INTERVIEW: Jerrika Karlae is ready for her rap-game close-up.
"THESE BITCHES AIN'T SLIME ENOUGH!" became a defining moment and lyric from Young Thug's inaugural compilation album, Slime Language. Reading it now, you should instantly recall Jerrika Karlae's slightly coarse, sing-song-yell of the lyric, relayed with so much passion you know she absolutely meant it. When you sing along, you likely mean it too. That's the thing about mostly everything Jerrika Karlae does: it's passionate, purposeful, and genuine. I gather this much from our phone conversation last week, which occurs a day before her birthday. The next day, Thug would wish her a happy birthday, and while it could have resulted in something materialistic (new clothes, jewelry, plane, whatever the case), he wrote to her: "Keep goin up up and over, I’m with u when u ain’t with yo-self kid!! I hope u become RICHER,SEXIER, SMARTER then everybody in the world."
The fact that he wished for her to become her best self-- aka richer, smarter and sexier-- truly says some thing of their relationship. They're grown.
Their relationship has been fodder for gossip blogs and Instagrammers ever since Thug himself started making waves online. After one particularly public and drama-filled break-up stint last year (and if you need me to re-hash exactly what happened, you, clearly, are -not- slime enough), the two eventually let bygones be bygones, preferring to grow and mature as a couple. Jerrika knows that they are stronger when they are together, streamlining their vision and working on their goals as a team.
One of the new goals for the YSL lovebirds is the fact that Jerrika Karlae, going by Karlae for musical purposes, is going to be a rap artist. She dipped her toe into the pool with the verse and hook on "U Ain't Slime Enough," but there is plenty more on the way, and it all sounds very exciting. She's just as excited about it too-- she can't help but gush when discussing her upcoming music, which includes a very strategically-planned (I recommend reading on) collab with Rich the Kid, "Rich Bitch" and her personal favorite called "Irregular."
The thing is, when your boyfriend is Thugger Thugger, there will be extremely high expectations for your music. The minute Karlae shared a photo of herself in the booth I set my very own expectation (sorry, not sorry Jerrika): that the music was going to be fire as fuck (!).
The thing is, too, that Karlae is all too aware of these expectations, which is why she's taking her time. We've yet to receive another release from the artist since her lone appearance on Slime Season, although she has a bunch of music locked and loaded (features and producers are all friends of the YSL family-- if you know, you know). While she had plans to drop a project on her recent birthday, she's delaying it until Halloween to make sure it's perfect.
Karlae has a vibrant, magnetic energy, even just speaking on the phone-- she sounds happy, genuine, enthralled throughout our conversation. She sounds confident, too. She knows she's stepping into unfamiliar territory when it comes to rap. She knows it's more than just "unfamiliar" territory, in fact, it's safeguarded, it's cautious-- because she knows people will say, "why is Thug's girlfriend "all of a sudden" deciding to rap?"
That's the thing. She did just decide to rap. And that's completely okay.
HotNewHipHop: Hey Karlae, this is Rose from HotNewHipHop.
Karlae: Hiiii, how’re you?
Good. What are you up to today? What’s a typical day for Karlae?
I’m justIn Atlanta, I’m usually running errands either for Thug or myself. But now that I’m an artist, my days consist of waking up, running my errands in a quick time frame and then hitting the studio usually about 8:00 everyday. Or some days I’ll go a little earlier but now, music is becoming my life so most of my days I’ll either sit at home and write stuff or I’ll go to the studio. When I’m in California, I’m usually in meetings or just different endorsements, Pretty Little Thing, Fashion Nova, all of that good stuff.
Do you and Thug live together in Atlanta?
Right now, we have a house together but we both don’t stay there. We just have a ton of furniture in here. We both have two separate condos. So, it’s both a yes and a no.
Do you guys plan on using that house when you’re officially married?
Yeah, well our family will go there. I keep some of my junk there. It’s like a storage house. We honestly have no plans for what we’re going to do as far as marriage. We’ve actually been looking for a new home. For now, we kind of keep our separate bachelorette and bachelor pads.
That’s cool. Do you find that helps with the relationship, like ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ kind of thing?
I do actually because, before we lived together, we were so young in our relationship that we went through a ton of shit and we were just growing and learning one another, but it’s like now I can appreciate the times when I’m alone or I’m away from him because I know he’s going to end up missing me if we don’t see eye to eye or we’re fed up with another. I think it’s just better for reasons like that. So, I do enjoy it because we can keep our own distance and have our own time. And he has a lot of friends. The main thing is that his homeboys are always at his fucking house. So, I love having a break from the boys, the man cave.
So, you’re not one of the girlfriends that follows him throughout the tour, like goes on the road with him.
No. So, the beginning of our relationship, me and Thug have been together for four and a half years, so the first song the world ever heard from him, me and him were together and that was a time when we were really going hard. I literally went state to state with him. You would never see Thug without Jerrika, so I feel like it changed within the last year and a half, two years and it wasn’t for a reason in particular, I got caught up doing Karlae Swimwear and then just the simplest things like keeping up with my posts or Pretty Little Thing and they give me a good check so I dedicated my time to myself.
Exactly. You have your own business.
Right. So, it wasn’t convenient for me to be following him everywhere.
Do you try to meet up with him on tour though, when he’s in random cities?
Yes. So, this is like the first tour that he’s done that I haven’t been on. I plan on going to a few dates but with me doing the music thing and my own marketing, I’m trying to figure out how it’s going to mesh because I just want to be fully ready when I hit the stage. I don’t want to give the people too much. I want to keep the anticipation building up. So, I think I’m probably going to do one date with him. But I am going to go visit him. He comes home on his off days too, so we see each other.
There’s definitely a lot of anticipation for your music. It’s been slowly building, even when you first tweeted you were in the studio, I know myself personally, I was like ‘Oh my god. I can’t wait to see what you put out.’ And then the first song was fire.
Thank you so much.
Andit’s so crazy because your debut, was “U Ain’t Slime Enough.” It became a catchphrase very quickly, it became something people say on Instagram, like a caption. It’s so caption-worthy.
I can’t believe it, because like literally when it dropped, I was so nervous. Just because I’m such a perfectionist, I’m a Virgo, so I was so pressed and I was actually telling Adryanauna [her co-manager], they not gonna like it. She was like, ‘Bitch are you serious, this is flames.’ I just feel like I’m warmed up, I’m ready now.
What was it like hearing your voice on that hook for the first time?
When I first started recording, I have a heavier voice than the average woman who has like an airy super feminine sound, so I was like man, I sound like a dude. And everybody was like your voice is so fire like you have a different sound.
It has a little bit of a raspiness to it, which is cool. You can’t confuse your voice for anyone’s voice. Your voice is unique.
Thank you. I appreciate that. So, I was so hard on myself at first and then at the end of it, I did my verse first and at the end, I was like it needs something else because I wanted Thug and Duke to get on it. I’m like Thug never did a song with me and I wanted him to like it, I wanted to be on some gang gang shit. I was like, let me go back in the booth, I took two shots of Hennessy and I just came out and was like [starts singing], “these bitches ain’t slime enough” and everybody was like, ‘Holy shit.’ So, after that, I’m like okay I know what my formula is, Hennessy, yelling and just being free. So, when I first heard my voice, I actually liked it. But I didn’t like it, until the “Slime Enough” part.
“U Ain’t Slime Enough” obviously ties in with everything Thug is about, but you weren’t going in the booth like: ‘I’m going to make a Slime record like this is just going to be for Thug.’
No, no, I did. That’s what I did. I was trying to do anything to be hip. I was like, what can I do to make Thug like it. Because if you listen to the verse, it’s kind of girly, so I wanted to make it so where it was for everybody.
Yeah. Everyone can fuck with it. So, that was the first song that you and Thug actually collaborated on?
Yeah. That’s the very first song we ever did. Actually no, I’m lying, three years ago, Me, Dolly and Dora did a song and put Thug on it. So, it’s like on his hard drive from forever ago, but it was so funny because he actually was helping me, I was saying some stupid shit. Like I said in my PAPER interview, they had been doing music way before me, so it really was like, ‘Rikka get on the track’ and I did it and I never got in the booth ever again.
That was like the first time, so now you kind of rekindled it?
Yeah and we were just joking. It was all fun and games.
Does that song have a title?
I don’t even know.
Yeah Dory and Dolly are dope too.
Yeah. They are. They’re definitely doing their thing.
Yeah. So, I met Thug, my mom was doing work for Scooter, I met him in the studio, I had actually just started Karlae Swimwear. I met him two months after I launched. I did it with a minimal budget. I didn’t have much to work with.
Did you have a following on Instagram already?
Yeah. I did. I had a following from weave and girls loved my makeup and stuff.
What year was this around?
This was around 2014. It was April.
So, around the time in your life when you met Thug, you were just focused on launching Karlae Swimwear?
Yeah. That was my main thing that I was doing was Karlae Swimwear. I was also doing work with KRS back then. They were paying me really good. That was how I made my living and then my mom invested in Karlae Swimwear. Her and Scooter helped too. He’s like a brother to me. So, I launched it, I didn’t make that much money but it was enough to live day to day and recycle my money back into the business and as time went by, me and Thug kinda built on our relationship and he started helping me. So, toward the end of the summer, my now, bestfriend, she’s a stylist now, Cece Monaco, she came on as a designer and she linked me with a manufacturer, so I had more of a budget to work with because I had Thug’s help and all of that good stuff, but my line was established way before Thug.
Did you go to school at all for that?
Yeah. So, I went to school for a year and I lived in Miami and I went to the International Art Institute there. I went for fashion merchandising and I dropped out and I came here and got an internship with Tresa Sanders. She was working and doing PR for BET at the time. Then I just kind of quit that, because I was trying to find myself. I didn’t know if I wanted to do fashion PR. I had wanted at, one time, to be a buyer. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I came here, and it’s crazy because I met Thug the summer when I finished school. I really couldn’t find myself. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I come from a family of entrepreneurs, my father’s side of the family is in the mortuary business. They own a number of funeral homes. It took me a minute to find myself so when I met him, things came in to fruition with Karlae Swim.
So like I said, the music is what we’re most excited for. It all started because of Thug’s infidelity?
So basically, that is not true. In my PAPER interview, I was saying that, they actually misquoted this. When Thug started changing his tone of his music, I was explaining to her [the journalist] that it was hard for me to deal with it and it taught me so much when I started doing music because it was like, Okay bro, I got a song where I’m like: ‘I cannot pay your nigga to leave me alone. If you wanna know how I do it, just ask me. P-game cold. Promise I’m not just rapping.’ And, for example, people would say, ‘You sleeping with somebody man. You cheating on Thug.’ But I took it with a grain of salt because I had to do the same thing with his music and him talking about his infidelity in front of the world. So, at first it would make me mad but when I started doing music, I understood why it was okay because it makes the music better. So they took it as, she started doing music because he was cheating but no, his infidelities did however motivate certain songs. I have songs where I went in the booth and literally shed tears not because I’m in a sad place but because...
Right, and I want people to listen and feel me expressing myself.
That’s crazy, when you started your music, you and Thug were already back together?
So, yeah I started doing music when we were actually on a break. I did a remix to “Relationships.” It was a hot song for the summer and that was the song that actually did...‘oh, you’re in a relationship with all these bitches. That’s what you saying?’ And he was like, ‘Karlae it’s just music, you trippin, you trippin.’ And I was like, ‘I’m going to start doing music,’ and he was just like, ‘Okay, whatever.’ I don’t think he took me serious. And I was like, ‘Jeff, can you send me the beat,’ the instrumental for “Relationships,” which is pretty fucking big because no one has the official instrumental, and he sent it to me and I recorded over it and the song was pretty good. This is so funny, I was going to drop it on his birthday, August 15th, last year, it was just like a joke, it was just for me to express myself the way he did initially, and somebody recorded it from me being on [Instagram] Live and they put it on YouTube and it got good feedback. People were hitting me like, ‘this shit dope’, ‘it hard,’ and so I’m like, maybe I need to do another song. And that’s how my journey of music kind of started.
That’s so crazy how, at first, you didn’t like the lyrical content, but then when you started making music, you realized that sometimes people just talk shit on records because it sounds good.
Right. And I wanted to be different people too so, sometimes I’ll rap about shit that has nothing to do with my life but I enjoy rapping about being a freak because maybe I want to feel spontaneous tonight. It’s different vibes and I think that, what I was trying to say was, this experience taught me that. It made it okay. So now I don’t complain because he’s like, Karlae it’s just about giving the people an imagination basically.
So, what’s the song called “I Fuck U”, when you were mad at Thug, are you actually going to release that song?
Yeah. So, the crazy thing is, “Fuck U” is not even about Thug. That’s the crazy part. They [PAPER Magazine] misquoted. “Fuck U” song is about every guy, in my past who, might say like damn I slept with her or I used to date her, I was her third boyfriend. This is for those type of niggas. Just men from my past who were shitty. I made the song because I wanted other women to feel the same way. We never have a song where we’re expressing our truth and the thing is, most women who get scrutinized in the industry, like for example, Amber Rose, she messed with this guy, she messed with this guy, but that was her choice. She didn’t do it because somebody tricked her out of her time, so I made the song with that thought because my cousin was in the studio and she was like, you know what I’m thinking about, niggas always thinking (excuse my language) they fucking us and tricking us, but really we choose to give you them the pussy and nigga I put it on you and behind closed doors, you really be feening for me. So, when she said that I was like, Woah, that need to be a song, like a girl power anthem. So, when I said it, I did talk about certain things in my life, like for example I said in one part, ‘Grip game good, I can’t put no cap on it, ya’ll doing well, make em rap about it.’ Now that’s real life. I’m saying, I’m saying I got good cootie cat and I’m making him rap about it. They took it as, she talking about Thug and I’m like honestly, I’m talking about every nigga I’ve known that ain’t shit. You thought you fucked me, but really I fucked you.
Okay. So is Young Thug going to be put on blast at all in your music?
I would say it’s going to be a good blast. I would never do anything crazy. It’s going to be the truth. Another quote I said in my song was, ‘I had a rich nigga who couldn’t shake those bitches. He played around and now he see the difference.' Some people might take that as shade, I take that as real life. I had a rich ass boyfriend, he had a problem with these industry bitches, he couldn’t shake them and now, you know what, he shook them off and now he sees she’s much different than the other ones. So, it’s going to be real life shade.
I saw you just previewed a song with Young Thug but before that, you previewed a song with Rich the Kid called “Rich Bitch.”
Yeah. So my mom co-manages Thug. She had the idea. I was on a plane ride to LA and Rich The Kid was on the plane and I overheard him being nosy, talking about his Richard Mille. So, I’m like I know a Richard Mille is an expensive ass watch, Thug has one, so I’m like, I know how I’m going to get him to love the song, I’m going to talk about what he loves. His rich lifestyle. That’s how I came up with the hook. And my mom walked up to him and she was like, 'my daughter is getting into music, she’s Thug girl, you and him are cool, I think you should fuck with her. You can come in and listen to her music, see if you vibe with it but we would be honored to have you on a song' and he was like, 'cool.' He did it. I was so shocked because not a lot of artists who are established in the game will tell you they’ll work with someone they’ve never even heard a song. My mom called him back and was like, 'we have a session tonight, do you think you can make it?' He was like, 'Yeah I’ll stop by for a second.' So, I was like, let me just do the hook before he gets here. So I’m like, what does he like? [starts singing] “If he ain’t got a Richard Mille, then he ain’t balling,” I started flowing with it and he came in and laid his verse and left back out. Like a thief in the night.
That’s a good tactic though, ‘I’m going to rap about his watch that he really likes.’ So, when Rich The Kid got on the song, “Slime Enough” wasn’t even out, there was no proof that you couldn’t do anything at the time.
Right. I didn’t even realize that before you said that.
He just trusted that you were dope. What song are you most excited for people to hear?
My favorite song, I can’t wait for people to hear this song I got called “Irregular.” I just love it so much because it’s all me. It’s me expressing myself and how I feel about myself and not even just me, every woman in general should feel like they’re irregular. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be flashy. You could just feel like you ain’t gonna tolerate shit that the average person might. You might feel like you irregular because you do your job different from everybody else. So, I just love it because every time I listen to it, it really touches me. It’s this other record I have called “Heart in A Hole.” I really love it because I just feel like it’s different. It’s completely R&B trap type of vibe. I just can’t wait for people to hear it. It’s something different. And then, just be expressing myself on the regular. I just addressed so many things that people would say about me. Of course that’s always dope.
When are you planning to release a project?
I’m planning to release October 31st, Halloween. The push back was because my visuals wouldn’t be ready in time and I didn’t want to rush, and I realized that I would be under delivering had I dropped it tomorrow, my birthday [September 18, Jerrika's original plan]. I have this interlude called "Going Hard," and I just talk about haters, industry shit, fake people, fake friends, relationships and I was going to release that too for my birthday but I’m not going to release my EP until Halloween cause it's a scary fucking day. I feel like my visuals that I’m doing around that time is based around Halloween.
Does the EP have a title?
Yeah, so I'm thinking about...I don’t have a title yet so I don’t want to say it and then be wrong.
Would you want to sign with Young Thug’s imprint or would you prefer to go somewhere else?
Thug told me himself that he wanted the best for me and he told me that, he knows with the relationship being so personal...he never wants to tear us apart, basically. The thing is, I’m so YSL. My imprint is YSL, I’m coming in the game, whether I sign with whoever, as YSL. Thug is executive producing my EP, so he still has his feet all the way in, but I’m not signed to YSL.
What do you see in your future with Thug and with the music. I wanted to know if you wanted to have a family with Thug, do you guys plan on having kids?
I definitely do want to have a family but right now, I’m really focusing on my music and me and him building a stronger bond and learning right now. I want to just observe. We've cut out so much of our arguments and just ups and downs, because we’re like, look, if it’s not about our careers about us and it's not about us being a power team together, whether we have a relationship or not, me and Jeff are always going to be a team. I owe so much to him, my first break was on Slime Language. He didn’t have to do that. So, I’m always going to feel like it’s me and him no matter what, whether we work out as a relationship, marriage, baby daddy, baby mama or not. But I do want to have children but for now, I think in the next year and a half or so, I just want to drop two of my projects.
So if there’s one thing you can be known for. If it’s one thing, whether it’s the music or swimwear, if you had to choose one.
I want to be known for, when they look back, the girl who set an example. People will take you for a joke, like, 'oh you’re a man-made machine and you have the best writers around you,' I’m not that. I want people to know that you can really wake up and have a passion and exceed at doing it. I been hearing, 'You wanted to wake up and be a rapper,' she just woke up and wanted to be a rapper, all these girls wanna rap. So what? You can wake up and develop a talent as long as you’re willing to work at it. So that’s what I want to be remembered as. Karlae really woke up and wanted to do music and she did it exceptionally well. I want to be known too, as a positive force for young women because I feel like a lot of us battle with, mentally, we’re in this cage and the world doesn’t know it because we’re put up against society and Instagram, and the looks of things, and my music, it talks about that. I want that to be my message too. I’m a real bitch, I’m not an opportunist, I want realness to come from me and literally just this girl who didn’t do it off of luck. I did it off of practice and investing into my craft.
That's dope. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time. I’m looking forward to all the music.
I appreciate you guys. When I do some more stuff and I have some releases, I would love to invite the brand out to get it covered.