Rece Steele is Miss Rap Supreme. Below, the feisty femcee from the Bronx talks about breaking into an industry that’s not just disproportionately male-dominated, but also in economic shambles. She also talks about her plans for the $100,000 in prize money she grabbed for winning the show, as well as what we can expect from her music (and when we can expect to hear it). When she called herself the “new generation of hip-hop,” she meant it. Trust!
The show taped a few months ago. How do you feel about winning at this point?
I feel great. The doors have opened and it’s time for me to step into what I’m really trying to do, which is to be a hip-hop artist, represent the ladies in a big way and work really hard to put us back on the map.
You kind of crept up on the viewing audience – it wasn’t until a few episodes in that it became clear that you posed a viable threat to your competitors. Was this a matter of editing, or did you come out of your shell as the competition went on?
I’m a quiet person and I don’t open up quickly to people I don’t now. I took time with the girls in the house and about two weeks in, I knew it was time to get serious. I was serious going in, but I didn’t interact as much. I just wanted to see what the girls were about before I got involved with them, honestly. I wanted to hear what they sounded like. There was strategy there.
Any other strategy?
Just being myself was my strategy. Going into it, I knew I wasn’t going to play up for the cameras or anything, that I’d be the same person in the Fembassy that I am in the Bronx. That around-the-way girl.
It’s interesting that you describe yourself as a quiet person, when the career path you’ve chosen requires you to be rather loud.
When I’m performing, it’s another side of me. It might be all the things I would love to say to you my whole day. I’m quiet and I see a lot of things as far as funniness with women, jealousy, men being sexist. I don’t call that out all the time – I observe it and I think, “OK, that’s what that is,” and I stay away from it. So my music is my way to express all the hostility I have inside.
What about your “confidence issues” like your lack of eye contact with the audience. Have you made any moves to conquer those issues?
Yeah, I think I overcame that disability. It might have come from being camera shy, though. I’m not really like that. I think all the cameras on me all day made me really want to be perfect and made me scared to mess up. I think I was thinking too much about it. But right now I don’t give a damn. I’m gonna freestyle and give it to you exactly how it is.
You talked about putting women back on the map. Going into the show, did you have a sense of how hard it is to be a woman in hip-hop in ’08? Is that something you even thought about?
Definitely. A year before the show, I had promoted myself, being my own manager and publicist, and I was up against a world full of sexist men who don’t want to hear what you have to say. I’m a strong woman and I feel like I can handle being a hip-hop artist. And I’m not just talking about spitting bars and looking cute on stage, but showing women that we can do this on our own. There are so many teams that have a first lady, but why can’t the first lady head a team on her own? Jay-Z did it. He’s from the hood. The only difference is he has a penis.
Do you have any theories as to why hip-hop is so disproportionately male-dominated?
Not to take anything away from the pioneers – MC Lyte, Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa – or even the ones that came after, like Eve, Kim and Foxy Brown, but some of them had writers. I feel like women are always looking for the hand-outs and the help. We don’t go and try to get it ourselves. When I started going to get things myself, it’s when things started working for me. I think we need to stand up and say, “Hey. I’m an independent artist and I’m trying to do it.” And come original. You can’t be the next Lil’ Kim. You have to be who you are and work with that.
Is it possible for you to put into words the brand of originality that Rece Steele offers?
The whole switch with me is because when you see or talk to me, you would never think that I rap the way I do. I’m quiet with light skin and blonde hair, but I have a strong voice. You don’t expect that to come out of me. My whole thing is sexy yet hard. It’s good for guys and girls. And I think my voice itself is original.
Do you feel any pressure to make your music commercial, even?
Yeah. I put a lot of pressure on myself. The show’s over and I feel like I have two months to make a single and get it out so I can get a label to look at me. Of course there’s pressure, but I won’t crack.
I just mean that as a true MC, it seems hard to maintain your integrity in today’s market. Is there any temptation to go pop?
Well, pop is important to me, too. I’m a female and I like to shake my ass. I enjoy pop music. I do that as well. Catchy hooks, of course. Jay-Z did pop, but it was lyrical pop. It’s all about how you do it. You can give them everything: hard stuff, pop stuff. Let them get into your life.
One of the last things you say on the show is, “I’m the new generation of hip-hop.” What does that mean to you?
It means I have a lot of work to do. I’m the new sound, I’m something that’s never been heard before. I’m the new female rapper, you know what I’m saying? I’m the new standard. This is how you have to come out. This is how hot you have to be.
Chiba, in a roundabout way albeit, suggested that you need liposuction. Is there pressure to conform to a certain standard of beauty, as a female rapper?
I’ve lost 20 lbs., since the show. Chiba didn’t have to tell me that. Any flaw that I have, I’m already aware of it. Will I let it stop my day-to-day? Hell no. I know plenty of other people who have a gut from having a baby. It happens. Do I think that you have to have a perfect shape to be in the business? No. It’s all about the way you carry yourself. After Twist left, I was the biggest girl left in the house, but I never had any particular feelings about the others being smaller than me. I guess it’s just my confidence.
And speaking of Chiba, although you did avoid drama for the most part, there was the incident that involved you swinging a chain in her direction…
Yeah. I didn’t mean to do that. Part of it was being away from home. And then Chiba and I had a couple of confrontations before that even went down. I was just really tired of her. I really wanted her to hit me that day, and I am not a violent person. It’s rare, but I lost my cool. But I saw Chiba recently, and I gave her a hug. I don’t want any negativity with the girls. I’m not trying to bash them in the ground. I want everyone to succeed. It’s hard out here for us. I respect all of these girls. Even if I didn’t like how Chiba sometimes went about it, I respected that she had a mission. I think as women, we just need to unite. Some of the girls aren’t as grinding as hard as they should be right now. The show ran for eight weeks and I saw that eight weeks as a time to get out in the industry, to get yourself known, get some contacts, get to know labels and A&R people, get to red-carpet events. I tell the girls to get out there and do that.
I assume that that means you’re doing the same?
Hell yeah. I’m so serious about this. I didn’t go on there to play around. This is what I needed to launch me and now I’m gonna take it to the next step.
Where do you see yourself fitting in on the sound tip? What producers do you want to collaborate with?
Swizz Beats, Just Blaze, Timbaland’s hot, but he’s expensive. will.i.am. Kanye. But I work with a lot of underground producers and they’re dope. There’s a guy Schizophrenic Entertainment who’s done stuff for Dipset, a guy named Quiet, Dub Sonata. I’ll probably stick with them for the first album. I’m kind of angry coming into the game. I was nice on the show.
Just because of the state of the industry?
Oh yeah, the female s*** is really out of hand. I’ve dealt with the biggest d***s in the world on my little eight-week grind. It’s annoying. If you know I have skills, you can’t shut that down. I want to speak on it. I want to speak on the people who clowned me.
Any particular anecdotes?
Someone told me that to be on his radio show, I’d have to spread my legs. Someone said that to me three weeks ago. And that was a DJ on the underground scene. He’s not even huge. And I didn’t come to him with a short skirt on and my leg up. I came to him like a dude would, and he wouldn’t tell a dude that.
It’s tough for females in the industry, but then again, it’s tough for everyone. Album sales are low and getting lower. Are you scared to be entering a climate that’s so shaky economically?
I am scared. Will I let it stop me? Hell no. I’ve come too far. I’m not gonna back down. I’m Miss Rap Supreme now, and I feel like God gave me that for a reason. I feel like my way into hip-hop is destiny. I’m supposed to be there. The week before I heard about the Miss Rap Supreme auditions, I was saying to my friend, “I wish they had a show like The White Rapper Show, but for women.” Destiny started right there.
You’ve been rapping for 12 years now…
Thirteen years. But I think I needed that time. Nobody was helping me. And I know I’m going to be on my own as I go into this, and I just wasn’t mature enough to handle that. But now I am. I was timid. I just started opening my mouth and saying no to these clowns last year. Now, I don’t care. Maybe I needed that time.
Your son is active in your career, I read.
Me and my son are very close. He supports what I do.
Was that like your upbringing, since your mom was a rapper?
No! I would have to go with my mom to interviews and photo shoots because she didn’t have anyone to babysit me. But I wasn’t as involved. I’ll write a verse in front of my son, but my mom never did that. Maybe she couldn’t. It was different, but I always admired what she did. I don’t even know if she knew how much I looked up to her.
In the first episode of the show, you talked about how your mom tried to dissuade you from a career in hip-hop. Is she proud of you now?
She’s very proud. She thinks I handled everything like a soldier. And now that she’s seen the show, she understands. Before, I don’t think she had an understanding of what I was, what I do and how I talk to people and get them to listen. Now she understands what it is, and she’s all for it. She asks me, “If this works out, will you be OK?” I tell her I will be. But honestly, I’m so scared of failing that I’m ready to put 200 percent of myself into everything I do. But my relationship with my mom has gotten closer and I need that. I need her support and my little brother’s support. This is not going to be something that’s easy for me. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. But I’m gonna do it. I really am.
Do you have any plans for the prize money?
I’m going to use it for promotion and stack the rest of it away. I’m trying to get my hands on the next check, so I need to get out there and promote myself.
Do you see yourself signing with a major label or indie?
I wanna go for the major. I don’t think an indie would have enough money to put my project out the way I want. I’m sitting on two albums right now. I’m talking to A&Rs from Def Jam, DTP, Sony and Atlantic. A lot of people want to know the results of the show, so we’ll see what happens once they do, where I’ll end up. But I’ll end up somewhere. I guarantee you that.
Keep up with Rece via her MySpace.
Miss Rap Supreme show page