In the late '00s, Bronx bruiser Remy Ma was on track to be rap queen of New York, but in 2008 she was sentenced to eight years in prison for shooting her friend in the stomach. (She thought said friend had stolen $3000 from her purse. The friend survived, but it was obviously a very ugly incident.) Remy was released on August 1, 2014, but clearly a lot happened in the six years she was incarcerated: Nicki Minaj, for one, who rose up from a barely-known mixtape rapper to subsume basically all of contemporary rap culture, man woman and child. There are more women on the come up—the game is different. The music is different. When she went in, Webbie was on the charts. Now, all the rappers are singing. What's a girl to do?
On I'm Around, Remy's first mixtape since her release, she knows she's gotta go hard if she's gonna stay relevant in the new world. Out the gate, she establishes her dominance, dropping menace in that signature Remy growl that is just a little grizzlier than before. (She's even reaching back to her pre-Riker's era for producers, locating Ron Browz somewhere in the Matrix and enlisting him for a war-march of a beat on the title track.) "You act bougie/you get stuck up," she snarls. "I'm bout a dollar/you'll get bucked up." It's threatening cause it's true! She also raps "I'm too hard/I got blue balls," and makes a strong statement about double standards with the cover art's tagline: "Why are you afraid of me when I open my mouth but not when I open my legs?" It's as explicit a feminist statement that could be, and to underscore it she is holding her bra and it is on fire. #BLESS
One of my issues with Remy's last album, There's Something About Remy, was that she often kept her voice in the same lower register—a glorious lower register, and part of the reason that she's such an appealing rapper, but one that at times verged on monotonous. She's not doing that here, switching up her pitch on the tracks according to the production, and it works. Plus, it's just great to hear her voice again—a voice that, despite what she may have done to her friend, was always about woman empowerment and self-motivation and agency. She's got quips: "I hold my own like I'm masturbatin'," she raps on "Gangsta Bitch," and though you know she knows it's a funny/stoopid lyric, she delivers it straightfaced, always the mean-mugger so you never know what's in her head, chess moves. And for some reprieve from the hardness, there's a track near the end called "Black Love," featuring her real-life husband, rapper Papoose, and a hook that covers Tamia's hook for "So Into You." AND THEY ARE BASICALLY JUST LISTING BLACK COUPLES WHO ARE IN LOVE, with Remy saying that the women are the backbone and power of each relationship. I haven't thought I'd be happy to hear a Papoose song since circa 2006, and yet here we are. "TI! Tiny! Barack! Michelle!" Also: "Nick! Mariah! Wait—that's about to end/They should stay together/Yeah, they could get counseling." Behold the glory. I'm gonna be listening to this all weekend. Also: sponsored by Pelle Pelle.