Dreezy was still in high school when the first wave of drill rap swept through Chicago, winning major label deals for Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Young Chop, and other local artists. More recently, Chicago rappers like Chance the Rapper and Tink have found new ways to put on for their city – and Dreezy is right there with them. In 2014, she drew attention with an unapologetic remix of Nicki Minaj's "Chiraq"; she's since inked an Interscope deal, and is currently pushing "Body," her single with fellow Chicagoan Jeremih. "It's been a very interesting, very new process for me," she says of signing with a major. "I've been figuring out the ropes and dealing with life, too."
The 21-year-old MC stopped by MTV's office in a heavy black coat suited more for the cooler temperatures of her hometown than for her new residence of L.A. Around her neck was a small chain with the Nike logo and a small letter 'G.' “My best friend just passed – her name started with a G," she says. "Before she passed, [we were talking about] Nicki and her marketing genius." Dreezy points to a small diamond tattooed on one of her wrists. “She said something about diamonds, and I’m like, 'Why diamonds?’ She’s like, 'Pressure made diamonds, and diamonds last forever.' She passed the next day, but I went and got a diamond tatted on me.”
Dreezy spoke with MTV about growing up in Chicago, recording with Metro Boomin, and why she can't wait to hit the road on her first tour.
Metro Boomin and Southside produced the EP you released in December, From Now On. How did that come together?
Dreezy: I actually recorded that last March. The recording process was really fun and random. I was working on my album, and then Future and Drake started linking up and Metro was popping. [The label said], "You should get in the studio with them [Metro and Southside]. You can have them come through, and ya’ll just knock some stuff out." So they came through, and they've got a lot of energy. They're hype, so they didn’t let me go write in the corner like I usually do. They were, like, "Nah, get in the booth right now! Freestyle! Go crazy!" Everything was random, spur of the moment-type stuff.
Was that different from how you're used to working?
Dreezy: Yeah. I used to do poetry and write stories and stuff – I never really had anybody standing over my shoulder, like, "What did you write? Let me hear it." I hate that type of stuff. I like to go in the corner, in the quiet, 'cause I got to hear my thoughts. If I hear the beat for, like, five seconds, I basically got the tempo, and I don’t need to hear it no more. I just focus and write. But they were like, "Nah, you ain’t going to do that. Put the laptop down. Sometimes the best music is when you just put it out there."
What were you like as a kid on the South Side of Chicago?
Dreezy: I was really artistic. I did a lot of poetry, a lot of writing. I was on the pom pom team, I was on the cheerleading team, I sang. I played football with the guys ‘cause I didn’t know how to play double dutch. Anything to get out the house.
When did you know you wanted to make music?
Dreezy: I tell everybody 7th grade. That was around the time I got caught shoplifting, which is not good. I was stealing for this boy that I went with at the time, and I ended up getting a three-month punishment. No TV, no phone, no computer, no going out for three whole months. My daddy was the type that if you asked him, "Dad, am I going to get off punishment soon?" – he would extend it. It was like jail. All I had was a CD with beats. I wrote to every beat on that CD, and when I got off punishment, I put out my first mixtape. I passed it out all around school. I started going to the studio. I started doing shows. I shot my first video.
How did you get from there to working with local stars like King Louie?
Dreezy: I was a Louie fan – I was sending him a message, like, "How much will you do a song with me for?" I think he was telling me $1,500 at the time, and I was like, "Man, I’m still in high school. I ain’t got that much money! I work at Subway." But when I started making a little buzz for myself, I ended up running into him in the studio. I played this song called “Ain’t for None,” and he was like, "That’s hard, I’d hop on that right now!" We shot a video that next week and then we put it out on WorldStar.
How did you balance your career with school?
Dreezy: It wasn’t hard! See, back in high school, when I was rapping, it was for fun. I was a good student. By 8th grade, you've basically learned everything. By senior year, we was drinking, we was kickin' it, we was rapping. It wasn’t really like business, hard work.
Your remix of Nicki's "Chiraq" was a big turning point for you. How did that happen?
Dreezy: "Chiraq" came out right around summertime. It was just getting hot. They dropped it at, like, 12 o’clock at night, randomly. I was like, "This is dope, it’s my tempo." I’m competitive, so I wanted to see what I could do. I wrote to it and woke up the next morning, like, "We've got to record this ASAP and drop it right now." That's what we did, and it went fucking crazy. That changed everything. Fabolous started reaching out, Trey Songz, Teyana Taylor. That’s how I got on Common’s album. That’s how I got signed!
Was hearing from Common a big deal for you?
Dreezy: He’s a legend to me. It was dope to the point where I felt like Common almost admired me as much as I admired him. He took us to the hotel, and then he was going through his phone, rapping his raps to me. I was like, Is Common rapping to me right now, trying to get my feedback? It was dope! He had King Louie and Herb on the album, too. He reached back to the youth in Chicago. I respected that.
Have you had a chance to tour your music yet?
Dreezy: No, I’m really thirsty to go on tour! I love putting on a show. If the crowd ain’t acting bougie, I love performing. With "Chiraq," I can show off my talents, to where the crowd be real into it and they be hype. With “Body,” it’s a slow song, so if they don’t really know the words, it could pick up kind of slow. I’m working on my performance just for that. Maybe I'll get some choreo on or maybe some backup dancers and make it a real show.
Do you think you'll sing as well as rapping on tour?
Dreezy: I used to sing when I was younger. I left it alone for a long time, ‘cause I was like, I don’t even know if I know how to sing for real. These people could be pumpin’ my head up or whatever. Now I know I can rap, but I’m still kind of iffy with my singing. But I could finesse it. They've got Auto-Tune now, so if I fuck up on a note, it won’t sound as bad. I’m learning how to work my voice. I got some songs that you probably wouldn’t even know it’s me singing on there. I will sit there and take 20 takes until I hit that note right. It’s different on stage – you've got to hit the notes that one time.
Do you feel like you're a perfectionist?
Dreezy: Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe too much, and I think that’s a bad thing, too. It’s good ‘cause you could tell I care about my work, but sometimes you’re not supposed to overthink it. Especially with music. It’s a feeling, you know what I’m saying? Once you start overthinking it, it’s like it ain’t a feeling no more.