a statement about that. I'm all about dancing. My message is about fun.
DETAILS: Dancing is obviously your thing.
Rye Rye: Yeah, I started when I was 8 years old. I was going to the club when I was, like, 14. I'd use my cousin's I.D. or someone's sister's. We'd figure out a way to get in there. Sometimes the clubs in Baltimore would have special high-school nights and we'd go to those, even though I was only in middle school at the time.
DETAILS: Your style is unique. Where do you get your fashion cues?
Rye Rye: I took a lot of inspiration from clubwear back home in Baltimore and a lot from M.I.A. When I'm on stage, I need to be able to dance at any given time, so I need clothes that will allow for that. If I ever wear jeans, people assume I'm upset. My dancers all be like, "Oh damn, you got on jeans? You must be depressed."