Known to the hip-hop community as “la mama del rap”, Melymel is one of Latin music’s most famous names and the Dominican Republic’s most renowned musical export.
Her latest project, Dragon Queen, and singles ‘IDGAF’, ‘No One (feat. Mozart La Para)’ and ‘Se Te Apago la Luz’, have propelled her to global stardom, finding worldwide popularity thanks to their empowering message and incredible vocal performances. The album has already been featured in Noisey, Mitu, HipHopDX and Latina Magazine, picking up millions of streams and views in a matter of months.
Born Melony Redondo, singer, rapper and actress Melymel has been part of the Dominican rap scene for almost 15 years. Making a name for herself alongside local rap kingpins Lo Correcto, she was inspired as much by Lauryn Hill and 2Pac as the traditional rhythms of her native home: bachata, salsa and merengue. Since making her entrance into the rap scene, she’s gradually established a place as reigning queen of DR hip-hop, performing alongside veterans such as Cuban Link, Arianna Puello and N.O.R.E.
Though Melymel has been a household name within her home country for years, she’s only recently made her mainstream breakthrough. Signing a major-label record deal with Empire Records – home to JON Z, Tego Calderón, Tyga, and the late XXXTentacion – and releasing her third full-length project to universal acclaim, the rapper has confirmed her status as a unique artist with limitless potential. We caught up with Melymel to discuss Dragon Queen and hear her take on the global Latin takeover and female empowerment within the music industry.
Hi Melymel, great to be in touch. What have you been up to recently?
I’m working on my reality show at the moment while filming a movie with a famous Dominican director. It’s looking pretty busy for me till the second week of July.
What was your favourite show of the last year – where was it and what made it special?
Performing at House Of Blues in Las Vegas. My favourite rapper 2Pac played there and it was like a dream for me to perform on the same stage as my idol and creative inspiration.
Tell us about your most recent record, Dragon Queen. What were you hoping to achieve with that release – what inspired you to record that album?
Dragon Queen was inspired by my birth date – 1988 is the year of the dragon. Bringing a new fresh sound was the goal of this album. Having the only Latin female collaboration with the diva Ivy Queen was the cherry on top: it’s a motivation for the new generation of female rappers to never give up on making great real music.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we should know about?
I’m working on my reality show, and also another artist’s reality show in which I am the executive producer, besides my second album for EMPIRE – so it’s looking pretty busy for me this year.
How did you get into hip-hop, and what led you towards becoming a musician and rapper?
I heard 2Pac for the first time at a very early age and I was surprised to hear him “talk” on a beat, decorating with rhymes. I was so amazed to hear someone using the same language I heard on the street on a song, it’s the realest thing ever for me… so that’s me, just the way I am, why pretend? Thanks PAC!
“Latinos run the world now! We’re gonna be around for a while, get comfy.”
We know you take influence from Lauryn Hill and 2Pac, but also remain inspired by genres like bachata and merengue. How would you describe your unique musical style?
Because of my character and personality, the way I rap with no filter without being vulgar, I consider myself a classy alternative hip-hop artist. Simply fresh.
What themes do you try to focus on with your lyrics – do they come from a place of personal experience?
I push the female empowerment vibe all the way. Whatever theme I choose, I’m not a submissive female that always rides the waves boys want them to. I’m always the boss lady that does things her way and is not afraid to speak the truth from the perspective most females avoid interpreting, cause most end up sounding ratchet, not bossy.
We’ve reported recently on the growing presence of Latin music into the global mainstream. What’s your take on the phenomenon – do you think that it’s long overdue?
Latinos run the world now! We’ve got all the big North American artists doing tracks with Latin artists and most major hits now feature a Latin artist, we see people that don’t speak Spanish singing Despacito. We’re gonna be around for a while, get comfy.
Which English-language artists do you feel are pushing the boundaries in 2019?
To me Kendrick Lamar has pushed all boundaries a rapper could think of. After winning a Pulitzer he’s just unbeatable now. My new 2Pac.
“They call me “la mama del rap” cause I was the only female around when it started, and I’m still the only one of my kind in my country.”
You’ve often been referred to as “la mama del rap”, building a formidable reputation in a hip-hop scene that’s notoriously male-dominated.
Do you feel that it’s getting easier for female artists to break into hip-hop in the modern age, or is there still a way to go before genders are equally represented?
They call me “la mama del rap” cause I was the only female around when it started, and I’m still the only one of my kind in my country. I think there’s still a long way to go for the girls, as long as they keep choosing the easy way to make it: it makes boys see us as a meal, not as the cooks. I’m referred to as “an exception”, but I think we should all be exceptions until we become a reality.
Before you go, could you give us two tracks – one old-school classic, and something new that you’ve recently discovered?
I love listening to ‘Picture Me Rolling’ by 2Pac, and Joyner Lucas has all my attention right now, after Kendrick of course.
“I heard 2Pac for the first time at a very early age and I was surprised to hear him “talk” on a beat, decorating with rhymes. I was so amazed to hear someone using the same language I heard on the street on a song.”