Over two years in the making, Go! Pop! Bang! finally hits stores today. An amalgamation of cleverly crafted hip-hop, explosive club bangers and dabs of trip-hop, the record is a welcome slice of bedazzled sunshine sure to make you drip sweat this summer. And with current single “Boom Boom” recently having crept its way into the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart, you might need to start reaching for a towel even sooner than that.
I caught up with the 21-year-old electro-rapper to chat about the album, her peers in the female hip-hop world, her unique fashion sense, why her mentor M.I.A. compared her to a “lost member of Destiny’s Child,” and more.
ALEX NAGORSKI: Where does the title, Go! Pop! Bang! come from?
RYE RYE: Those are lyrics in one of my songs and when we were naming the album, we were looking for words that stood out to describe my energy. And those three words stuck out because they were comic book words and they make you feel excited.
In the past, you’ve described your sound as “hood” meets “hipster.” Can you elaborate a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Well, I do a lot of dance music but I come from the hood and I put a lot of things into it that you wouldn’t normally find on dance tracks. It’s me be bringing my flavor to the hipster world but with hood attitude.
How would you best describe your sound to someone who’s never heard a Rye Rye song before?
There’s a lot of bass and crazy lyrics. I like to experiment in different sounds. It’s just really fun. And definitely dance-y.
In what ways has your sound evolved from the release of your mixtape to the release of Go! Pop! Bang!?
I feel like my mixtape was more Baltimore. I was there for more of it so the music hit home. But for my album, I couldn’t be there because I had to be making my album. On my mixtape, I said what I wanted to and I did whatever. But on my album, I actually made songs. The genre of my music changed as well because it’s not all club music. It’s influenced by other high-energy stuff that fits better into the mainstream market, but with my flavor – versus my mixtape, which was straight underground.
Are there any distinct Baltimore flavors that can still be heard on Go! Pop! Bang!?
Bass. I’ve stuck to the repetition of the bass. On some of the tracks, I’ve stuck in that lane except I was using 808’s to make it more dance-friendly. It was important to me to make music that would just make me want to dance. And of course, my flavor on a track makes it automatically more Baltimore in general – my flow, my everything.
There’s been a significant increase in the number of female hip-hop artists over the past few years. How do you feel your music distinguishes you from some of your peers like Nicki Minaj?
I think it’s cool. I’m glad that all these females have their own sounds and I support every female artist out there. But we’re all different in our own ways and I feel like that plays a major part. Your fans love you for what you do and if everybody sounded the same, it would kind of take away from that. I think it’s really awesome that we’re all different and we all have our own flavor.
You’ll be working with a few of these ladies on the upcoming remix to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” (along with Missy Elliott and Azealia Banks) and have collaborated in the past with Iggy Azalea on your mixtape, so I definitely get the impression that you support one another’s work.
Yeah well, when we were created the mixtape, the songs sort of seemed like they were all going in the same direction so I wanted to freshen it up. On that song with Iggy, I sampled a track by Kanye and Jay-Z and I did a straight, hard remix to it. But then I kept wanting to get someone else on there. At first I wanted to feature a guy but then someone was like, “this song is so strong already so if anything, you should put another girl on there.” So I thought Iggy would be cool because I like her flow and she’s doing that type of hood stuff I like and I thought she’d be good for it.
In addition to M.I.A., Go! Pop! Bang! features collaborations with a wide variety of artists, including Robyn, Akon, Tyga and Porcelain Black. If you could record a duet with any contemporary musician, who would it be and why?
Missy Elliott, definitely. She’s one of my favorite artists. She’s just so interesting and is someone I would totally love to work with. Especially because she’s so visual. What she does in her videos is so creative and is so based around dancing, which is my first love. So I was always into that. And Kanye West is one of my favorite artists too.
You and M.I.A. have been friends for a long time. You appeared in the music video and on a remix for her hit “Paper Planes,” you became the first artist signed to her record label (N.E.E.T.), you’ve toured together and she collaborated with you on a few tracks from Go! Pop! Bang!, including the lead single, “Sunshine.” What was the best mentoring moment she gave you over your years working together?
When I first started touring with her, her style rubbed off on me. She always told me, “you can wear anything but you’ve got to wear it with attitude. If you wear something with confidence, nobody can really tell you anything bad about it.” When I would go back to Baltimore, a lot of people were really close-minded. So if I’d wear something in my style, they would look at me and think I was crazy because they weren’t exposed to that swag culture yet. But what M.I.A. said about that really stuck with me. She told me to be myself and work with and embrace what I was wearing, so I ran with it. Then there was other stuff like if record labels were ever doing something that I didn’t want, to always put my foot down and stay true to who I was and to stay true to Baltimore. Those are the two main things that have stuck with me to this day.
Another thing that makes you stand out is your incredibly unique sense of fashion. Can you tell me a little bit more about where you draw your style inspirations from?
I love being street but for grownups. Back in the day, I used to wear a lot of baggy clothing and a lot of street clothing. M.I.A. used to say to me “oh no, I don’t want you to wear heels. You look like a lost member of Destiny’s Child!” But now that I’m older, I like to wear things like heels with streetwear and outerwear, like t-shirts or leggings. I really just have my own style. I like taking risks and I’ll wear anything. I like things that are bright and patterns that pop.
You’ve been associated with various fashion designers such as Prabal Gurung and Jeremy Scott. If you were to come out with your own clothing line, what would be some of the signature looks?
I’m a big fan of crop tops. I feel like that those are the types of shirts you can wear anywhere – to the store, to the club, wherever. Plus they’re comfortable and also fashionable. I’m also a big fan of leggings. I wear leggings all the time and I feel the most comfortable when I’m in them. And I love latex stuff now too. I’m getting into a lot of rubber dresses, so I’m into a lot of different styles.
This year, you also made your acting debut in the box office smash 21 Jump Street. Is acting something we’ll be seeing you do a lot more of in the future?
Yes! I would love to. I’m working on it. I love it. I don’t have anything lined up right now but I’m working on setting it up.
Now that your album is finally being released, can your fans expect a tour in the near future?
Yeah! I’m putting together the tour. I’ve got a couple shows lined up but I know for sure we’ll be hitting up New York and Portland – but I don’t really know the rest off hand.
What’s something your fans most likely don’t know about you that would surprise them?
I’m very sensitive about real life stuff. Like, seeing homeless people is like heart failure for me. I take that very seriously and I always say I want to open up a shelter for them. I really care about people a lot. I’ve got a lot of crazy energy and I like to do my thing and people know me from the club scene, but I really have a heart.
You turned 21 back in November. How did you celebrate this milestone birthday?
Prior to that, I was in Vegas doing some shows with LMFAO so I was celebrating days in advance. I really didn’t do anything on my actual birthday though. I stayed in because I was on tour. And being able to perform and being on the road and doing what I love was already a celebration for me. I was celebrating the whole time.
And for my final question, what about the release of Go! Pop! Bang! are you most excited about?
I’m just relieved more than anything because the album’s been such a long time coming. I feel like now I can finally breathe because I don’t have to wait for it anymore.
Go! Pop! Bang! is now available on iTunes.