Remy Ma is a bona fide legend in hip hop. She first emerged on the scene over 20 years go as a member of the Terror Squad, and is considered one of the best female lyricists of her era. With her reputation in hip hop solidified, the Bronx native has set her sights on acting—with her first starring role is in American Gangster Presents: Big Fifty The Delrhonda Hood Story.
In her film debut, Remy Ma gives a vivid portrayal of the character Delrhonda "Big Fifty" Hood—a streetwise Detroit woman who ends up running a drug empire and becomes extremely wealthy and notorious in the process—as she navigates childhood trauma, her run at a life of crime, and ultimately her redemption.
“Anybody can tell a “hood “story and talk about how they were getting money but it's about uplifting people. There has to be a message in the story. The story must have some sense of redemption,” shared the hip hop star on what sets this film apart.
EBONY chatted with Remy Ma about her role in the film, rediscovering her desire to be an actress, and why giving 360 views of Black women are so important to her.
EBONY: Before reading the script and joining the cast, were you familiar with the story of Big Fifty?
Not as in-depth as I am now obviously, but I saw her on American Gangster: Trap Queens. Then, I saw an interview with her on The Breakfast Club when they had a couple of different women on the show. That's all I really knew of her at the time but now I know everything about her. I am her. I know mama, her kids, and her grandkids now.
Your past has been well-documented. You endured so much to get into the space you're in right now and it wasn’t an easy road that you had to travel. Did you resonate with Big Fifty’s story because of your past experiences?
Most definitely. I saw so much of myself in Big Fifty’s life story. Of course, going to prison is something I can identify with. Also, I would say that I believe that she was so focused on trying to make money to take care of her son that she didn't even realize the harm that she was doing by her absence. I went through that and dealt with the guilt of not being present. For me, I was so focused on my music and going on tour to make enough money to make sure that my son could have a better life. But I was missing the little things like baseball games and mommy muffin day at school because I was so focused on trying to give him a better life. Financially, I was able to provide but I forgot the emotional part that a child needs. When it came to my presence, I lacked in that department, so I definitely can relate to those aspects of her life from firsthand experience.
This was your first time as an acting lead. Did anything in your rap career help you to prepare to make a transition into acting?
When it comes to rapping, I don't even think about it. It just comes naturally because that's just what I do. I have only gotten nervous three times. When it comes to music, in the 20 plus years of my career, I have only gotten nervous when I had to perform somebody else's songs, never my own. When we were honoring MC Lyte, and I had to do “Paper Thin,” then I did “Work It” by Missy Elliott, and most recently at the Verzuz with Fat Joe and I had to do Pun’s verses on “Twinz.” But with acting, everything was new to me. There were different terminologies that I never knew existed because it was a different world to me.
As you were learning on set, would you say that acting required you to be more vulnerable than what you are normally accustomed to as a rapper?
That’s right. I was worried that I was gonna look dumb—that everybody would see my nervousness and see that I didn't know what I was doing because this was the first time I've ever done this.
At the end of the film, there are statistics shown about the various issues that Black women face such as mental struggles, domestic abuse, and economic inequality. I believe your portrayal of Big Fifty gives voice to the pain and trauma that Black women have endured and many are still going through. Why was it important for you in your first role to try to inspire Black women who find themselves in difficult situations?
A lot of times people, we as a society tend to only view a person based on one thing we know about them. They don't go back and see what caused this person to be like this; what caused them to have this thought process, or to even be in the circumstances where they're committing a crime. With Big Fifty, she says at the very beginning of the movie that she was a very happy kid with dreams and aspirations of going to Hollywood. Then a chain of events that were out of her control changed everything. Her father and mother separated and they had to move into her grandmother's house. Then she was molested by a family member and from that moment, at seven or eight years old, she was no longer the person that she may have become. She was very guarded and didn't trust people. She felt like it was her against the world. From there, things just started piling up. She had a child when she was a teenager and it was a snowball effect. I think sometimes we need to take a step back and think that maybe this person needs help if they were abused, if they were a victim to whatever happened to them as a child, if they have mental issues—it's just so many different things that lead to where people are in their lives. We just wanted people to know that there are places that you can call; there are people that understand your situation and want to help. No one should go through their struggles thinking that they are alone.
The word redemption captures the theme of the film, your performance, and your life as you’ve grown into the woman that you are today. When you reflect on your journey in your first starring role as an actress, what have you discovered about yourself that you may not have been aware of before you began the process?
I think one of the biggest things that I've learned about myself during this process is that I overthink things. Acting is something that I've always wanted to do. I'm sure my mom has plenty of files of me acting when I was younger. When I'm home, I always go to see plays. I've seen some of them like 234 times. I think the biggest thing that I learned about myself is that I've been procrastinating. It’s not because I don't want to do something but I think it's because I'm so worried about failing. The fear of failure causes me to procrastinate. Moving forward, there are certain things that I know where I can improve and that's my goal. I want to get better and I want to continue acting because it brought out a different side of me. I found my passion again for acting while making this film.