In 2014, Indianapolis-based artist Rehema McNeil began her rap career as a necessity to complete a spoken word project. Since then, Rehema has released two hip-hop projects; “Davu” and “Mako”. The projects led to collaborations with well-established hip-hop artists, such as Human and Jo Universal. In addition, Rehema was an opener for one of Rolling Stones “Ten Artists You Need to Know this Month”, Helado Negro, and performed at one of Midwest’s premier hip-hop festivals, Chreece. PATTERN followed Rehema around for a day and learned about her influences, sound, and message to her audience.
Christopher Wilson: Where are you from?
Rehema McNeil: I’m from Memphis. I lived there until I was 12. I moved around a lot because my parents worked for the airline industry, but now I’ve been here for 12 years.
CW: How long have you been creating music?
RM: About three years now. I was working on a poetry project, and was heavily depending on a person to perform a chorus. They didn’t show up, so we had to wing it. I ended up doing a rap verse and loved it. I did another and another. The poetry project turned into neo-soul and hip-hop project called ‘Davu’. My next project after that was called ‘Mako’, which was straight hip-hop.
CW: Is there a song on your first project that really stands out to you or to your supporters?
RM: On my very first project, ‘Terrorist’ was the fan favorite because it was a mantra with a catchy chorus. They also liked ‘Davu’ because of its energy, beat, and message. It was light, positive, and encouraging.
CW: What’s been one of your most memorable live performances?
RM: Performing at the Old National Centre for the Valentine’s concert with R&B legends Bootsy Collins, Donell Jones, and Miki Howard.
CW: How did that crowd react to your music?
RM: They enjoyed a poem I performed…It was at such an elegant establishment. That’s the only time I’ve been able to grace the wonderful stage at the Old National Centre. But on the hip-hop side, the live performance that stands out is Chreece at the White Rabbit because it was filled with hip-hop fanatics.
CW: Any upcoming projects?
RM: A couple of projects are in the works. One is with Myeae. I wrote a verse and sent it to her, and she really liked it. She recently sent me a draft. It’s got a sexy, Caribbean Island feel. The other project that I’m working on is with an artist from Europe. I don’t want to give away too much about that. I want people to anticipate something dope and to check it out.
CW: How did you end up working with the artist from Europe?
RM: I reached out through social media and let them know that I enjoyed their music and visuals and would like to collaborate. Within two weeks, I wrote a verse and sent it back to them. Human helped out with the hook, Young Zo sang the chorus, and we recorded the song at City Dump Records.
CW: How would you explain your music to those who aren’t familiar with your work?
RM: I love to dance, so my music is high energy, has a lot of bass, and is sexy but soft over a trap beat.
CW: What would you like to convey through your music?
RM: Women can be sexy and strong, and they don’t have to be that way for anyone except for themselves. I want to be able to reflect my stories and experiences for women that can relate. I also love to have fun!
‘Frontin’’ was my favorite video because it was the highest quality visual that I’ve released from all of my videos. I [tend to] hide how I really feel because I don’t want to upset or step on anyone’s toes. But for this song, I allowed myself to let loose. ‘Frontin’’ is about my crush. We’ve liked each other for so long but still give each other a hard time. So if you’ve seen ‘Living Single’ with Maxine and Kyle, it’s like that. They really liked each other but still clowned on each other. So I felt like I couldn’t express my feelings because it’s not ladylike.
CW: It isn’t? How so?
RM: Yes, to be in a relationship and to feel that way about someone else…it’s crossing the line.
CW: Can you tell me more about what inspired ‘Frontin’’?
RM: My friends and I went out one night, and I saw my crush. I noticed that he had a very animalistic nature. I could tell he was looking for some p*ssy, you know what I’m sayin’?
CW: Yeah, savage, huh? And you were OK with that?
RM: Yeah, that was cool. He’s my homie, and the song was about keepin’ it real, not frontin’. I just want you to be real in your savageness. I appreciated the realness of his intentions.
It’s unfortunate that creating art may contradict certain morals or perceptions. And then some people won’t appreciate the art. Some of my fan base has been conditioned to know that I value having morals. Writing the song ‘Frontin’ helped me get off of my high horse. But my fans didn’t understand the savageness of that song.
CW: You don’t share those meanings with your fan base?
RM: I’ll let them figure it out and come to their own conclusions. At the same time, I can feel suffocated by trying to uphold this picture-perfect poster child. I used to be a tomboy rocking Converse, and now I’ve switched to having extensions, long nails, and walking in heels.
CW: So do you consider yourself a picture-perfect poster child finally showing your true self feelings?
RM: Yes, this is who I am. I am a high moral savage.