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?
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?