Photography by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Hip hop sensation Becky G may be seventeen-years-old, but she had wisdom far beyond her years and a story to match. Her most recent single “Shower” has just been given a video and the CoverGirl is currently in the studio finishing her album. Becky G sat down with The Untitled Magazine to discuss her career and what she envisions for her future. Check out a snippet from the interview below and make sure to pick up a copy of The “Legendary” Issue 7 here or download the free “Legendary” Issue App on iTunes now!
“I’ve always been an old soul. I started writing songs more than just, you know, about my Barbie. My parents would be like, ‘Whoa, why are you singing about this?” Mexican-American singer-songwriter and rapper Becky G has grown up quickly, and the hustle has already started paying off. At only 17, the Los Angeles, California native is already in the process of defining herself and her career by the only rules she’s ever known—her own.
Signed to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Records, she has recently collaborated with Ke$ha, Cher Lloyd, Cody Simpson, and Will.i.am. Her debut single, “Becky from the Block” featured a cameo by Jennifer Lopez, her debut album is slated for release this spring, and she will open for Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour over the summer. Despite her success, her path wasn’t always straightforward. “I was always the youngest and smallest person in the group,” Becky says of her time being nurtured in two different girl groups, G.L.A.M. and B.C.G. “They would always give the verses, choruses, and everything to the older girls and be like ‘Ok, Becky, you just do the ad-lib.’ I was just like, ‘That’s not a real part!;” Frustrated and wondering what it would take to get a more central part, she made what turned out to be an inspired snap decision. “There was one song, and I put a rap on it, I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it, and all the girls were in the corner texting, talking about boys, boys, boys, and I went up to the producer and to the engineer, and I was like ‘Look, check this out,’ and I just busted a little rap over this song. We recorded it and after that I thought, ‘I guess I’ve got to make my own part!’”
Finding her voice and her footing in the industry hasn’t been easy, and has required more than just good luck. “In the early days, my family had lost our home, and we had no choice but to go live in my grandparents’ converted garage. I’m one of six people in my family…so all six of us were living in the two-car garage and my only outlet was music.” Soon enough Becky realized that she had to either go full throttle with her music career or change course. “I sat my parents down and told them, ‘Give me six months and let’s see what we can do. If it’s getting me an agent or whatever it is that you have to do so I can try this out. Once the six months are up, we can go from there. If nothing comes from it, then I’ll leave you guys alone.’”
Her parents proved remarkably supportive considering their tight financial constraints and soon found that Becky’s passions were no fluke. “I booked about ninety percent of everything that I was going out for, whether it was commercials or print jobs, little music videos or little performances…Once I hit that stage and performed a cover of some song, I knew in that moment that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I think my parents could see that.” Still, those early days in the garage proved to be the bedrock of what will most likely be a significant career. “Music was the one thing that got me out of all of the negativity…I think it forced me to mature a lot earlier than kids my age have to.”
It wasn’t long until that maturity was noticed by one of the industry’s top hit-makers, Dr. Luke, who arranged for a meeting with Becky, “I’m trippin’ out because I’m like oh my goodness, this is Dr. Luke. This is like the guy who is behind like Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and Rihanna—everybody! This is the guy who wanted to meet me?” Dr. Luke signed Becky on the spot, having seen a YouTube video she and her family and friends put together just a week prior. “I don’t even call it a low-budget music video, I call it a bro-budget music video because it was just friends of mine that shot it.” In fact, that sense of community and heritage has come to largely define what makes Becky G stand out above the rest. “Mexican culture plays a huge part in my life, especially growing up in LA. I mean, it’s everywhere. It’s in downtown LA, it’s in Santa Monica, Venice Beach. You hear the music everywhere, and the food is everywhere.”
That amalgamation of sounds and styles is what largely influenced Becky to focus on a blend of pop and hip-hop. “I grew up listening to all different types of music, honestly, like The Temptations and Etta James and Marvin Gaye, to everything that was happening in the late nineties… Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, all that stuff. And hip-hop was a genre that was played a lot around my house. It was something that I just had a taste for.”
One of Becky G’s most legendary influences, it seems, had similar taste. “Jennifer Lopez is my idol, the person that I’ve looked up to since I’ve been in diapers.” After hearing Becky’s cover version of J.Lo’s rags-to-riches anthem, “Jenny From the Block,” the Latina superstar stopped by the studio to hear the demo and decided on the spot to make a cameo in her music video. “She was super down with the cause, and we just went with it. We shot ‘Becky from the Block’ and it just kind of went from there.”
Now, Becky G seems poised to inspire legions of young fans in her own right, thanks in large part to a proud embracing of her heritage in an industry that doesn’t always make it easy to hold on to originality. “Growing up in a big family, being so close to my family, knowing that I have younger cousins and younger siblings, I’ve always felt the duty of being a good role model. Being an older sister to all my siblings has kind of set me up…I feel like now I’m ready to be a role model for other young kids in general.” With an MTV-sponsored East Coast tour and her debut album on the way, Becky seems to be taking the right steps to make those visions a reality. “I only get one. If you get that one chance, you just gotta go with it and give it everything you have.”
Indira Cesarine: You’re sixteen and making so many waves with your music, it’s really exciting what’s going on with your career. Can you tell me how you got started in the music industry?
Becky G: The early days started when I was about nine to ten. At that time, my family and I had just lost our home and had no choice but to go live in my grandparents’ converted garage, which is a one and a half car garage. It wasn’t too big. I’m one of six people in my family (I’m the oldest of four kids, plus both of my parents). All six of us were living in the garage, and my only outlet was music; I couldn’t talk to anybody about it at school. My family was aware about everything going on, but it wasn’t something that I could talk about, and music was the one thing that was my outlet, and got me out of all of the negativity. I’ve always been mature for my age, so I was understanding what was going on with my family and our financial issues. I turned to music and I finally just decided, that I want to do this professionally. So, I sat my parents down and I told them, ‘Give me six months and let’s see what we can do. Whether it’s getting me an agent, or whatever it is that you have to do so I can try this out, and once the six months are up, we can go from there. If nothing comes from it, then I’ll leave you guys alone, and if it keeps going well, we’ll see from there.’ My parents were so supportive, surprisingly, because we were doing really bad financially, but they supported me one hundred percent. Six months were up and I had booked about eighty-five, ninety percent of everything that I was going out for; whether it was commercials or print jobs, and little music videos and little performances. When I was nine, I got my first performance at University CityWalk in LA, and once I hit that stage and performed a cover song, I knew in that moment that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I think my parents could see that, so they let me keep doing my thing, and I’ve been doing it professionally ever since.
IC: What is it about rap music in particular that resonates with you?
BG: I grew up listening to all different types of music, honestly, everything from old school hip-hop music to oldies, like The Temptations and Etta James and Marvin Gaye, to everything that was happening in the late nineties, you know Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N*SYNC. So, growing up, my parents literally played everything, and hip-hop was a genre that was played a lot around my house. Age eleven is when I really started rapping, and that came about because I was in little girl groups here and there. I was always the youngest and smallest person in the group, they would always give the verses and the choruses to the older girls and they’d be like “Ok, Becky, you just do the ad-lib,” and I was just like “That’s not a real part! What do I have to do to get my own part in the song?” Then that was it, I was like “I’m gonna write a rap.” There was one song, and I put a rap on it, I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it, and all the girls were in the corner texting, talking about boys, and I went up to the producer and to the engineer, and I was like, “Look. Check this out.” And I just busted a little rap over this song, and we recorded it. After that, I was “Okay, I guess I’ve got to make my own part.” So I just started writing raps to songs.
IC: You were living in your grandparents’ garage at the time, how did those struggles affect your songwriting?
BG: Living in the garage was quite a big inspiration in my music. I think that the way it played a part in my music was, it forced me to mature a lot earlier than kids my age had to. Since I’ve always been an old soul, I started writing songs more than just, “Oh, a song about my Barbie.” It was more grown songs, and songs that my parents would be like, “Whoa, why are you singing about this?” or “How did you…where did you learn about this?” So it forced me to grow up. My vocabulary and everything was a little bit different and more mature than the average nine or ten-year-old when I first started songwriting. I think that’s where it plays a big part; I matured a lot quicker, so the style of my writing was a lot more evolved than others my age, the topics were very different.
IC: How did your video for “Becky From The Block” come about?
BG: People think you get signed and you just become a rockstar overnight; they think the record label gives you a bunch of money and then they just throw you on tour, and give you the songs. But, when you’re a real artist, there’s a lot of real artist development. You have to go through training, you’ve got to write your songs and figure out the formula for what your album is going to sound like. At the time, we weren’t really ready to release any original music, so I was just kind of like, well, what can we do to introduce people to who I am as a person; my life story? How can we get people familiar with who Becky G is before we drop any original music? The record label was like,“You’re right, just because you got signed doesn’t mean you gotta stop making covers.” So we threw around ideas and then we all agreed on “Jenny from the Block.” We were like, “this is such a flashback, the older generation is gonna know what this is, the younger generation is gonna know what this is; everybody knows this song, why not?” So, that exact night, Dr. Luke shoots me the instrumental, locks me up in a room with some baked cookies, and was like, “Okay, you’re gonna do this.” And I was like, “Yes sir, I am.” I wrote “Becky from the Block” then remixed to “Jenny from the Block”, and I showed him the verses after I recorded it that night, he was like, “I’m gonna send this to her.” I was like, “Wait, what? You’re gonna send this to Jennifer Lopez, my idol, the person that I’ve looked up to since I’ve been diapers?” And he was like, “Why not?” So we sent it over to her and her team. And a few days later, at the same exact studio that I recorded it at, she showed up and was like, “What’s up, Becky from the Block?” And I was like, “Oh my god, J. Lo is right in front of me!” It was crazy!
Make sure to pick up a copy of The Untitled Magazine‘s “Legendary” Issue 7 for exclusive photos and interview with Becky G. The issue is on newsstands worldwide and available online here.
Photography By Indira Cesarine
Styling by Danny Flynn
Hair by Kristen Shaw @ Jed Root
Make-up by Roberto Morelli
Photographed at Hotel Wilshire
Becky G wears a shark print swimsuit by Misguided and a vintage necklace.
Becky G wears a lace up lavender leather dress by Katya Leonovich.
Check out our exclusive behind the scenes video with Becky G!