Ever since Becky G signed with Kemosabe, the Sony Music Entertainment record label founded by veteran hitmaker Dr. Luke, her life has gone from zero to sixty. One day, the 16-year-old singer, songwriter, and rapper might be doing chores — cleaning the bathroom or watching her three younger siblings — and the next she might be in the studio with Dr. Luke recording a song for her upcoming debut album or shooting a music video with Jennifer Lopez, who appears in the autobiographical clip for Becky’s track “Becky From The Block.”
“Honestly, it makes me feel good when I get to help out at home because that’s my sense of normality,” Becky says. “I get a little crazy in my head when I’m super-busy and meeting a whole bunch of new people. So it’s really nice to be around the people who have been there from the beginning, and to do things I was doing before all of this happened.”
By all of “this,” Becky is referring to her rapid ascent as a musical artist. Her sound (which she describes as “urban pop with a bit of Latin spice”) and relatable personality have connected with a steadily expanding audience of fans who call themselves “Beasters” Becky has more than 155,000 followers on Twitter (where she is often a trending topic worldwide) and over 150,000 likes on Facebook. She has been featured on singles by Cody Simpson (“Wish You Were Here”) and Cher Lloyd (“Oath”), and racked up nearly two million YouTube views for her cover of Ke$ha’s “Die Young,” featuring her own verses. “I ‘Becky G’ed’ it up,” she says with a laugh. When Dr. Luke showed one of her early music videos to will.i.am, the multi-platinum producer and Black Eyed Peas frontman immediately wanted to work with her. The two came up with “Problem,” a remix of which features will.i.am. and is included on the soundtrack to the animated film Hotel Transylvania.
The video for “Becky From The Block” (which was filmed in Becky’s Los Angeles hometown of Inglewood and features her rapping in front of the local landmarks The Forum and Randy’s Donuts) was praised by the Los Angeles Times: “As a pure celebration of home, heart and lifestyle, ‘Becky from the Block’ knocks it out of the park.” The clip has attracted more than three million views on YouTube, while the video for her debut single “Play It Again,” in which she pays homage to her Mexican heritage cruising through Inglewood in an old-school whip with her girlfriends, has earned more than two million views. It’s a fun, upbeat summer song that shows “the fun 16-year-old that I really am,” she says, “which is nice because some of my earlier songs, like ‘Otis’ and ‘Novacane’ are more serious and about some of the hard times I’ve been through.”
It was a YouTube clip of Becky swaggering her way through an original rap set to “Otis” from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne that first caught Dr. Luke’s eye. The song opens with Becky declaring: “If everybody’s getting one shot, I ain’t missing.” “I would have signed her off that video alone,” Luke says. “I was 100 percent in. She has so much personality and her voice just pops out of the speakers. Then I met her and discovered she could also sing and play the guitar and I thought, ‘This is even better.’ Then I found out she could write and it was like, ‘What else are you going to tell me, that you’re also Van Gogh?’ Her potential is limitless.”
Becky’s recollection of her first meeting with Luke? “He said, ‘Sing me a song on your guitar,’ so I sang for him and then we talked about food and hot sauce for an hour. I love hot sauce. And I thought, ‘This guy gets me.’ We just connected and it was like, ‘Okay, this is it.’”
It makes sense that what Becky took away from meeting one of the most powerful producers in the music industry is a conversation about hot sauce. Because despite her considerable talent, she is also a normal teenager in every way. She grew up playing sports (baseball and soccer), making traditional pozole soup with her Mexican grandmother, and, as the oldest of four, helping her mom with the housework. “We would scrub everything and listen to The Temptations, Etta James, and James Brown — old-school feel-good music as I call it. When I hear those artists, I can still smell the Windex,” she says. She also fell in love with the traditional Mexican Ranchera songs her father favored, female rappers Missy Elliott and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and pop singers like Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez.
At age nine, with her parents struggling financially, Becky convinced them to let her start going on auditions for commercials thinking she could contribute to the family’s income after her parents lost their home and moved everyone into Becky’s grandparents’ converted garage. “It was a tough time,” she recalls. “I was in public school and doing commercials for the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, so the kids at school assumed I had money and we didn’t. They were like, ‘Oh, so you get to fly here and there and we have to stay at school?’ I was bullied and got into fights. I even got jumped in the girls’ bathroom. It was really bad.”
Needing an outlet for her emotions, she began writing her own songs and recording them on GarageBand at age 11. By 13, she had taught herself to play the guitar. Six months later Becky was introduced to Mike Mani and Jordan Omley, known as production duo The Jam, who have worked with Brandy, JoJo, and Leona Lewis among others. She showed them her lyrics and they began working on three tracks, “Otis,” “Lighters,” and “Novacane,” all of which find Becky connecting through her vivid rhymes and singing her emotions in the soaring choruses.
“If people pay attention to the lyrics they will know who I am, which I think is really important. You want people to have a feel for what you’re about. Also, when I write, I like to tell a story, because what draws me in as a listener is wanting to know what’s going to happen or how the story ends.” In this case, however, Becky’s story is only just beginning.