Rise & Grind is a new editorial series, meant to introduce and dissect new, buzzing, or underground artists.
An exceptional artist and an even better mom, Renni Rucci is striving to leave a legacy that her kids can be proud of. The Hopkins, South Carolina-born rapper’s sharp flow, booming presence, and unwavering confidence has been what’s drawn fans in but even she’ll admit that she was green to the rap game when she initially hooked everyone with her debut project, The Big Renni and it’s infectious Miami bass-influenced boss chick anthem, “Fuck Em Up Sis.”
Fast forward two years and Renni Rucci is currently preparing the release of her official debut album, Real Bitch Radio. Initially set for a 2020 release, in a familiar turn of events, the pandemic forced the rapper to push it back. But now, it seems it couldn’t have come at a better time. Her high-profile relationship with the now-incarcerated Foogiano has made her a fixture on blogs while singles like “Hands On Ya Knees” ft. Kevin Gates and the recently released “Can’t Be” are on steady rotation on radio and playlists.
Earlier this year, we caught up with Renni Rucci to discuss the release of “Hands On Ya Knees,” her forthcoming album, motherhood, and how an Instagram DM led to her most understanding relationship.
Stay tuned for a new instalment of Rise & Grind every Monday.
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I’m from South Carolina. I say Columbia, because I’m really from Hopkins, but it’s a small town so people probably really wouldn’t know where it’s at. But I’m from Hopkins, South Carolina.
[Growing up] we played outside, we had big yards, we rode go-karts and four-wheelers. We climbed trees, and picked plums. Picked up pecans and sold ‘em. Like, really country. All our cousins stay in the same area.
I’m a Libra. Definitely being indecisive.
I don’t know, I just could never really make a decision. I don’t know. Especially if I’m in a group of people and a decision needs to be made because I want everybody to be happy. I’m such a true Libra. Decision-making is so hard for me. All the way down to what I want to eat. Like, do you want to go to Chick-Fil-A or do you want Zaxby’s? I don’t know. I’m horrible with decision-making. It stresses me out.
Top 5 DOA:
Okay, so Andre 3000, Lil Kim, Eve, Lil Wayne, and Drake.
Being a good mom. Raising good, kids. [They’re] 10 and 12. So there at the age now where I can see my parenting paying off.
I don’t think [having a career as a rapper] is any different from a mom that works a nine-to-five or anything. Maybe, just being away a little bit more. Having to travel further distances versus just being at an office and coming home, like, that part is different. But I don’t feel like it’s any different from what everybody else has to deal with just because we all have responsibilities. We all have to do whatever we need to get done and take care of ‘em. I just chose to do something that requires a little bit more of my time. But, at the time that I started doing it, I feel like my kids were already at an age where that vital time that they needed with me, I had already given them that. So, they’re older, they’re more understanding of my career so that makes it a lot easier. If they had been younger, I feel like this would be stressing me the f**k out.
My daughter is a ten-year-old and my son is a 12-year-old and they know who I am, they know what it is on the outside, but they really do me like the biggest favor by not letting me know that they know all that sh**. They try to help me be as normal as possible and I appreciate them so much for that. And at the same time, when they do things like that it just shows me how intelligent they are. They really pay attention to things. They know if we’re out, I hate when people come up to me when I’m with my kids. I hate it, but I know I signed up for this so I can’t be mean or anything. But my kids, they adjust really well with everything. But they are at the age where it’s like, my son will be on his game and his friends will hear me talking or they’ll be on FaceTime or whatever, and he don’t want nobody to see me or he don’t want nobody to know I’m his Mama. Not because he’s ashamed of me but, he’s a boy now. He’s at the age where it’s like ‘Don’t be looking at my Mama butt’, ‘Don’t be Telling me my mama fine.’ It’s one of those things, when I started this I didn’t think about all of this coming with it.
I don’t keep my music from them at all. They’re gonna hear it, either way, it’s on the radio, it’s on YouTube, it’s everywhere. So, I don’t keep it from them. Do they listen to it? I know my daughter knows a lot of my songs. My son, I don’t really know if he listens to my music. I don’t think he do. I don’t think he wants to hear what I’m talking about. He’s at the jealous boy stage, so he’s probably like I don’t want to listen to that.
Studio Habits & Essentials:
A weird studio habit? I take my shoes off as soon as I get there. Like, I have to be comfortable. That’s the weirdest things — it’s not a habit, it’s just to make myself at home. A lot of people be like, “Oh, you know, get comfortable.” No, I’m going to make myself at home comfortable. I might have my foot up on the table. I just have to be comfortable.
Three things that I have to have in the studio; my phone, of course. Fruit Roll-Ups, not the Fruit By The Foot kind of Fruit Roll-Ups. The actual roll-ups, like the Fruit Roll-Ups. They taste completely different. People really sleep on that. They taste completely different. And water.
“Hands On Ya Knees” ft. Kevin Gates:
[Kevin Gates] had the record — the hook and everything — ready. He reached out to me, maybe a year ago, and was like, he wanted to put a female on it and he asked me to get on it. And I kind of just was intimidated by the fact of it being Kevin Gates. I really didn’t know who I was artistically at the time, either. I was still going through my learning phases of my sound and just forming songs. Sh**, I was intimidated, still! This Kevin Gates! If you get on a song with somebody like him, you got to bring it. Luckily, he was so supportive and he’s always been very supportive of my career just trying to help me succeed, he held the record for me. So when we finally got it done, it came exactly how it should’ve came out.
I think [Kevin Gates and I] met through me being put on some of his concert dates. From knowing like different promoters and stuff and we kind of started crossing paths more. It was kind of just like, ‘You need some help? Whatever you need help with, I see potential in you. I’m gonna help you’ — one of those kind of things. I wouldn’t really say a mentorship. Just a genuine person who’s in the industry who can look at a situation and tell something ain’t getting done, how it should be done, because you should be bigger than what you are. And I want to help fix that.
The first time I ever rapped, I was 15 years old and my kid’s dad, he had a studio set up at home and I was just joking around. I used to record him. I was just joking around. I was like ‘I’m going to get on the song.’ Then I got on the song.
My first time pursuing it in my adult life, I would say I was maybe, 20. Somewhere around that age, and I was rapping with this group TSNG in South Carolina. We went to New York, we went to Epic Records and we had meetings with Columbia and everything. It was really eye-opening. But in that process right there, I realized it takes money to make music. You don’t know that. From the outside, at that age, I didn’t think I needed money to be an artist, so that was one thing. And then my kids were so young at the time. I was in New York for maybe five days, and the second day, I was crying the entire day. I wanted to get back home to my kids so bad. I never been away from them for that long. So, I was like it’s not time for me to do this right now. I can’t do this right now. It was another time I went to pursue it again, but I kind of just feel like maybe I wasn’t as focused on that because I started dancing. You know, music don’t make you no money right away. It’s like I got these responsibilities over here, I need to stay where the money at right now.
Now, when my kids started getting older, I had already made enough money in the clubs — well, not enough — but I was stable enough to invest in myself and take care of my kids and all of that. And they were at an age where I’m like I can’t be in these people’s clubs still. My kids know what’s going on, they’re getting older, social media is a thing. I can’t hide this from them. I want to be able to have something they can be proud of that I’m doing. Or say “My mom does this,” and not say, “My mom works in the strip club.” So, that’s how we got here. Just wanting a change for them.
I do not [remember my first rap I ever wrote.] It was on a song me and my kid’s dad did. So I was like 15, man. I know it was a song about us arguing, and breaking up. [Laugh] Ahh, It was a song about us arguing and breaking up and I know somewhere in the song, I was like, “3 o’clock in the morning, I’m still blowing up your phone.” Like, I don’t know, it was really pathetic. [Laughs] It was really pathetic, oh my God!
I’m going to tell you about the first time that I will always remember. Because I remember the first time but it’s one of those that — the first time I remember that was impactful to me and really showed me like, keep going, you doing what you should be doing, we was in South Carolina and Cardi B had a concert on Mother’s Day here and I opened up for her. To be at home at the biggest colosseum in my hometown, this is where all the big people come to play. This is where all the basketball games are. To be on that big platform and all those people in the crowd, to see the video playback of all the lights on me, and to hear the arena singing my song, that was the most impactful moment because that just showed me you really got a gift. You touch people. People rapping what you’re saying. They’re recording you. This is crazy. And that will always be the most impactful moment for me. At that point, I kind of feel like I was maybe a little discouraged in my career. Because, it’s like when you try, you try, and you try, and it doesn’t stick. You kind of be like, well maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. And that was kind of my reassurance, like, you on the right path.
I don’t really watch a lot of TV right now, so we’re going to go with the song, and it’s definitely going to be “Throat Baby.” [Laughs] It’s definitely going to be “Throat Baby.” I don’t know, there’s something about that song.
I’m wrapping my album up right now, “Real B***h Radio,” is on the way. I’m on set right now, we’re shooting some videos, we getting some stills. Just more content, more consistency. That’s it. I just want to feed my fans more. [The album’s features are a] surprise. It’s some good ones on there, though. It’s some shockers.
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You and your boyfriend Foogiano were recently spotted in the studio. Will that collaboration make the project?
It could be. It could be. Either way, if it doesn’t make the project it’ll still be out. If it doesn’t make this one, it’ll be on the next. We have so many songs.
You’re both at a really exciting time in your careers as fresh, new artists. How did you guys meet? Even in the public eye, do you have an appreciation that both of you have a mutual understanding of where you both are in your personal and professional lives?
Yeah, I do. I really do. Because, you know, we both have been in previous relationships, and I kind of just feel like, from my perspective, this might be the most understanding relationship I’ve had as far as being with somebody and my career. Understanding having to be in the studio, having to be around men — this is a male-dominated industry — and not really being insecure about it. He’s not insecure about anything. And we just have great communication. We just understand it. I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it is but it’s good.
We met… on Instagram. Shout out to IG and the DMs. [Laughs]
Who sent the first DM?
Okay, so first, I DM’d him about getting on “Molly.” I think he had already put DaBaby on it, but it hadn’t come out yet. I think they were shooting the video. That was just me wanting to get on the song, like, I want to work with you. Then, we didn’t talk for a while and he started commenting under my pictures. So, when he started commenting under my pictures, the blogs were posting them and everything. It was kind of like, I don’t know. I just kept seeing it all the time and he kept doing it. He was lettin’ it be known, like, I’m trying to f*** with you. My manager reached out to his team about a studio session or something. He hit me, he’s like, “You dont have to have nobody reach out to me,” and we just started talking from there and we never stopped. We went from talking in the DM’s about a studio session to being on the phone every day.
Big Renni was a big breakout moment for you, especially with the success of “Fuck Em Up Sis.” What was the difference between approaching that project compared to QuickTape, and what you’re working on now?
Okay, Big Renni was my first project, period. When I got signed I probably had one song out. I had just jacked beats. I probably had only formed one real song with a hook, you know, really formed it. So making a whole project of songs was kind of hard for me so I feel like when I listened to it, at the time, I felt like, “Oh we’re showing them versatility, and we giving them a little bit of everything.” But now, listening to it, I feel like it’s a little all over the place. But, it was good. It was good for my first mixtape. And again, that was at a time where I didn’t know myself as an artist, really. I was just trying things. Experimenting. That was like the test dummy.
Quicktape? Okay, Quicktape came because I wanted to put Real B***h Radio out at the time I put Quicktape out. But we went under quarantine, I couldn’t do the rollout how I wanted to do it because we couldn’t go anywhere, and I just didn’t want to do it. I’m like, “if we going to put something out let’s just put a mixtape out, real quick, and hold off on that album so it can be executed properly.” So, I pulled a couple songs off of Real B**** Radio to put it on the Quicktape. That picture for the cover was just a picture I took in front of a QuikTrip, leaving a show. I’m like, “We going to change this and make it QuickTape, and we going to make it real easy and simple.” And that’s how that came together. I feel like QuickTape was a solid, solid mixtape. Definitely vibes. Like, outside music, for sure. Everybody know I pop my shit. So, if anybody wants to wake up and feel like a boss, you need to put that on.
This project is well thought out. The sequencing is to a T. Even with the visuals, and you know, care packages, and PR things, like everything is being thought out and put together properly because this is an album. And I want it to feel like an album when people receive it.
My condolences on the passing of 18Veno. He just got on my radar recently and I was really excited to hear what he was about to do, especially with the direction of the Carolinas. Can you talk to me about him and the relationship you guys had and what he meant to the Carolinas?
We met when he had made his first song and he was in one of my sessions back in South Carolina. JetsonMade really took him and was helping him and saw something in him. We all did. Listening to his first song, you like, “Oh, you out of here. This is what you need to be doing.” But it’s hard for people to understand their potential when they can’t see past what they used to. When they can’t see past their environment and where they come from.
I don’t necessarily know exactly what happened but regardless of the fact, he was really talented. I feel like he was the one. He also was the next one out of the Carolinas that was going to blow big. He was young. He had so much life ahead of him and he was just so talented. He definitely gone way too soon.
You initially linked with QC & Wolf Pack Global Music and even appeared on the latest compilation project with City Girls, Stefflon Don, and Mustard for “Like That.” How does it feel emerging right now with artists like City Girls and Stefflon Don flourishing, as well? Especially for you because the way you describe getting into the game sounds like a long-winded come-up, you know?
Yeah but I think for everybody it’s always a long come up. People don’t really pay attention until you pop, so they feel like it’s overnight. Everybody gotta grind it out.
QC, we family. That’s just what it is. I’m signed to Wolfpack, though. That’s my label. That’s who I’m with and QC, that’s our family. As far as being on a song with the City Girls, I was really blessed with the opportunity. Shout out to Pee for putting me on that. I love working with the ladies. I feel like this all came out so dope.
Any final words for the fans?
My fans? I just appreciate everybody that’s rocking with me and if you not rocking with me yet, you going to be rocking with me, and that’s just what it is. It’s 2021. The Biggest is up!