*Nineteen-year-old Rye Rye made a splash as M.I.A.’s protege in 2007, accompanying the rapper on tour when she was still in high school. But her music is all Rye Rye’s own, fed as much by the Baltimore clubs where she used to dance as by the big names who helped her make it.
She was hyped as the next big thing, but then Rye Rye (whose real name is Ryeisha Berrain) was forced to drop off a tour with A-Trak because she was pregnant. Her daughter, Kennidi Malaysia Battle, was born in September 2009.
In the meantime, Rye Rye’s mentor lost credibility — and, subsequently, much of her tastemaker status — in the wake of a damaging New York Times Magazine article.
Despite all this, Rye Rye has persevered, and N.E.E.T./Interscope will release her long-awaited debut, “Go! Pop! Bang!,” on January 11.
Billboard: You were a dancer before you started making your own music. How did that shape the direction you went in musically?
Rye Rye: “Me being a dancer, it gave me a taste for music. I love dancing, that’s what I’m built around, so I was aiming to make music to make people dance.”
Billboard: M.I.A. has been a mentor to you. She signed you to her N.E.E.T. label and has supported your work. Did it help to be mentored by a woman?
Rye Rye: “Yes, because my music is different — it’s not the typical hip-hop and R&B, and M.I.A. was the same way. She stepped up out of the box to try different things. I had support from her; it was great to have her backing me.
“When she brought me along, her fan base rubbed off on me as well. We weren’t afraid to be different. As a brand-new artist, I knew nothing about the industry, I was just trying it out. Working with her pushed me to go forward with it.”
Billboard: What do you think of the way she’s been treated lately?
Get Rye Rye’s response and the rest of this Q&A HERE.