Vixen Initiation: Reema Major Brings A Young, Raw & Stylish Flair To The Rap Game
She has a confidence and self-assurance that makes you forget she's only 16 years young. Reema Major, born in Sudan and raised in both Canada and Kansas City, has a musical ear that is seldom seen or heard of at such a young age. While her rhymes are hard-hitting and sometimes quite raw (see: 2010 BET's Hip Hop Award cypher), listen between the lines and you'll catch pieces of her very real and not-always-fun life tales. Her brightly-colored eclectic style is simply an additive to the total rapping-singing package, throwing her in the lion's den of rap blabbers comparing her to Nicki Minaj.
As she prepares her debut album, set to release on Universal Music Canada/Interscope/CherryTree, the '95 baby hit the VIBE Vixen offices to play a few joints from the upcoming project and let us get to know her a bit better. The minor Miss Major dished about her opinion of the Minaj comparisons, growing up quickly in a tough world and meeting her father through MySpace. -Niki McGloster
What was the first thing that drew you to hip-hop?
Reema Major: The cypher. When I was five, my older cousin used to rap. It was summertime and everyone was always outside. She babysat me, and they were always doing cyphers. I was just interested. I fell in love with the art, the whole aspect of rap, from the storyline, to putting the “umph” in your tone. Writing was always an outlet, so once I learned to write, it was natural. I can’t really remember when I started loving it; it was just always there.
How do you feel your age contributes to where you are now? Do you feel like it plays a big part?
I think it does, because when people first hear me they’re like, 'Oh word?' I think my music is just my story and sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a negative thing. Sometimes people have the wrong approach. Like the older generation, [they'll say], 'Oh she’s a young teen; She shouldn’t, she shouldn’t”. I think they should ask, 'Why does she dress like that? Why does she say those things? What happened? What’s your upbringing?' I think people will get it. It just falls both ways right now, but it definitely does play a big part.
You were born in Sudan and currently reside in Canada. How do those places and the things that you experienced there make you who you are as an artist and as a person?
From when I was born ,I moved around every single year up until the time I was five. So being taken out of environments and having to adapt to different environments caused me to catch up fast. I’m here, then I’m here, then I’m here. It was a culture shock sometimes. That made me grow up fast. Then again, living in the hood and really doing those things I was really a rowdy kid. Not saying I promote it, but that’s things I did and I talk about it in my music. The success part of it, I was a kid on the block, I used to do all that crazy stuff, but the point is I’m here now, I did it, I got up out of it. Just things like that. I had to adapt to different environments, having to learn a new language, because when I originally came here I wasn’t fluent in English at all.
How did you learn English?
Through schooling, my first teacher was a British teacher, and that’s how I learned English.
You have a song called “Father,” what’s your relationship with you and your father?
“Father” was a song where people thought I was talking to an actual dad, but it was kind of subliminal. The dad I was speaking to was God. That’s why I said, 'Dear Father, today I was told that I’m a refugee… Anyways gotta pack my books, crayons, and my pens, love you Dad, keep me safe, no nightmares and amen.' So I was just speaking to God. I never had a relationship with my biological father; I don’t know him. He found me for the first time through MySpace when I was maybe 13 or 14. I remember it was three o’clock in the morning, and I got a message in my MySpace mail. I never check my MySpace for anything, and I don’t know what made me do that, but I did. And it says, 'Hi, I’m your dad. I’ve been looking you for so long.' I go to the page, and there was no recent activity on the page besides the fact that it made less than five hours ago. I send him a message back: 'If you’re my dad, prove it.”'So he’s like “You were born [on] June 26, 1995 in Sudan.' He never mentioned where because I was born in a jail cell. I ended up giving him my number, [and] we went back and forth for a little bit. IIm sitting on the bed with my mom, my sister’s on the phone, she’s crying and then I hear the beep. I click over and heard him for the first time, ever. I asked how did you find me, he said he had put my mother’s name is Google. And because my mother has a tribal African last name, it’s very rare. The first thing that came up was (my mother’s name), parent of Reema Major. My bio came up, and he went to my MySpace. He read my story about flying to Kenya to Uganda and all these places. And he said, 'From right there I knew it was you and had no question about it.' But that’s how that happened.
You’ve been compared to Nicki Minaj in a lot of ways, what do you say about that?
It doesn’t bother me at all. When you’re a female, you’re gonna be compared to somebody. If you don’t get compared you’re really wack, and you’re not going anywhere. It’s a compliment. You wanna compare me to the hottest chick in the game right now, I’m fine with that. In terms of emcees ,I’m sure people can see the separation.
What have you seen thus far, being a female in a male-dominated industry?
You just have to prove yourself more. I just consider it motivation, so it doesn’t really bother me. There's more dudes in the game than girls, but we’re coming.
Who are your lyrical influences?
I love Eminem, Biggie, 2Pac, Lupe, anyone who makes great music and is good at storytelling, because that’s what I do. I tell my story in my music. So when I hear another artist do that, I can appreciate it.
A lot of talent has come from Toronto. There's Drake, Melanie Fiona, and others. Do you feel like you’re representing for Toronto or for everywhere that you’re from?
I feel like I’m representing from every single place I’m from. I’m representing for Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) and definitely Toronto. That’s a city I spend a lot of time in. Definitely Kansas City because that’s another city I’ve spent a lot of time in. I’ve been around so much that I haven’t been at one place more than the other another. I don’t have a solid place, but if you ask me where I’m from I’m going to tell you Sudan because that’s my birthplace, and I’m still fluent in the language and I love my family. So I’m representing everywhere.
What can we expect sonically for this album?
Greatness. The album is just going to be phenomenal. I’ve been in the studio collaborating with a whole bunch of different producers. It was a learning experience also, because prior to that, I was a kid writing rhymes in my room. I haven’t really collaborated with any producers like that. Like sitting in the studio, having the experience of working with someone else and collaborating my vibes with their vibes to create something else, so I love the process. The process is dope, so the outcome is going to be great.
Any key people that you want to name drop?
Nope. [laughs] There’s going to be some dope, dope, dope collaborations.
Where do you draw your eclectic fashion style from?
I draw it from anything around me; I’m inspired by anything. I’ve just always been the kid that wanted to create. I’ve always wanted to make something different. I was in the 5th grade, and I wore a bandana around my head and left my hair poofy, a girl came up to me; she was two grades older and she said, 'I’ve always wanted to do that, but I was really scared.' I’ve always just wanted to express myself. I cut, rip, pull, whatever.
Are there any popular style trends that you’re really into?
I think everything gets recycled. I’ll see something, and it’s from the 80s or the 60s, so I think everything gets revamped. Everything has phases. You’re going to have a trend, then you go to the next one. I don’t like any specific trends. I say style over fashion. For example, whether it’s $2000 or $2, I’m going to buy it. I love labels--Gucci, Louis, Fendi, Prada--but I’d rather pull it, pick it and like it rather than it just be a brand.
What imprint would you love to make on this industry?
I want to go down as one of the best female rappers ever, period. I hope it comes to a time where they won’t even say female, they’ll say Best Rapper Ever. I hope that I can create some type of unity, and I really pray that more females come into the game, so in the next couple years, it’s no longer a male-dominated industry--where it’s just a whole bunch of females. Ladies first.