“People are going to look for my age, but whatever.”
They’re going to naturally find that out, later. The bigger you get.
I’m Beyoncé. I’ma be 22 my whole life.
Oh my God!
For a middle child introvert, Crystal Caines sure does execute her craft like a first born. Last month, she visited our office in the Lower East Side to talk about her new music, what is to be a woman in the game, and the reality of how image and size plays a huge part in male-fronted business. The 20-something-year-old Harlem-born talent started producing music since she was 16 and has the potential to be one of the best super-talents to walk this earth. At her beginning point, most of her peers were either readying to graduate or daydreaming about being with their high school sweethearts forever. Crystal Caines had a different agenda.
Since this interview happened last month, you will find that some song titles have changed. Yesterday, Complex premiered the five track EP she details below, in our interview. It’s some of the best stuff you’ll ever hear. Ever. You can stream it in full now, via this link.
Was it rapping or producing first?
At first, I wanted to be a singer. Then I realized I wasn’t good, and my inspiration to be a rapper actually came from Eve. You know, seeing her do it… I was like: Yo, she’s really good. From then on, I used to record myself on little tape records and stuff. My inspiration came from her because she was so nice. I was like: Yo, I can do this! So, I put my best foot forward when it came down to that, and she helped me.
Great. So tell me a little bit about these four songs you’re going to release.
I just wanted to put out something that has no features on it, which pretty much displays what I can do by myself. I’m singing, rapping, writing. I just wanted people to see who I am. The charisma that I bring to my music and that I really do take this seriously when it comes down to it. This is how I express myself as a Cancer, you know?
Oh, you’re a Cancer?
Yes, I’m emotional. I have like so much emotions. But I’ll never… I have control of it now. When I was younger, I never used to have control of it. I use to be angry all the time. But now, you know I have music so…
>Okay so you…
Express it there.
Definitely. So what are the titles tracks, like what are some of the titles of the songs?
Let me see. I don’t know the names. I don’t know as of yet but we have one called “Mercy”. Once we figure out the names, we’ll send it to you.
Can you elaborate on like the styles of the music? What it sounds like
Alright so, the “Mercy” record for the most part, I wanted something that was just me rapping. Like just bringing the lyrical content to it and people being able to see that I can really rap. So I channeled my inner Foxy on that one. Trapped into Brooklyn real quick, with that one. I have another. It’s a record called, “Lucky 7”. It’s about dating people your whole life and finding love in the 7th person.
Is there truth to that?
Kinda. You know, you find everything that you’ve been looking for in that one person and that person you call, “Lucky 7”. That one, I think a lot of guys will like. I also try to stay away from like “he” and “she”. I more so say “they” and “we” so people can relate more. A guy can relate more to my records. My voice is not sweet so if I’m rapping like this, nigga gonna be like, “That’s a guy!”
So before they find out it’s Crystal Caines, they gonna be like “I can relate “. So I’m just giving people music, you know? That’s why I don’t sell sex. I don’t dress inappropriately. I don’t show my belly, all that little stuff. I mean if I was a little bit slimmer, I would be showing the titties but you know…
I laughed the entire time.
“As I Am”, on the hook it goes:
- If it were only me in this world, would I love who I am?
So that record is just basically me talking about me. Growing up as a person and people not appreciating you while you’re here. It’s nothing that you can do to make them happy. Because people will never be satisfied. Someone will always have something to say.
That is true.
Just basically me saying, “This is me!” If you love Crystal Caines, then I love you too but I’m not planning on changing for anybody. Then I have another record coming out. I don’t know what I called it but I’m talking so much shit on there.
It’s not bad shit. In a way, it’s cocky. When I was coming up, nobody wanted to help me… but you want to help me now? Like, leave me alone. I’m good.
That’s about it. I think out of it all, people adapt to certain ones. They’ll probably adapt to the ones with concepts or adapt to the ones like, “Yo! She talking that shit.” It depends on the crowd. But I think, a lot of people will appreciate it.
Talk to me about the journey, specifically as a woman in entertainment.
It’s been pretty tough but you know in life, everything is tough. I just think we have it harder as women. Even now to where I have a video out and I’m not a size two. A lot of people point that out. Back in the 90’s and stuff, it was more so about music than it was about image. I think image is important, of course but to me, I think people focus on that a little too much. Like, do I have to have a 6-pack for me to be the nicest female rapper alive? It’s been difficult. Not only in that aspect but that’s why I feel like I’m so strong now, because I heard a lot of nos, and for people to tell me no and for me to get it, it’s kind of like a spit in the face to them. Like: Haha, you didn’t want to help me but you want to help me now because you was saw that I was able to accomplish it? You didn’t see the picture, but I saw [it]. So even down to producing, I asked alot of my producing friends to help me out and they were kinda giving me the cold shoulder and was laughing… until a year later. I got my first album placement and they were like “Congrats “. I’m like, “Yeah, whatever”, and all that happened in a year. I have producer friends that’s been making beats their whole life and never got a placement. For me to get it in a year, is like God telling me that I can do anything I put my mind to as long as I’m focused on it. That’s why certain things that I want, I just speak it into existence and I go and get it. It’s nothing that nobody can tell me that I can’t do. They told me I can’t and I’ve done it.
To any young talented girls who will read this, be it from New York, California or Texas, what words of advice could you give to them?
I have alot of younger people — People that are younger than me, around me and they tell me that they look up to me. I’ll say what I always say to them. You just gotta be focused on what you really want. Once you find out what you want, put all [of] your energy into that because people are going to have something to say regardless. If I listened to everybody who told me that I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t have had an album placement. I wouldn’t have a video. I would be insecure in myself, musically and physically. I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy with how I make people feel and I’m just happy being that positive energy around anyone who needs it. You know me, I’m a Cancer so I’m pretty silly. I do have my down days. I say to them: When you do have your down days, just tough it out. Just work through it because that’s what I did. Cry, if you have to. Punch a pillow, if you have to. Record, if you have to. Make a beat, if you have to.
It’s plenty of times where I fell asleep with the 64 keys on my whole body. My mom would come in and take the keyboard off of me. Like, I’m sleeping with it. Suffocating by the piano. It’s just like practice and practice, and alot of people don’t see it as me working hard because I work with alot of other producers, who co-produce. But when I work with other producers who co-produce, they add minor things. I made the beat. Me being a female, they think I did the minor things. I created this rhythm. I did this. It’s kinda hard being a woman in general, but [you have to have] tough skin. That’s it.
Definitely. What inspires you? Do you listen to a certain album before you create? Do you need complete silence? What gets you going?
I recored most of the time. I record in my room because I feel like, in my room I’m able to be myself. I may yodel if I want and no one’s going to tell me to shut up. Probably my neighbors, but I’ll tell them to shut the fuck up. Yell right back to them. I’m more comfortable in my room and for me, I listen to R&B but it’s not something I listen to for me to get started, and to be motivated to do it. I don’t look to anything for inspiration because I look to myself. You know, if I have a bad day that’s what the record is going to display. So I don’t listen to anything like ‘Yeah, I’m going to do a record like this’ because I don’t like copying people. I feel original. So for me, its days that the type of record you’ll get. If I was feeling cocky that day, you’ll get a cocky ass record. That’s just basically it.
Are there any dream features?
I would love to work with Drake just because he’s something we haven’t had in a long time, since Ja Rule. People won’t compare them — I’m not comparing them either — but he is the only “emotional rapper” that we have at this time; speaking on things that we go through as young adults.
Ja Rule has taken the comparison though because when I spoke to him, playfully, he was like “Yeah, that’s my son”.
Yeah, he was talking about Drake.
I mean, we only had one singing rapper and that was Ja Rule.
- “Yo’ stare, Yo’ eyes…”, Caines broke into song.
He was the only emotional rapper that we had at the time, and being emotional is not really a bad thing. I think a lot of people have this thing that they want to display to the world, and that’s why I like Drake so much. It’s because he says what he has to say. Look at it. Number one records, you know?
Definitely. What do you want from this whole thing? What is your goal?
I just want people — the thing with me is not even the money. Even though it would help, it’s more so success to me. You know? And success would be nothing if you don’t have happiness, so happiness has alot to do with it. But over all, I just want people to respect what I bring to the table. Cause when I work with a lot of other artists, they see me as like behind-the-scenes. They just see my name, but they don’t see the work that I actually do put in with these artists. So I really do work hard and I just want people to see that. Through my work and through there’s as well.
Talk to me about your name. Where does that come from?
That’s my real name.
My dad’s last name is Caines and my grandmother, if I’m not mistaken. She passed. She wanted to name me “Crystal Bell”. I would’ve been so tight. Crystal Bell Caines… Ew. Crystal Caines is my real name. It’s not a fake name.
Nice, that’s good to know.
A lot of people think I made it up. But I’m just like: Yo, was my dad on drugs… Crystal meth and cocaine?
Yeah because of the video…
That’s how I came up with the idea of the song. That’s why I called it “White Lines”. Crystal Caines sounds like a drug so alot of people think the song is about cocaine but it’s about Crystal Caines, in the form of a drug. That’s why you see the little packets have ‘CC’. Whenever they open it, that’s when they see Crystal Caines.
They open it in the car — Boom — Pop out in the car. Open it in a bowling alley — Boom — Pop out the bowling alley.
A lot of people didn’t get that. It went over a lot of people’s heads. Yeah, Crystal Caines is my real name.
When you first hear the name GrungeCake, what comes to mind?
A coffee cake.
I laughed really hard.
Like a cake with like coffee crumbs.
What was it like growing up in Harlem?
I was an introvert, so I didn’t go to the latest parties and all that stuff. I was just [to] myself, and I felt like I should’ve been a little bit more out there when I was younger. I feel like I would have more consistent friendships. I feel like I’m starting over. At the age I am now, I feel like I am just building trust in certain people and learning things l should’ve learned earlier. You know, God don’t make things happen for nothing. I feel like I’m supposed to go through this, now.
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