Despite Her Epic Comeback, Remy Ma Says She Still Can’t Make The Music She Wants

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Without question, Remy Ma mounted one of the greatest comebacks in Rap history upon her release from prison in August of 2014. That summer alone, she managed to record with DJ Khaled, Jadakiss, Ty Dolla $ign, and Bobby Schmurda, apparently taking full advantage of all the bottled up ambition and energy she couldn’t expend while behind bars. Since then, she’s enjoyed chart-topping success, including her Grammy-nominated partnership with Fat Joe on arguably the hottest record of 2016, “All The Way Up,” her now infamous Nicki Minaj diss track, “Shether,” and ensuing battle. In between, she’s also carved out time to launch a career in television, all while being a mother to a teenager and supportive spouse to Papoose. It’s safe to say that the rapper born Reminisce Smith is making up for lost time, and then some.

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But that isn’t to say that her return to the top has been easy, or even financially lucrative — at least not as lucrative as we would assume. From outward appearances, a woman who just three years ago was serving a prison sentence for assault is now enjoying the most fruitful chapter of her life, and in many ways she is. But in a new interview with Complex, the Grammy-nominated MC from the Bronx reminds us that all that glitters ain’t gold.

Remy Ma says that financial constraints have prevented her from making the music she really wants, an experience countless artists can relate to. “I actually have some dope records that are actually about something, I just never get them close to the forefront because it’s not what people be wanting to hear,” she explains. Though she stops short of naming any record in particular that she made out of obligation, she does admit that she often finds herself doing things because she has to. “If I didn’t have bills to pay then I could do any record that I want. I do what I do because it’s fun and I love my craft, but this is a business and this is my job. You can go into your job and do the job that’s expected of you or you can do the job that you want to do. It’s going to affect your paycheck.”

While the financial hurdles in her path do present a very real challenge, her arrival to where she is now, as an artist, is a tremendous feat. As Complex points out, coming back from a prison stint could have very well extinguished her career. “With the exception of Tupac [Shakur], every rapper who served time suffered for it, career-wise, upon release; none found greater success,” Thomas Golianopoulos writes. But almost immediately, Remy Ma took advantage of the tools now at her disposal and launched into her seemingly indefatiguable upswing. “With social media now allowing artists to  release music and address fans directly, the MC we know as Remy Ma knew she had to start rapping the moment she touched ground.” At the time, he points out, “she was 34 years old, without state ID or driver’s license, without health insurance. She had to find a school for her then 14-year-old son, who was living out of state at the time. But she had a plan, and she stuck to it: She’d reestablish her music-industry presence before getting her life in order.” A daunting set of circumstances for anyone, they could very well be even more so for someone feeling as though they had something to prove or recapture. After all, she appeared on one of Rap’s biggest hits of all time, 2004’s “Lean Back.”

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Nearly three years removed from her homecoming, Remy Ma tells Complex that the industry of 2017 has left her with a level of distaste, the bureaucracy of it all frustrating at best. “It’s a popularity contest,” she says. “I don’t really care about Rap the way I used to because there is so much politics. I just do what I do. I write, I talk my sh*t, say what I want to say, bounce around on the beat, and I keep it moving.” It seems that, despite (or perhaps because of) the frustrations she’s experienced, she has only come back sharper — or maybe it’s just that people are only now starting to give credit where it’s due.

Remy burst on the scene working with hardcore Hip-Hop acts like her mentor Big Pun, the late Big L, and M.O.P. The Mash Out Posse’s Lil Fame and Billy Danze enlisted Remy Martin (as she was then known) for their “Ante Up (Remix)” music video, alongside Busta Rhymes and Teflon:

Soon enough, fans and critics will have material from Remy Ma as a standalone artist. She will be following up her collaborative album with Fat Joe, Plato O Pomo, with Seven Winters and Six Summers, “said to be a more intimate project that’ll delve into her experiences in prison.” Perhaps now, after proving time and again that she can launch a successful career for the second time, she’ll be able to make the music she wants.

Elsewhere in the interview, collaborators speak to Remy Ma’s talent, she shares her rich history with Big Pun, and more.