With a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence behind her, rapper Remy Ma shows zero signs of resentment. While munching on a plate of leafy greens, grape tomatoes and grilled chicken at VH1 HQ, she uses her hands to emphasize her points, smiles frequently and act like your real-life BFF instead of the Terror Squad MC who had reason to be cocky on the 2005 smash “Conceited.”
Seven years ago, it might have been a different Rem. She was convicted of intentional assault after shooting a member of her entourage in 2007. After serving six years of her eight-year sentence, she strutted out of the pen in high spirits. Her husband, rapper Papoose, stood by her throughout incarceration, even getting thrown out of courtrooms and inking a tattoo tribute to his wife.
Now, Reminisce Smith is turning the page on a new chapter in life with VH1’s reality series Love & Hip Hop New York. She recently told Billboard how showrunner Mona Scott-Young convinced her and Papoose to join the cast for years, her musical agenda for 2016 and her collaborator wishlist (Hint: Beyhive). LHHNY returns to small screens on Monday, Dec. 14 on VH1 at 8/9c.
You and Papoose are joining Love & Hip Hop: New York. How did that opportunity come about?
[The producers were] actually were trying to get me and my husband to do it for years now. When i was in prison, they wanted to catch that dynamic of him coming to visit me and me being away and I just couldn’t do it. It sounded like it would’ve been cool footage but I really was going through a traumatic situation — I was in prison, I had an eight-year sentence and was like, ‘I don’t care about no reality TV. I don’t care about nothing. I just want to get out.’ It was Mona Scott-Young who really got to us. She was like, ‘I know what the stereotype is of [the show]. People feel like it’s a graveyard for rappers and then there’s the craziness of drinks being thrown, spitting, fighting, like I don’t want to be any parts of that. But when we sat down [with Mona] and we were actually talking. she explained how she wanted to get back to the essence [of the show]. She wanted something that personified and reflected the title Love & Hip Hop. She was like, ‘I feel like you guys are that.’
Before you started filming, did you have a sit-down with Papoose to come up with a game plan in case something crazy panned out in front of the camera?
I’m more spur-of-the-moment. I’m really just like, ‘You wanna go bungee jumping? Sure!’ I’m a gemini. [Pap]’s a pisces — he’s more of like a planner, like ‘What if this happens?’ I’m like, ‘Babe, we’re good. I feel like we’ve been through everything. Whatever adversity you think we could go through as a couple, we’ve been through it and I’m like, ‘We just be us’ and that’s what we did. I really feel like we’re a normal couple and we go through normal couple shit and that’s what makes it so crazy — you don’t see that on TV. People are trying to act like they’re balling all day with cars, their house, like there’s no problems. I feel like a lot of people are trying to be someone they’re not and when you’re just yourself, life is so much easier because you don’t have to keep up this facade.
I can imagine being yourself in a room full of personalities presented its own set of challenges. What was it like mingling with your LHHNY co-stars?
Well I don’t know if it was purposely done but I didn’t get to mingle with other co-stars as much as other people would think. Like if I don’t hang with you in real life, I’m not gonna hang with you here [on TV]. There’s some people who I feel do things so that they can be more famous — I’m not there for that. I feel like I didn’t wanna be around anyone that represented that or that was their goal so and I think the producers and the people working the show, they understood that.
You seem very protective of your brand.
Yes, especially after all that I’ve been through. like I’m doing so much damage control, I’d be damned if I let somebody who wants to get a couple of seconds of fame [off me] so nah, I’m not doing that.
Was there anything off-limits in front of the cameras?
Not really. I’m kinda secretive and I can’t even say secretive because of my son. He’s the type like he doesn’t let his friends know who his mom is or his stepdad. He doesn’t like me going to his school. If he gets into trouble at school, he’s, like, dying. He’s very lowkey with it. He’s always been like that since he was born. I think it’s smart because when people know that you are related to a celebrity, they look at you and treat you different. He doesn’t wanna go somewhere where they’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s the rapper’s son.’ He’s there [on the show] but not how a lot of people’s children are a part [of the show]. He’s a part of my every day, all day, constantly but I don’t think it really gets perceived like that on the show.
What are you hoping fans learn about Remy Ma on the show that they didn’t know before?
People know “Ante Up,” “Conceited,” “Lean Back.” People know that I’m very outspoken. I’ve learned that when I talk, it usually comes off very aggressive. It’s not that i’m aggressive — I’m very stern. If i feel strongly about it, you’re gonna know it so people get to see a softer side. Like this is somebody who is a real human being. Sometimes people look at artists and they think we’re inhuman [but] I have to go to the dentist, I eat breakfast, I eat cereal, I want to sleep in late, there’s certain performances that I don’t want to go to, and especially with Papoose as well. Like [people] have never seen this guy smile! We spend a lot of our time balancing that with trying to be normal to some degree so you get to see that and me transitioning back into life. Six and a half years is a really long time [to be in prison] and there were times where [raises voice into an excited tone] I got my license ‘cause I was gone so long that my license expired. I had to go take the test again which was annoying — I almost failed. It’s just little things like get a license, set up doctors appointments. I had no clothes at all [when I came home] so I’m trying to build up my underwear collection again. [Laughs] Silly stupid stuff but it’s life stuff that I really have to do.
Will your new album show Rem’s return to hard-hitting bangers?
Definitely. I feel like I have so many good people on my side — I had been talking to [DJ] Khaled. He always make great big records so he’s like, ‘Rem, I have it all laid out for you. I want you to do this record. all you gotta do is fill in the blanks.’ He was one of the first people that I talked to. Then I spoke to Chris Brown and he’s like, ‘If you need me, I’m here — it’s nothing.’ Then, Rick Ross. I have a new music coming out. I’m actually going to debut it the day of the [LHHNY] premiere. It’s called “Hands Down” featuring Ross and Yo Gotti. Super dope. There’s just so many people I feel i could just reach out to and I have some really great relationships. I’m blessed with that.
Who are some female collaborators on your wishlist?
I really im a big fan of a lot of people. I love Rihanna. She’s the one I watched since she was coming out and I was doing my thing and we would see each other. I love Missy [Elliott]. She’s somebody else that I spoke to while i was away and I was like, ‘Missy, why you not putting anything out?’ She was like, ‘Things is different. Things changed now.’ and i was like, ‘No offense, bitch, but you’re Missy Elliott.’ I was coming down here and I seen her video playing in Times Square and I was like, ‘That’s right, bitch, that’s right!’ And everyone knows I love Beyonce. I think it was my first BET Awards and they was like, ‘Anything you want to say?’ [I said] I just wanna be Beyonce.