By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
She didn't need much more than her two best friends, Mo and another girl named Monica, she says. "We were raising ourselves. In our minds, we were like, 'Fuck it, we'll manage.' Looking back, we were out of fucking control and had no guidance. No one could stop us."
Today, she has attained that familiar hallmark of Big Apple success: a house in New Jersey. And a nice car. Her chocolate-colored two-story lies on a modest, tree-lined suburban block. She's just minutes from the George Washington Bridge, and from the outside there's nothing to advertise that the occupant is anything but a typical bridge- and-tunnel resident.
Inside, however, posters of Remy adorn the walls, and in the dining room there's a thronered velvet, bejeweled, and with her initials embroidered on the backrest. The majestic prop is a leftover from the art production for her album. She was calling herself the Queen of New York, and in a way, she's looking to be a new sort of monarch over the other women of rap: Lil' Kim, after all, recently served a year for perjury, and Foxy Brown, relic of the '90s, is serving a measly year for violating probation.
Downstairs, Remy's basement serves as a gym, studio, and bar. Martini glasses hang from a rack. The room is decorated in wood paneling that says "hunting lodge" or " '70s porno shack." The studio portion of the space is padded in soundproofing from floor to ceiling and features a microphone stand and a Mac laptop. She cues up some tracks from her new unreleased album, PunisHER. Singing along to her own voice, she is oblivious to the video camera, still taping.
The place is a sanctuary, a reminder that, until recently, things have been going very well for the girl from the Bronx. But, she says, there's a part of her still grappling with the past. "There are a lot of things I'll never forget and never forgive. But I'm not dwelling on that shit every day."
The cameras and red carpet are gone by the time Remy pulls up to the Hammerstein Ballroom for the Entertainers 4 Education Alliance "Stay in School" concert. At five-foot-10 (six-foot-one with her heels on), Remy is hard to miss in her denim cat suit with plenty of cleavage showing, red boots, and jet black hair that falls to the middle of her back. The event will be a rare performance for her: Since the July shooting, promoters have canceled her shows for fear of the police showing up. "During her guest performance with 50 Cent at Rum Jungle in Jamaica, Queens [September 16], plainclothes cops were on the stage with a video camera," says someone who was backstage at the performance. "I mean, they weren't trying to hide it, either."
To avoid the Hip-Hop Cops, some promoters have taken to not advertising Remy at all. Tonight, the hundreds of kids in the audience don't know that she's coming. Security guards usher her inside. Soon she's backstage, navigating past male rappers Papoose, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones, and their entourages. Most appear affected by her looks. She poses for a photographer with her thumbs in her pockets and a half-smile on her glossy lips.
"She's gorgeous," says a crew member.
In the press room, reporters ask softball questions about her stance on education. "Education is very important," Remy finds herself repeating throughout the night. (She doesn't have a high-school diploma. When the Voice had asked what high school she attended, she answered, "I went to every high school. I kept getting kicked out and switching up schools." She insists that she was actually an excellent student, but never stayed in one place long enough to finish.)
"Just me coming from the bottom, from the 'hoodthe more education you have, the more intelligence you have, the better plan you have for the future," she tells the reporters.
"Can we talk about the case?"
"No!" her publicist Duran Brown blurts out.
"Definitely not," says Remy.
After the abbreviated Q&A session, she goes to a dressing room to kill an hour. Then, minutes before she's to go on, Jenn Turner, her manager, reminds her that she's been asked to do a short interview for the kids in the audience.
"Why me?" she asks, referring to the other artists on the bill.
"The kids love you, and they want to hear what you have to say," says Jenn.
"I'm not the only one here with a case," says Remy, who is growing frustrated with all the special attention her legal woes are drawing. She turns to her DJ, Bed Tyme. "When I say, 'Drop my shit . . . ' "
"It's kids out there, Remy," interrupts Jenn.
"I mean my stuff." Everyone laughs. And they get the message: If she doesn't like the line of questioning, she'll cue Bed Tyme to start her music.
There's a knock on the door and she's off to the stage, unfazed by the men lining the walls trying to get a look at her. The emcee hushes the restless students (after all, it's hard to think about stay-in-school messages when all the kids really want is to see rappers perform).