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Remy Ma on her first Grammy nods in 11 years: ‘It’s surreal’

Remy Ma performs at Powerhouse 2016 in October in New York City.
Remy Ma performs at Powerhouse 2016 in October in New York City.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

In 2005, Remy Ma landed her first Grammy nomination. The accolade was for “Lean Back,” the inescapable club hit she recorded as part of Fat Joe’s Terror Squad collective. The record was a song of summer, topping the pop charts and even sparking a dance craze.

The success of “Lean Back” and the Grammy nod set the stage for the Bronx rapper’s solo debut, “There’s Something About Remy: Based on a True Story,” which dropped a year later. But the album wasn’t the success she hoped for.

Before the rapper could get her career back on track, she was behind bars — charged with assault, weapon possession and attempted coercion for shooting a friend in a dispute over money.

With Remy facing a possible 25 years in prison, the idea of a rap career had suddenly diminished. She was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to eight years.

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After six years behind bars, she was released in August 2014 and began plotting a comeback. VH1 added her to the cast of its smash reality series “Love & Hip Hop: New York” last year and cameras followed her as she made her return to music.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >> »

Remy hit the studio with Fat Joe to begin work on “Plata o Plomo,” their first joint album. It’s out in January.

Early in the sessions, the two recorded the single “All the Way Up,” produced by longtime collaborators Cool & Dre and Edsclusive. The hook is sticky, and the beat offers a throwback to classic New York rap bangers.

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The record was a smash and continues to be in constant rotation on radio and in clubs. It’s up for the Grammy in rap performance and rap song.

How does it feel to wake up a Grammy nominee?

I’m like super hyped. It’s so surreal. I’m actually in Miami right now. Me and Fat Joe are filming a video with Ty Dolla Sign [for “Money Showers.”] I woke up to a text saying “Congratulations on your Grammy nominations” in all capital letters.

And it’s like before I even say thank you, I jumped on Google. I wanted to be the first one to tell Fat Joe, so I called him. We were out until 2:30 in the morning filming. I knew he wasn’t going to be up. I woke him up and I’m like, ‘Oh, just thought I’d let you know that we are nominated for a Grammy. Bye!” We are both screaming on the phone … and we just started talking about everything that we’ve been doing this year. Statistically speaking, we should be sitting home like retired rappers or something.

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And then, double whammy, I get a call from my husband and he’s like ‘Babe, you’re not going to believe this but ya’ll nominated for two Grammys.’ Forget the wins, or anything, can we get one of those buckets of Gatorade that they have at Super Bowl? It’s just so amazing. There’s so many artists out there that are working just as hard, or harder, as we are and we are all reaching for that same star. To be put in a category with Drake and Kanye West? It’s very humbling.

Looking at the rap categories, I notice you’re the lone female. Back in 2005 it was the same thing. Why does there continue to be such a lack of representation for women in rap?

In 2005 when we were nominated, I was a kid. I didn’t realize the significance in what a Grammy actually meant. We lost to the Black Eyed Peas, but we didn’t even have a chance. I thought our record was great, but the Black Eyed Peas were huge! For it to be 11 years later and nominated again — for two this time — and it’s still just one female? It’s like us women have to work harder to make sure we get our recognition for what we’re doing, but also society really needs to wake up and stop making it seem like it can only be one female at a time.

I’m thankful that it’s me this year, don’t get me wrong, but it’s really sad that a decade later it’s just one in all the categories. It’s really crazy. I feel like I have to work double hard because I have so many things stacked against me.

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There’s always great criticism of the nominations, especially rap. Thoughts on this year’s crop?

People are always jumping at what’s new — who’s the next person, who’s the hottest thing, or whatever — so to be able to grasp the attention of everybody is difficult. This year, when you look at all the nominees in the categories, I think [the voters] really sat down and said, ‘Okay, what’s going on out here?’

Sometimes with award shows, in general, you see the favorites all the time. Over and over, every year. You don’t see a Chance the Rapper, you don’t see D.R.A.M. It’s dope that the people I see out on the road getting attention.

“All the Way Up” is such a strong party anthem, what inspired it?

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We started out with this intention that we wanted people in the club saying “I’m all the way up,” out with their friends. But it evolved into something much different. It became an inspirational record. I’ve seen videos of the elderly in wheelchairs saying, “I’m all the way up,” or people in the gym working to lose weight, or kids at their graduation with “All the Way Up” written on their caps.

When did you first realize the song had become a hit?

It actually started with opening up for Beyoncé’s Formation Tour at the Rose Bowl and the reaction I received there. But when the Knicks and the NBA used it, I was like that’s it! Seeing it played at [Madison Square] Garden, getting Jay Z on the remix and debuting it at Yankee Stadium, it felt like something else was happening.

For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy

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