Wondering what all the hype is about now that Remy Ma is home from prison? Check her résumé. Wondering what all the hype is about now that Remy Ma is home from prison? Check her résumé.

FAQ: Everything Millennials Should Know About Remy Ma

Last week, Remy Ma was released from prison after serving six years on assault charges. While this is exciting news for older rap fans, ones who remember Rem’ as a fiery Bronx-bred lyricist poised to do big things, there are undoubtedly a bunch of people (i.e. those born after 1996) who are also scratching their heads like, “Who is Remy Ma and really, who cares?” These are great questions. So let’s get to answering them. Your guide to Remy Ma starts here, in an educational FAQ (frequently asked questions) format. —Paul Cantor

1. Who is Remy Ma, and really, who cares?
Glad you asked. Remy Ma (formerly known as Remi Martin) lived around the corner from Big Pun in the Bronx, and scored an introduction to the rapper through mutual friends. After impressing him, he took her under his wing and showcased her on the song “Ms. Martin,” from his gold-selling second album, Yeeeah Baby. But Pun died before the album was released, and she was left in the care of his mentor, Fat Joe. In analogy form, Pun : Biggie :: Fat Joe : Puff Daddy :: Remy : Lil’ Kim.

If you're a fan of hip-hop, you should definitely care.

2. How did she go from protégé to solo star?
Remember when a pre-Pink Friday Nicki Minaj hopped on Kanye West’s 2010 record, “Monster” alongside Jay Z, Rick Ross and Kanye himself, and completely bodied every dude on the record? Yeah, that wasn’t the first time a lady assassin stole the show from a cast of heavyweights. In 2000, M.O.P. released “Ante Up,” one of the most iconic songs about robbery ever. Its popularity at the time was so ubiquitous that it spawned a remix featuring Busta Rhymes, Teflon and—you guessed it— Remy Ma, whose verse shined brightest after she called out women MCs with ghostwriters. “Wish I could bring Pun back,” she waxed over the song’s adrenaline-pumping instrumental, making sure to pay her respects.

With Pun gone, Fat Joe put Remy down with Terror Squad and featured her heavily on his 2001 LP, J.O.S.E. The album would go on to span a handful of hits for Joe, and the Remy-assisted songs—“Opposites Attract” and “He’s Not Real,” respectively—helped solidify her rep as an MC really worth paying attention to. Joe would feature her again a year later on his next LP, 2002’s Loyalty.

In 2004, with $20,000 on the line, Remy Ma quelled any doubts about her capacity to spit by defeating Lady Luck in a multi-round battle at New York City’s famed Fight Klub. With devastating lines—“Can tell you pushing 40, look like you been drinking forties/got like four kids and tryna be somebody shorty”—Remy buried her opponent and built herself a serious buzz.


3. OK, she can spit, but can she also make hits?
Sure can. Ten years ago, Remy Ma teamed with Fat Joe for “Lean Back,” the lead single from Terror Squad’s second LP, True Story. “R to Eezy, M to the Wizy,” she cleverly began her verse, in her bridge-and-tunnel drawl. The song owned the summer of 2004, and the uncut video—featuring a shot of Remy Ma getting head while she’s driving—became an oddly empowering moment.

4. How about a full-length album?
In 2006, after years of delays, Remy finally released her debut album, There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story. It featured a handful of strong songs—including the Scott Storch-produced single “Conceited”—but the project didn’t sell well. She blamed Fat Joe for not helping her, thus beginning a long-standing beef with the Terror Squad honcho.

In 2007, looking to recapture her buzz, she released the mixtape Shesus Khryst. The project was heralded as a return to form for the Bronx spitter, but also found her dissing Fat Joe on the song “Fuck The Weatherman,” signaling her breakup with Terror Squad, and to a greater degree her label Universal Records.

5. Why did she end up in prison?
In July of 2007, after celebrating her birthday in New York’s Meatpacking District, Remy Ma got into an altercation with her friend Makeda Barnes-Joseph over money that was missing from her purse, which lead to her shooting Barnes-Joseph twice in the stomach. A year later, Remy was sentenced to eight years in prison.

While awaiting sentencing on Riker’s Island, Remy’s wedding with fiance Papoose was postponed after he was found to be in possession of a key that prison officials claimed could be used to open handcuffs. They insisted that he was trying to break his boo out of jail, and banned him from visiting for six months.

6. So are Papoose and Remy Ma the new Jay Z and Beyonce, or nah?
Nah.


7. Now that Remy is out of prison, does that mean I have to pick between her and Nicki Minaj?
Both seem to feel it’s all love. A petty, ongoing beef with Lil’ Kim continued while Remy was sequestered in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, but in numerous jailhouse interviews she showed love to hip-hop’s new queen bee, Nicki Minaj. “I’ve never had a problem with her,” says Remy. “When she was coming up, she used to come to my parties. I’d go to her parties. I’m cool with her.” Her first song since she’s got out, the remix to DJ Khaled’s single “They Don’t Love You No More,” might suggest differently, though. “Don’t care if your name buzzing, you know who the queen be,” Remy spit, later telling Funkmaster Flex she’s hoping to collaborate with her. Nicki, however, was not as excited about that prospect. “We’ll see,” she told Hot 97’s Ebro Darden. “I’m not closing that off.”

8. What songs should I listen to?
Start with the remix to DJ Khaled’s single “They Don’t Love You No More” and work your way backwards. There’s “Whateva,” “Conceited,” “Feels So Good” with Ne-Yo, "Lean Back," and "Take Me Home," from True Story, "Ante Up (Remix)" and the song that started it all, "Ms. Martin," from Pun's aforementioned Yeeeah Baby. Go burn yourself a CD-R mixtape for old time's sake.

9. Burn a mixtape?
Nevermind.

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Derrel Todd

Music Sermon: Forget The King of R&B, Raphael Saadiq Is The Son Of Soul

#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

This week, Cash Money artist Jacquees set off an internet firestorm when he proclaimed himself to be the “King” of R&B “for (his) generation.” The comment led artists, executives, music fans and #BlackTwitter in general to debate: who is the King of R&B? (Spoiler alert - it’s not Jacquees.)

While a consensus was never reached, the heated discussion illustrated how much the definitions and ideas of R&B and R&B stars varies between age groups. Ironically, one name that seldom appeared in the convo belongs to one of the most consistent and prolific presences in soul and R&B music for the last 30 years: Raphael Saadiq.

Saadiq has become like a stealth superhero of soul for the last several years of his career, moving to the background as more writer/composer/musician, so the impulse for many might be to label him as an “old school” artist. But that’d be a misnomer, as he’s still had his hand in some of the most influential music for the current generation. Perhaps he transcends a simple R&B conversation as a self-identified Son of Soul (the difference between R&B and Soul is a topic for another day), but however you want to categorize him, he is not widely-enough acknowledged for how he’s kept us jamming, constantly, for three decades.

Let’s explore the iterations through which “Ray Ray” has blessed us over the years.

TONY! TONI! TONÉ!

During the birth and rise of New Jack Swing and then the subsequent evolution to Hip-Hop Soul, Tony! Toni! Toné! was one of the last of a dying R&B breed: the band. They – and a few years later Mint Condition - were standouts as live musicians in an R&B landscape turning to sample-based production. This set both groups apart, establishing them early on as serious soul acts, and making them forerunners of the neo soul sound to come in the late ‘90s.

Like almost every black musician and/or producer of note in his peer group, Saadiq developed and honed his musical chops in the church. Exposure to Motown and Stax by his blues singer father led him to the bass and served as inspiration for his future style. But he, brother Dwayne and cousin Timothy Christian received their formal Tony! Toni! Toné! training on the road: Raphael and Christian toured as part of Sheila E’s band on Prince’s Parade Tour and Dwayne with gospel great Tramaine Hawkins.

Having been properly trained, educated and tested in blues, soul, gospel, and funk, the three formed Tony! Toni! Toné!. Their first album was a modest success, achieving gold status from the RIAA, but wasn’t a standout. The trio started taking the reins on writing and production on their sophomore effort, and the Tonys as we now know them showed up. They announced both their musical background and intentions with their album titles: The Revival, Sons of Soul, House of Music. They were not there for catchy, formulaic R&B. They developed a signature blues, soul, gospel and funk hybrid, rolled up in modern R&B and hip-hop fusion.

The Revival is arguably a new jack swing album – “Feels Good” is a must-have on any new jack playlist – but they were taking the existing marriage of R&B and hip-hop and adding an even deeper soul element, reaching back to ‘70s sonic roots. It was the sonic equivalent of taking new jack swing chicken and shaking it in a paper bag of old-school musically-seasoned flour.

The group still had the kind of jammin’ uptempos found on their debut, Who?, but started to establish themselves as producers of some of the greatest R&B ballads of the ‘90s.

When you think of the Tonys’ music, aside from “Feels Good,” the first song that comes to mind is probably a slow jam. Most acts are fortunate to get one true signature song in their career. Tony! Toni! Toné! has several, and they’re timeless. Put them on today and see if you don’t hit a body roll.

They also established themselves as formidable soundtrack players (as any 90s act worth their salt did. Remember soundtracks, by the way?). They had cuts on the House Party II and Boyz in the Hood albums.

By Sons of Soul they’d found their pocket, and they pushed the sonic limits of contemporary R&B to the extent that some outlets classified the album as jazz, it was such an outlier. Saadiq recognized that they were doing something important for genre. Something that was connecting old style and new. In an interview about the album in 1994, he expressed what he saw as the group’s role in music. "We've been very blessed to be able to be a group that writes our own songs and people have accepted us from both sides, hip-hop and the R&B…I feel very fortunate to be able to do that here in 1993-94, because like you know, it was starting to be a dying thing that was happening. But I guess we were like the bridge between hip-hop and soul and R&B.”

Going back to the aforementioned King of R&B discussion, Diddy chimed in the conversation (he knows a little something about the topic) to run down some criterion to even be considered. His list included vulnerability and adoration in the lyrics and subject matter, the ability to sing a woman’s “draws” off, and the pen game to write hits. Check, check and check. Sons of Soul deservedly landed at or near the top of a gang of 1994 year-end lists and the Tonys continued to raise the bar for the ballad game. Real talk, the last four and a half minutes of the “Anniversary” album cut are better than some entire R&B albums.

With House of Music, the group sought to even more fully showcase all their influences and inspirations: the Al Green-esque “Thinking of You;” the Stylistics-inspired “Holy Smokes & Gee Wiz;” the Bay Area connect with DJ Quik for some G-Funk with “Let’s Get Down;” the straight-up church moment of the “Lovin’ You” reprise closing out the album, with Christian putting all that good anointing on the Hammond B3 organ. This was our clearest glimpse what Saadiq had in store for the future.

LUCY PEARL

When Tony! Toni! Toné! broke up and Saadiq put together supergroup Lucy Pearl, we realized he was on some other sh*t. First, the very idea to bring En Vogue’s Dawn Lewis, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Saadiq together was genius. Then, oh…what’s this sound? Tony! Toni! Toné! with a little somethin’ extra on it? Saadiq revealed his ability to reinvent himself, stylistically and sonically, and play in different music spaces. Successfully. Hits, check.

WRITER/COMPOSER/PRODUCER/MUSICIAN

After Lucy Pearl, Saadiq embarked on his first solo projects. We’ll get to those, but the more remarkable part of this era was his expansive work as a writer, producer and session musician for others. As mentioned earlier, Tony! Toni! Tone! was an inspiration for neo soul (a term Saadiq loathes), which pulled from ‘60s and ‘70s influences, paired with the return to live instrumentation, mixed with hip-hop swag. Saadiq was a sometime member of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and J Dilla’s Ummah production collective, but had also been working on outside projects since the Tonys were active. Through either the Ummah or alone, Ray was behind hits you may have attributed to someone else.

-D’Angelo, "Lady:" Saadiq co-wrote, co-arranged and co-produced the still-perfect ode to #WCEs (Women Crush Everydays) with D’Angelo.

-Bilal, "Soul Sista:" Soul and R&B great Mtume on the pen, Saadiq on production.

-Angie Stone, "Brotha:" OK, who’s gonna create the 2018 “Unproblematic” edit of the “Brotha” video?

-Total, "Kissing You:" No, this wasn’t Stevie J. Now, imagine this as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song. You can absolutely hear it, right?

-Erykah Badu and Common, "Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop):" Saadiq again proving he’s a master of the perfect fusion of hip-hop and an old soul groove.

-D’Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel):" Saadiq has admitted he later realized he was channeling Jay Dee’s style throughout the D’Angelo session.

SOLO SAADIQ

As a solo artist, Saadiq has accomplished what few can: continuously evolving his sound and aesthetic while yet managing to still always sound like himself. The retro-influence has been a constant in his work, but that influence ranges between decades and musical eras. He’d given us a taste of solo Ray through “Ask of You” from the Higher Learning soundtrack, but that could easily pass as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song.

With Instant Vintage (again letting you know what he came to do with the title), Saadiq expanded on his existing signature sound of soul, funk, gospel and R&B; a sound he coined “Gospaldelic.”

With Ray Ray, he delivered a modern blaxploitation soundtrack. But then, in 2008, he went all the way back to Motown and the purest soul sound for The Way I See It. Saadiq was committed to an authentic return to ‘60s soul for the entire process. He eschewed slick, modern production techniques for old-school practices, including vintage equipment, all live instrumentation and single-take recordings. He donned slim-cut suits and classic frames for his look, and delivered a retro soul package via the 45 inch LP box set. But it still sounded incredibly fresh and modern, and that is his gift.

His last solo album, 2011’s Stone Rolling, was a progression of The Way I See It, staying in the same retro soul pocket, bringing some funk and rock’n’roll back into.

Or did he?

MILLENNIAL RAY

The thing about Saadiq is that he doesn’t just look a perpetual 30 years old (he’s 52. It don’t crack.). Unlike a lot of “old heads,” he keeps his ear current, as well. Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Anderson Paak, and BJ the Chicago Kid are his musical nephews. He praises them and their music often in interviews, heralding them as the current bridge-builders between eras and urban genres. Labelmate Leon Bridges adapted his The Way I See It and Stone Rolling formulas - from the sound to the ‘60s-style dress and imaging - for his own, and had Saadiq’s enthusiastic blessing. He listens to SZA, PJ Morton and Daniel Caesar. And he still has his finger on the pulse of current urban musical movements.

Saadiq was an executive producer on Solange Knowles’ 2016 A Seat at the Table, garnering a Grammy for the anthemic “Cranes in the Sky.”

He’s also helped to bring the full authenticity of the West Coast to Insecure for the past three seasons, serving as the show’s composer.

And he hasn’t abandoned his peers and contemporaries, garnering a “Best Song” Oscar nomination last year with Mary J. Blige for Mudbound’s “Mighty River,” and just recently executive producing John Legend’s first Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas. Only time will tell what he brings on the forthcoming solo album he told VIBE about, titled Jimmy Lee.

Whether his name is included in King of R&B conversations or not, Saadiq has been booked and busy in every area of black music since before 1988, keeping both aunties and nieces grooving, with no signs of slowing or stopping.

RELATED: Raphael Saadiq Talks New Music, 'Insecure,' And Why Tony! Toni! Toné! Won't Reunite

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Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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