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A conversation with Charlotte's ReeCee Raps

Hip-hop artist ReeCee Raps has twice been named Female Hip Hop artist of the year by the Queen City Awards. WFAE recently chose her NPR Tiny Desk Contest submission as our regional favorite, and WFAE program director Eric Teel spoke with ReeCee about her journey to Charlotte and the moment she decided to pursue a musical path.

(This interview has been edited for clarity.)

Eric Teel: You're originally from Pittsburgh, right?

ReeCee Raps: Yes, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I lived in California. I moved from Pittsburgh to California and then I moved to St Louis. I lived there for four years and then I lived in Kansas City, Missouri, for six years. And then I've been in Charlotte for four years.

Teel: OK. Was Charlotte's music community part of your thinking about why you wanted to land here?

ReeCee: No, I wasn't really pursuing music.

Teel:  Was there a day that you can remember where you decided that music was going to be the No. 1 priority for you, rather than it being a hobby that you did outside of your regular workday?

ReeCee: Yeah. So, I remember when I first moved to Charlotte, I, you know, I'm getting out of a relationship. I'm living alone for the first time in my life. And it was just like a moment where I was like, "I'm going to make a project, I'm going to make an album." And so from that point I was just writing songs and stuff. I would find beats and I would write to them. I remembered helping my ex out sometimes and he would have professional studios. So I was like, let me get into like an actual studio. And then I had met my producer at the mall, KrazyFigz, which is a really, like, dope producer in Charlotte and an engineer and getting in the studio with him and him actually like guiding me and being an actual producer to, like, say, "OK, you might want to say it like this or do it like that." From there, creating them songs with him, I really decided, OK, my music is really dope and I can actually do this.

Teel: You have talked about being inspired by the sounds of the music of the '90s. What elements from that era are you trying to pull in to what you do?

ReeCee: I feel like the music from the '90s had a lot of soul, the vibes...like the feeling, you know? It's like a certain nostalgia about that music that you can't really recreate, but what I could do is blend it, you know. I like to blend the new with the old. I like to definitely draw from influences like Lauryn Hill, you know. I like to draw from a lot of early 2000s. Kanye was one of my first favorite rappers, you know, because I didn't listen to a lot of rap growing up. It was mainly R&B-like, so a lot of '90s R&B. Music was really big. My family, my granddad was a part-time deejay. My uncles are deejays.

Teel: Oh, so they had music collections.

ReeCee: Yeah, yeah. So music has always been a big part of my mom's life and in our life as well in that way.

Teel: You refer to yourself as both hip-hop artist but also a rapper. But you sing?

ReeCee: Yes, I do.

Teel: You don't call yourself a singer.

ReeCee: I… (laughs) I don't, but other people do.

Teel: So, is it a lack of confidence or what?

ReeCee: Oh, I feel like it's like a thing. I sometimes I have like I started out, you know, a rapper-singer and then it's kind of like a touchy thing because I feel like to be a singer, you got to maybe you got to know how to sing the national anthem.

Teel: That's the test?

ReeCee: If someone tried to push me to sing the national anthem, I'm not the person for you, but I feel like singing is not my... Crazy part about singing — I actually started out singing before puberty. I wanted to be a singer. That was my thing as a kid. I had wanted to be a singer. Rapping didn't really come into play until like later on and maybe like seven or eight years later where I'm like, OK, I do poetry, let me start rapping. But I didn't. So it was like losing my singing voice and never really having any like training in singing. But I do sing. So like, technically I am a singer, but I definitely lead with the rapping part. But yeah, I guess I'm a singer too.

Teel: How did you end up landing on ReeCee Raps as the name you go by?

ReeCee: So, I feel like you can't name yourself is how I always felt. Like, you got to get the name from somewhere else. So my granddad actually nicknamed me ReeCee. Everybody has nicknames by my grandad in our family, so he nicknamed, you know, that one family member that nicknames everybody?

Teel: What were you before ReeCee?

ReeCee: Shauna? My real name.

Teel: Wasn't even close then, huh?

ReeCee: Yeah. So...

Teel: Did you like peanut butter cups or something?

ReeCee: I actually did! I actually did! That was my favorite candy, but also my middle name is Sharice. So, I don't know. I never got the chance to ask him why he nicknamed me ReeCe, but he used to sometimes say "ReeCee, Sharicee" so I figured it might have been like for my middle name, but I felt like since he did get me into performing and he is still so much in me as a child, like I feel like it keeps his legacy going to go by a name that he gave me and then ReeCee was taken on Instagram. My name was still ReeCee, but that was just like my handle. But people would call me ReeCee Raps all the time and for a branding aspect, it's like you can Google ReeCee Raps and I'll pop up. You Google "Reecee" and, like, peanut butter cups might pop up, so...

Teel: Was this the first time you entered the Tiny Desk contest or had you done it before?

ReeCee: This is actually the third time I entered, but I know the first two times it was more like we're doing a band rehearsal — "OK, y'all, since we're all here, we might as well do the Tiny Desk thing". And it wasn't, like, planned out necessarily. So this is the first time I actually had somebody, you know, do the sound and hire a camera guy, stuff like that.

Teel: Were you familiar with NPR Music before entering the contest?

ReeCee: Just from YouTube. Watching the Tiny Desk and stuff. Anderson .Paak Tiny Desk is my favorite.

Teel: So has anything notable come from this either this entry or the one that you did in previous years, like an uptick in page visits or like social follows?

ReeCee: You know, the other entries I did, I actually took them off, I did it, and then I took them down off my YouTube to where they were private. So I don't even think I even let them be, like, let them get a chance to even get seen, 'cause I start... like, I'm very critical. So it was just, like, even this time I wasn't necessarily all the way satisfied with my video. So it was shocking to even to even get the nod from you guys.

Teel: No, it's good. It's really good. You definitely should leave this one up.

ReeCee: Yeah, I'm definitely leaving it up. I will leave it up. But hey, if it was to my liking, maybe I would have won the whole thing. I'm like, I'm going to keep entering until I win. I do feel like it's a cool it's really cool to connect with WFAE, with NPR. I feel like this is notable coming from it. Right?

Teel: Right on. Yeah. Well, thanks for chatting with me. I appreciate it.

ReeCee: Thank you so much for having me.

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Eric Teel comes to WFAE with more than 30 years of public radio programming experience across a wide variety of formats.