Rye Rye

Music Features Rye Rye

Rye Rye’s first big break came early. When she was just 15, Ryeisha Berrain met fellow Baltimore native DJ Blaqstarr. He asked her if she could rap, and in response, she composed a brand-new song that afternoon, promptly called his house and recorded it on his answering machine. “He always say I was like a female Tupac,” she laughs. “He thought it was so funny that I was so little but I was saying all this crazy stuff.” Blaqstarr went on to produce Rye Rye’s first single, “Shake it to the Ground,” a bonafide club hit in 2006, while the young artist was still in high school.

Five years later, the now 20-year-old Rye Rye is finally releasing her anticipated full-length debut, Go! Pop! Bang! The new album—on which she drops her verses to sampled gunfire, skittering drums and earth-shattering bass—is steeped in the Baltimore Club sound. The emcee explains that the genre has influenced her since childhood, when she danced with a local hip-hop troupe to Club-influenced beats.

“It’s more heavy, more hard-hitting,” Rye Rye says of this distinctive music. “The bass is real, real heavy, and, like Miami club, it’s more dance-y. Like, it’s not so much of that hard bass. … And we use a lot of repetitive sounds, as well.”

Along the way, Rye Rye has also had the support of international superstar M.I.A., who signed the rapper to her N.E.E.T. label late last decade, and helped produce Go! Pop! Bang! along with Blaqstarr and Mad Decent founder Diplo. M.I.A.’s electro presence dances in the background throughout the record, and she guests on several singles, including “Bang” and “Sunshine.” But while Rye Rye’s mentor trades in a notoriously global aesthetic, she prefers to stay rooted in the sounds of her native city.

“[M.I.A.] always say that’s the advantage I have over her,” Berrain says of her potential to penetrate both mainstream dance and underground hip-hop markets. “That’s what makes me unique from every other artist that’s out there. Lots of people keep saying ‘Don’t go mainstream, like, a lot of your fans will respect you more in the underground market.’ … But I feel like it’s cool, like sometime I’ll want to be in both places.”

Rachel Dovey is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and former Paste assistant editor.

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