How was your first time meeting DMX?
When I first met X, I was still signed to Dre. I was 18 or 19, before Ruff Ryders was popping. He was just making noise when I met X, and then once I got signed to Ruff Ryders, I was about 21 and he was definitely X.
What was your first impression of him?
I loved X immediately. I thought he was definitely crazy. We talked on the phone first, and I was like, “Yo, why does he sound like that? That can't be real." Then, when we met face to face, we just connected. One of the realest dudes you'll ever meet. I remember thinking that to myself: Damn, he’s so real.
What’s the legacy of Ruff Ryder?
I feel like Ruff Ryders was the first all-out crew. It was an everything crew. It was hip-hop, it was motorcycles, and it was family. But it was bigger than music. Every MC that came from Ruff Ryders delivered. Damn near every song--especially with Swizz and the Lox, X and myself--the legacy was that we made a moment in history. Excitement. It was an exciting time for hip-hop.
Do you remember recording the first verse for your 1998 debut?
My verse to the “Ruff Ryders Anthem (Remix),” I wrote that on 125th Street in front of the Apollo, inside somebody's truck. I remember spitting it to people, like, “Yo this is gon’ be my verse.” I think that same night we went to the studio and I laid it down and heard it with everybody else’s verse.
Was it hard being the only chick in the crew?
Nah, I’ve always been the only chick. In high school, I had girlfriends, but most of my really close friends were guys. I’m a girly girl, but I’m a tomboy, too, so I’ve always been connected to guys. Getting with Ruff Ryders, my only challenge was that I really wanted to prove myself. I wanted to make sure they knew I wasn't going to come into the crew as a groupie and try to fuck my way through the crew. I wanted to make sure they saw that I could write my own rhymes. Put me in a battle, I could hold my own. I wanted to make sure I gained their respect. And I didn't want them to look at me as a girl. I didn’t want the help. I didn't want crutches. I wanted them to see that I was there with them, fifty-fifty. It took about a year for them to really accept me and once that year was over, then I was "baby girl."
"I wanted to make sure they knew I wasn't going to come into the crew as a groupie and try to fuck my way through the crew. I wanted to make sure they saw that I could write my own rhymes."
Women in rap tend to get accused of not writing their own rhymes or feeding off the men.
Exactly. It wasn't like: This is the girl; she needs help—I got treated like everybody else. If we was in the studio 20 or 22 hours and had an hour of sleep, if the guys were doing it, I had to do it, too. I couldn't be getting up trying to cry about how tired I was. It was hard. It was like boot camp for that first year. And I'm glad they did it like that. They definitely protected me. They protected me in a sense, if it was guys, that kind of thing. But as far as writing and being in the studio and battles and all that, I had to come at people’s necks.
Was there a particular battle that impressed everyone?
I don't remember the exact rap, but the way I got signed to Ruff Ryders was in a battle. I had to battle Drag-on at Infrared. That’s how I got signed. So that to me was the most crucial one I ever had because that was the only way they would even audition me. I think Philly prepared me for it. Cyphers were huge in Philly, whether you were in high school doing it in the lunchroom or the hallway, on the street. We used to hang out on South Street and it was battles on every other corner and I would try to enter all of them. I was trying to get in everybody’s cipher. That’s the only thing that prepared me for it in the sense that I wasn't scared.
How did you react to being signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label and then it not really working out?