Photo by Nick Spanos
Dreezy On Staying Hungry, New Music, Working With J. Cole & DM'ing With Rihanna
Dreezy's desire to master her artistry is one of her most defining characteristics. "You gotta get up, slay and just work everyday," the Chicago rapper says. Staying hungry has been one of her greatest assets in an unpredictable industry, and though her set was unfortunately canceled due to weather, being booked at a major Chi-town festival like Pitchfork is still incredibly meaningful for her.
"I love coming back home. I feel like I got to a point where I got a little comfortable being in L.A.," she tells the Recording Academy. "Everything's just so luxurious that I felt like I wanted my hunger back, I think that's what keeps me going."
There's a reason she's called the Windy City's rap princess. Dreezy (born Seandrea Sledge) continues to be one of the town's most recognized female rappers since gaining attention for her "Chiraq" freestyle back in 2014. And when she dropped her 2016 album debut No Hard Feelings, her skittering hit single "Body" featuring Jeremih went platinum.
Fast forward to 2019, the artist, who frequently shifts gears between singing and rapping, released her sophomore album Big Dreez earlier this year. While fans waited three years for another full-length project, Dreezy says that taking her time between records gave her the space to grow. "I'm coming into the artist I've always tried to be," she says of how she feels after the release.
The Recording Academy caught up with the singer/rapper at Pitchfork Fest, where she spoke about her recent feature on J. Cole's latest album, what fuels her ambition, what we can expect to hear on her next album and more.
What does your nickname, the Princess of Chicago Rap, mean to you?
It's a big deal to me. I'm never the type to just claim myself as any queen or things like that. To hear it from the people of Chicago is just confirmation. I'm doing my thing. It just feels good.
Yeah, because I remember it was a point of time where I was the only female on the bill. For me to just continuously, every year, to still be a part of these big names, especially like and Vic Mensa, 'cause these are all people that I worked with. It just feels like I'm right where I need to be. I'm right next to the G.O.A.T.S.
What was your first experience with music?
I grew up in Chicago my whole life. I used to have a teacher, her name was Ms. Ellis, and she was the music teacher, and she was teaching me how to scat, jazz, she taught me how to play the piano, the saxophone, the flute. That's when I first started getting into music. I joined the marching band. I joined the jazz band. I started singing at the House of Blues and doing talent shows, and next thing you know, I started messing with the rappers, the bigger rappers in my city. They just started hearing about me and I don't know, it just took off.
You obviously had a really positive experience going to school and having music education. But so much of the time, the arts and music education are the first programs to get cut in public schools.
Yeah, I definitely think music education is very needed, very necessary because not everybody is the book-type or the doctor-type. Everybody doesn't want to be in that type of field. Some people that want to be in the entertainment field. I definitely think music class for me, depending on the teacher, it helped me, because my teacher was hands-on with me. It was more than just books. It was the feeling, the history of it, wanting to be a part, like being in a band, teamwork, you know what I'm saying? It's just so much more [than] music that the class can teach you. Just being around like-minded people. Music is a vibe. Being in a classroom with that in the air, it just feels good.
You're featured in "Got Me," off J. Cole's Revenge Of The Dreamers III. How was that and how'd you get involved?
I met J. Cole a long time ago and I was able to play one of his managers my music. One of his managers remembered the song and he was like, I seen him again, he was like, "Yo Dreez, where that song, 'Chicken Noodle Soup'? I thought you was supposed to drop it? I'm like, "Bro, I'm fittin' to put it out just 'cause you told me to put it out." So, I put it out. I just kept following up with them, and then when they had the Dreamville Camp, his manager hit me again like yo, Cole wants you to come through the camp.
I'm like, what? So, I'm like let's do it. I instantly flew to Atlanta. I only had a couple days in the studio, and it was just so many people in the studio, and J. Cole, so I was just like, look, you got to pull it together and make as many songs as you can, because one of these songs got to go on a project, and I just was rapping my ass off, and eventually my verse got on a project, and we actually fittin' to have an unreleased version of the dream deal compilation and it's four more tracks that's coming out. I'm on one of those tracks too, so be looking out.
Your sophomore album, Big Dreez, came out earlier this year. What was your mindset going into this album?
You know what? I just really wanted to get back in the studio by myself. I felt like I had so many people dictating what type of music I was making, and what to talk about, and who to work with. I just really wanted to zone out by myself and see what I could do by myself. No writers, just me and the music. So that's what inspired Big Dreez. Especially me feeling like I'm coming into the artist that I've always been trying to be. So I feel like I'm bigger now.
What got you to this point?
I think praying, staying prayed up, believing in yourself, staying consistent, and working just as hard as the guys. 'Cause it is a male-dominated industry when you're trying to rap as a female. It's hard and you gotta get up and slay and just work every day.
What has been your greatest tool as an artist?
I think my greatest tool for me is to stay hungry. I love coming back home. I felt like I got to a point where I got a little comfortable being in L.A., and everything so luxurious that I felt like I wanted my hunger back, and I think that's what keeps me going, just wanting more. Even today my set got canceled and they was telling me like, oh well you still gonna get your money. But one of my things was like, I wanted to put on a show today. I flew out my dancers, I got the graphics together. It's important to me.
The biggest thing is to stay you. Stay true to yourself, because one thing about it is when you catch a wave or whatever you're doing, the fans love that wave. You can't get a wave and then as soon as you catch a wave, you just switch it all up. You can't change up on your fans. You gotta give them what they want. Stay true to yourself. Stay consistent and stay hungry.
In "Chicken Noodle Soup," you have a verse that says, "Made a name but ain't chase the fame, bitches trade respect for a paid gimmick." Tell me more about that lyric.
Made a name but ain't chase the fame, bitches trade respect for a paid gimmick. They sent for me so I came with it. Competition feelin' like a game scrimmage. Basically, it's like I will never switch up for a check. You know what I'm saying? I know I made a name for myself and I changed the game. It's a lot of people that don't want to work with you unless you pay them or it's a lot of platforms, stages that you can't get on unless you pay them, you know?
And I just never paid for a slot. I never paid to open up for nobody. I never paid to work with somebody. I feel like it should be organic. Either you f**k with me and how real and raw I am or maybe it just don't work out for us, you know?
You're a singer and you rap. How do you decide what becomes a rap and what you sing?
That's actually hard. I feel like I just got to go in a booth and get a feel for the song and whatever like comes out. 'Cause usually when I sing I play the beat first and I'll just start like feeling it if it's like a R&B vibey beat. But a lot of times I can't make up my mind and I do both. So a lot of times I might say sing on the hook, rap on the verses, or sing on one verse and rap on the next verse. That's really my sound.
You've had a lot of awesome collabs: Jeremih, 6LACK. Is there anyone else you want to collab with?
I really want to work with Rihanna and we've been DM'n, so maybe it'll happen this year or next year. I really want to work with Meek Mill. I ran into him a couple of times. We just ran into each other in the studio again. Hopefully that's going to be coming, and just bigger female artists. I love all the females that's coming out right now. I like collabing with the girls. Just all the greats, you know?
I saw that you've been in the studio. What are you working on? Can you tell us anything?
I'm working on my second album, sis, it's coming soon. It's going to be a banger and I'm just praying at this is a number one. No, I'm not praying. I'm overly praying, but I know we're manifesting it's going to be our number one album. That's what we're working on and I don't want to stop working until I feel like it's that, you know?
You can expect the best of me [on the album]. In my rapping, my singing realm I'm finding my balance. I think for a long time I couldn't figure out if I was a rapper or singer. I think this next album is just letting the world know I do both and I do them both equally as good. I'm fittin' to have your favorite rappers on that and your favorite singers on there.
You've talked about how one of your biggest tools as an artist is to stay hungry. What keeps you going?
Really what keeps me going, girl, besides the bills, just I want to reach my ultimate happiness, happy space in life, and I feel like I have to grind to get there, to get everything that I want and I'm not satisfied. I'm from Chicago so we always had to learn how to survive to be able to be on top. So I think just being counted out, you know what I'm saying, not getting a credit, the recognition I deserve. I just want my music to be respected and seen on a bigger platform.