Six years ago, Becky G had what she calls “a mid-life crisis.” “It was like, ‘What am I going to do with my life? I've got to get it together and figure out what I want to be,’” she says. She was nine.
“I know it sounds crazy for a nine-year-old to have a mid-life crisis,” she admits, “but it just hit me that I wanted to pursue music in whatever way possible. Growing up, it was the one thing that was always there for me, whether it was hip-hop, pop, country, or Spanish music, it just always completed me.”
Now a preternaturally confident 15-year-old, Becky has channeled her drive into a burgeoning career as a singer, songwriter, and rapper. She has signed a deal with Kemosabe, the Sony Music Entertainment record label founded by veteran hitmaker Dr. Luke, who has written and produced with such superstars as Katy Perry, Jessie J, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Luke signed Becky after viewing a YouTube clip of her swaggering her way through an original rap set to “Otis” from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne. The song opens with Becky declaring: “If everybody’s getting one shot, I ain’t missing.”
“I would have signed her off that video alone,” Luke says. “I was 100 percent in. She has so much personality and her voice just pops out of the speakers. Then I met her and discovered she could also sing and play the guitar and I thought, ‘This is even better.’ Then I found out she could write and it was like, ‘What else are you going to tell me, that you’re also Van Gogh?’ Her potential is limitless.”
Becky’s recollection of her first meeting with Luke? “He said, ‘Sing me a song on your guitar," so I sang for him and then we talked about food and hot sauce for an hour. I love hot sauce. And I thought, ‘This guy gets me.’ We just connected and it was like, ‘Okay, this is it.’"
It makes sense that what Becky took away from meeting one of the most powerful producers in the music industry is a conversation about hot sauce. Because despite her considerable talent, she is also a normal teenager in every way. Born and raised in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles, Becky grew up playing sports (baseball and soccer), making traditional pozole soup with her Mexican grandmother, and, as the oldest of four, helping her mom with the housework. “We would scrub everything and listen to The Temptations, Etta James, and James Brown — old-school feel-good music as I call it. When I hear those artists, I can still smell the Windex,” she says. She also fell in love with the traditional Mexican Ranchera songs her father played and the hip-hop artists and pop singers like Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez that the kids in her neighborhood favored.
At age nine, with her parents struggling financially, Becky convinced them to let her start going on auditions for commercials thinking she could contribute to the family’s income after her parents lost their home and moved everyone into Becky’s grandparents’ converted garage. “It was a tough time,” she recalls. “I was in public school and doing commercials for the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, so the kids at school assumed I had money and we didn’t. They were like, ‘Oh, so you get to fly here and there and we have to stay at school?’ I was bullied and got into fights. I even got jumped in the girls’ bathroom. It was really bad.”
Needing an outlet for her emotions, she began writing her own songs and recording them on GarageBand at age 11. By 13, she had taught herself to play the guitar. Six months later Becky was introduced to Mike Mani and Jordan Omley, known as production duo The Jam, who have worked with Brandy, JoJo, and Leona Lewis among others. She showed them her lyrics and they began working on three tracks, “Otis,” “Lighters,” and “Novacane,” all of which find Becky connecting through her vivid rhymes and singing her emotions in the soaring choruses.
On “Lighters,” which is based on the Bad Meets Evil track of the same name, Becky pays tribute to her influences, name-checking everyone from her favorite female rappers Lauryn Hill and TLC’s Left-Eye to current stars Katy Perry and Bruno Mars. “I wanted to acknowledge the artists who have inspired me, those from the past and people in the game now and let them know how much I look up to them,” she says. “ And ’Novacane’ is basically my life story. If people pay attention to the lyrics they will know who I am, which I think is really important. You want people to have a feel for what you’re about. Also, when I write, I like to tell a story, because what draws me in as a listener is wanting to know what’s going to happen or how the story ends.”
“All I'm doing is putting my life on paper,” she adds. “I'm sure there are other girls or guys out there who are going through similar things. If I write a song about it and say ‘It's going to be okay,’ I think they’ll connect to it. I want to be there for people with my music whether I can meet them in person or not.”
Becky is keeping that personal mission in mind as she spends her time in the studio working on songs with Dr. Luke, The Jam, and other producers she has yet to reveal. “It’s early days,” she says. “Even though I know who I am, musically I'm a blank canvas. I know what colors I want to use but I don't know what picture I want to paint yet. This is my time to test the waters and try different sounds. I just want to stay creative, share my ideas, and see where it all leads.”
- KemosabeEntertainer, present