The multi-faceted Chicago rapper wants to be the new face of female hip-hop. That seems possible.
“I want to be the new face of female hip-hop,” Dreezy brazenly declares to me on the phone, from her hometown of Chicago. This, at first, seems like an ambitious goal for a 20-year-old rapper who dropped her first solo project only a few months ago. But given the musical malleability she’s already demonstrated and the dedication to her craft that becomes apparent as we continue to talk, her goal begins to seem increasingly realistic.
Dreezy, or Seandrea Sledge, grew up on the South Side of Chicago, moving frequently and spending time with each of her parents in different suburbs, as well as the Chatham, Marquette Park, and Hyde Park neighborhoods. Coming from an upbringing that forced her to constantly be on the move, Dreezy turned to the arts, which allowed her to escape some of the realities of her life. She tried her hand at dancing, writing, and singing. Her knack for writing helped her grow as a singer and songwriter, but she outgrew singing and gravitated towards rapping around the age of 14. From that point forward, her evolution as a rapper has been impressive.
As she delved into rapping, Dreezy became tight with fellow female Chicago rapper Sasha Go Hard, scoring a feature on Sasha’s track “I Ain’t No Hitta” in 2012. In 2013, Dreezy dropped the collaborative mixtape Business N Pleasure with another Chicago rapper Mikey Dollaz. She then released her first solo project Schizo on February 25, 2014. Still, she remained relatively unknown.
That changed almost immediately this past April when she released her remix of Nicki Minaj and Lil Herb’s track “Chiraq,” just one day after Minaj dropped the original song. Fans went wild, with many tweeting that Dreezy’s version was better than Nicki’s. While Minaj’s version purportedly reps Chicago, Dreezy’s version really embraces the city. The video—by Chicago artist Nick Brazinsky—was shot all over Chicago, at the 87th Street Harold’s Chicken, on the East Side, South Side, West Side, North Side, and downtown. It has racked up nearly 300,000 views on YouTube.
After her remix, Dreezy was on everyone’s radar, especially Common’s, whom she’d already met in Los Angeles the year before. Feeling a kinship as Chicago rappers, the two began working together—this May, Common did a feature on Dreezy’s song “No Good” with Ross Augusta. Then, Common invited Dreezy to be a feature artist on his song “Hustle Harder,” from his album Nobody’s Smiling, which was released in July.
While the young Chicago MC touts the lyrics in her remix as arbitrary, there’s something to be said about a novice who can spit just as fast and flow just as smoothly as some of rap’s heavy hitters. Dreezy’s bars immediately stand out as meaty and substantive, giving her listeners something to hold on to; it’s easy to see that there’s more to her than just rapid-fire raps and hometown pride. Her music is rooted in experiences that can’t be written off as surface-level material; she explores what it’s like to have a hard life, to be in love, and to dream—things we all can relate to.
Exceptional tracks from Schizo include “All The Time,” “Up and Down,” and “Schizophrenia,” which explains the mentality behind the title of her mixtape. The tape features production work almost solely by Chicago’s D. Brooks Exclusive—22-year-old Wadell Brooks—a Columbia College student and Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Dreezy met through Chicago rapper KD Young Cocky. A master of the drums, piano, cello, violin, viola, bass and guitar, D. Brooks also has a production sensibility that syncs with the diverse dynamics and femininity of Dreezy’s lyrics, his style wavering between harder drill beats and softer melodies to substantiate Dreezy’s well-rounded skills.
Dreezy is currently working on another album, and she’s also gearing up to drop the deluxe version of Schizo, which will feature a few new tracks in lieu of some of the older songs. We talked about writing, rapping, Chicago, and building a legacy that lasts—she’s definitely serious about that part.
How do you think Chicago plays a role in your music?
I think everybody or anybody who grew up in Chicago went through some type of struggle that make them who they are as a person. I think who I am, it’s destiny, it’s in my music. I talk about the struggle, I talk about love, I talk about wanting love, wanting to find myself, dreaming big and life, and sometimes my music just turnt up. Sometimes it’s hard, and it all comes from that Chicago vibe, like my “Zero” song about money and my “Chiraq” remix.
Do you think your music is related to drill or is it something different?
No, I don’t think it’s related to drill at all—I’ve got maybe one or two drill songs. When you go to my mixtapes, I think it’s about love and life and the street. I do like some turn up music and drill, but it’s just a song, it ain’t really my goal. Like “Chiraq,” it caught everybody’s attention. It wasn’t really a drill song, but it was around that subject, and it just had that same hard tone that most drill music has. And I was just spitting bars on that. The subject might have seemed like it was about something different, but it was random and me proving that I could spit better than a lot of people, just showing off my talent.
Your songs “Heard It All” and “Lonely” could be the thoughts of any girl. Do you mostly write from life experience?
With Schizo, I wouldn’t say it’s multiple personalities, I would say it’s multiple emotions. When I was going to the lab, I was really writing off the mood I was feeling while rocking in the lab. I do think I write from how I feel, and it’s all relatable to what I’ve been through. It comes from the heart. It depends on how I feel—if I went through something with my boyfriend or a boy at the time, I probably go in the studio and write something sad but mad. If I’m having a good day and just feel like I’m turnt, I might make some stuff I know people are going to want to bump down the block.
If I feel like I’m hungry and like I’m not putting in enough work or whatever, I might write a song about dreaming and going hard and what I want to accomplish in life. People really won’t know what they expect from me when I make music.
Why title your mixtape Schizo?
At first I was going to name my tape Seandrea Vs. Dreezy because I know I’ve got that side of me that likes to make music that people will party to and stuff like that. But I’ve still got my sad Seandrea side where I talk about how I feel on the inside personally, and it’s more poetic than drill or turn up music.
I was battling between that, but it was kind of cliché. I started asking my followers and then they were like ‘well why don’t you do schizo.’ I was thinking nah, but then when I looked it up and saw what it meant, it was kind of like feeling I could go into a personal thing in my life where I was just trying to find who I was—I didn’t know if I was going to take rapping seriously. I ain’t know if I wanted to go to college or really what I wanted to do. I looked up the word, and it was just talking about the difference between fantasy and reality, and I was thinking of me dreaming and then the real life situation I was in, so that was where I related.
It was just the confusion of who you want to be and acting out all these different types of ways. It was like schizo, that was perfect. It’s crazy, it’s ill, it’s sick, it’s all over the place, and it just completely explains it.
Do you consider yourself a poet?
Yeah, I was a writer of poetry all my life.
What got you to do that?
Just my living situation. I’ve always been a person that wanted to create—I was in art class. I used to just always create, I did music, I did dancing and then poetry just kind of took over me, I was finding my abilities, and then I was always writing about how I felt and things happening around me and it grew on me.
So it was a natural transition to rapping? Were you always interested in rapping?
No, I don’t think I was really interested in rapping. I think I was just writing at the time, but [I] was singing a little bit, and I know that kind of helped with my songwriting. I eventually grew out of singing, but I never stopped writing. As I got older and around different crowds, I always wanted to do something that was going to stand out for me and take people’s attention. And in high school, it’s like singing is cool but rapping is like—what female you know [who’s] rapping? I knew how to write so I kind of just did it, and it started being fun, and people was telling me how I was good and kept pushing me. And I started doing it for real.
What’s your take on female rappers?
I think everybody doing they own thing, I can’t lie. Ain’t nobody saying Nicki not doing her thing. Iggy, as much as people don’t want to accept it, she’s making people accept it. I feel like she going to eventually get there because she’s working so hard. I fuck with Iggy. Everybody’s in their own lane, there just needs to be more.
What do you mean there needs to be more?
I think a lot of female rappers just want to be the only one, and it’s not no specific person, it’s everyone. Like every style, you don’t see no female rappers that reach back out and try to help put other female rappers on, and that’s why there’s really not any. And that’s why once a female rapper comes in the game, they time run out because they want to be the only one.
First of all, if you’re the only one, people [are] not gonna want to listen to you that long—not for ten, 15 years straight. You’re the only person. You’ve gotta have other people competing with you. It’s easier for a male artist to stay relevant because they can drop something, disappear for a year, and then come back out of nowhere and do their thing. I don’t think the female rap game is like that. That’s what I’m trying to do.
Tara Mahadevan is building a legacy. She's on Twitter - @mhdvn
Want more Chicago rap? Check these out: