Rap-Unzel’s time is now. You may recognize the name, bars, and pretty face from Lifetime’s reality show The Rap Game, but she’s here to insert her name as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry once and for all. Boasting the nickname ‘The Rapping Princess’ carries weight in itself, and let’s not forget she was discovered by the legendary Jermaine Dupri at just 15 years old.
Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Rap-Unzel states, “Once you get to know me, I’m super fun and outgoing. But on the outside, I’m definitely a calm, collected, very chill person. My mom always laughs at me and says I’ve been chill since birth. I’m very very outgoing, a very hard worker for sure.”
Fast forward to 2021, Rap-Unzel unleashes her highly-anticipated new EP titled Pun Intended, with each song written by the rising star herself. The dynamic 6-track project showcases her personal and professional growth, as she lets fans into her mindscape while wearing her heart on her sleeve.
Flaunt caught up with Rap-Unzel via Zoom to discuss her nickname The Rapping Princess, roots in Richmond, favorite artists, being on The Rap Game at age 15, highlights from the show, why she named her project Pun Intended, shooting the cover art, the studio session for “Bragg,” why she prides herself on being a lyricist, wanting to perform, and more!
Where did you get the nickname “The Rapping Princess”?
I kind of gave it to myself. Once it made sense to other people, fans started calling me that. With my name being Rap-Unzel and that being a Disney princess, it was a play off being a Rapping Princess. I’ve been treated like a princess and called a princess by my whole family, so it all came together as one. I rap, I’m girly, but I still have a very hard side, which is where the rapping aspect comes in. It just fits me. [chuckles]
What was a young Rap-Unzel like coming up in Richmond, Virginia?
It was different because Richmond is such a different scene than some other cities I’ve visited. Coming up in Richmond, we had a lot of music festivals that I went to growing up, just a really nice scene here. I will say that everybody’s different. Some cities have a particular sound, but Richmond I hear a lot of different artists doing a lot of different things. We don’t follow one trend. Growing up here, I was able to really do my own thing. I didn’t feel like I was pressured by any sounds of the city.
Who were listening to or aspiring after?
Everybody knows, I’m a huge massive fan of Drake. [laughs] He’s one of my favorite people ever. Hopefully one day it’ll be Drake and Rap-Unzel on a song, that’d be amazing. I’m a writer so I’m inspired by a lot of different poets, people like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu. Honestly, I love good music overall. I listen to so many different people, my parents are also very very into music. The songs I listened to, people probably wouldn’t believe the things my dad was playing and the music I heard growing up. Most kids my age have no idea or wouldn’t even be listening to James Brown or whoever at that age. My parents always made sure I was well-rounded when it came to music.
When did you realize you could do it for a living?
Weirdly enough, I always liked to perform. Even in elementary school, I fought to be able to perform “Moment 4 Life” in my talent show. I’d always do talent shows in middle school, I was on the dance team performing at football games. Performing was something I liked to do in all areas. When I realized I had talent in rapping and was able to write my own music: “Okay, well I was doing talent shows performing other people’s songs, but now I got this.”
I knew I could do it for a living in middle school, but it got even more serious for me as an actual occupation when I got on the show of course. Before I got on the show, I was still heavily interested in going into the medical field. Throughout middle school and high school, I was really interested in that. Once I got cast for the show sophomore year… I was 15 on the show. It’s crazy, I’m 20 now.
Were you ready for all that?
Honestly, no. I was ready as far as going into it, I was confident and super excited. But even as a sophomore, it was a really really weird transition for me because I went from going to public school to doing/filming a TV show, while also doing school online. It was completely new to me, I was not a fan of online school at all. It was a crazy transition.
It ended up working out great, but I went into the show with not a lot of experience. I was always rapping and putting up freestyles on Instagram, but going into the show, I had one music video up on Youtube. I hadn’t done any live performances yet or been in a real official studio. In those areas, it was definitely nerve-wracking. Because I know I have the talent, but some of my other cast members had been doing a little bit more through different connections.
What was the highlight from the show?
There’s so many great moments. One of my highlights was the episode with Keke Palmer. Going into the show I hadn’t done an official music video, the one I did was self-filmed. My dad had the camera, we said “let’s go ahead and go outside, get something done.” That’s one of the first songs I put out called “Mrs. Green.” On the episode with Keke Palmer, we got to do a music video directed by Benny Boom. It was crazy meeting Keke, she was so sweet. Working with her was nice. We did a song with her, we did a verse and she’s singing the chorus. It was great, it was so fun. It was one of my favorite episodes because getting to be on a music video set, meeting Benny Boom, meeting Keke, overall so many great things learned that day.
Debut EP Pun Intended out now! How are you feeling?
It feels great, my project being out is a long time coming so that makes it feel even better. I put so much time, work, effort, and long nights into this project. It’s the first project I’ve put out since The Rap Game. A lot of people might say “okay, why didn’t you drop something earlier?” I’m 20 now, I did the show when I was 15, but there’s a lot that goes into behind-the-scenes that a lot of people don’t hear about like the funds you have to put into a project when you’re independent.
Also as a writer, going from 15 to 20, obviously the music I listened to then or the music people want to hear from me is going to be a lot different. The type of project I put out at 15 would’ve been way more kid-friendly, just a lot of things changed in that time. I’m one of those people where I’m a very hard worker, but I’m not a person that’s going to settle ever. When it came to putting out any type of project or music video, I wanted to do it the right way. I wanted to be all the way proud of what I put out. Especially being that I did make people wait, I wanted the quality to be where I knew it should be. It feels amazing putting this project out, it’s a really really good introduction because I have so much more in store. This is just the beginning.
Why did you call it Pun Intended?
I felt Pun Intended would be a great title because one, the pun is always intended in everything I do. I’m a writer and I love incorporating all of my different wordplays, metaphors, etc. It was fitting that the pun is intended. I need people to know I wrote this, I definitely thought things through. I tried to be as different and creative as possible with the wordplay I put into this project. My name’s a pun also. [laughs] I’m the Rapping Princess and rap is in the word.
You’re talking your shit on “Bragg,” bring us back to that recording session.
Yes, “Bragg” was a really really fun recording session. Fun fact, I initially didn’t have that song on the project, but I said “I need another banger.” I need a song with more attitude to add to the project, it was a last minute thing. I hit up one of my producers and sent him a voice note of the hook. Because I had no beat at first, I just knew what I wanted the hook to be. I said “okay if I say this hook, can you make me something that fits with the vibe? Fits with the swag and the tempo I’m saying it.”
I loved the first beat he sent back and I went with it. That was the beginning because I was already one with the hook. I said “oh, I know this is it. This is going on the EP, I just gotta find that vibe that goes with it.” When I got that beat back, I was so excited. I went to the studio, it took me an hour and a half to record it. Of course mixing and mastering and all that came after. The studio session was a vibe. I don’t go to the studio with a lot of people at all. I’m not one of those party studio people, I’m really chill. Usually most of my sessions are me, my brother, and my mom. Sometimes my dad will be there also. We vibe out, I go in there and I kill it. I’m talking my shit that night, like you said. [laughs]
How was it shooting the cover art?
Shooting the cover art was amazing, it was so fun. That braid was very very long and heavy. My mom did the braid, it was 18 feet long. It was very heavy, but it was worth it because I didn’t want to do that spiral look with the braid digitally. I needed an actual braid that’s long. With my name being Rap-Unzel, it’s only right that I get a very very long braid for this cover. It was really really fun. I’m glad it came together with the look, that’s the exact look I planned out for the cover. I couldn’t be happier with it.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
Fashion is everything for me, I love putting that shit on. I love to really step out. Sometimes I’m in a girly mood. I will step out in some heels, but I like to mix heels with some baggy cargos or sweatpants. Sheek streetwear is how I’d describe my fashion sense, but I’ve always been into high fashion. My mom and I used to watch America’s Next Top Model. I’m always reading fold magazines or looking through to see what’s trendy in the fashion world. Outside of how I dress on a regular basis, when it comes to fashion, I’ve always been very interested in it. I was in fashion marketing classes in high school too, before The Rap Game.
Why are you “one of the best female lyricists alive”?
I say one of the best because I’m confident, but I’m also a very humble person. I look up to so many great people that did this before me. I want to keep the love for hip-hop going. No shade to anybody, but I personally feel there’s a lot of people who don’t want to push themselves when it comes to creative writing, wordplay, metaphors, stuff like that. They can be great in their niche and some people understand that, but I’m a person who really really wants to be recognized one day as one of the best. I’m a person who cares to put the work in to study the craft, so I wouldn’t make a statement like that unless I could back it up. I know I’m pushing myself to become one the best writers and rappers alive.
Talk your shit then!
Oh man, you have to. Especially if you can back it up. Now if you can’t back it up, I wouldn’t recommend it. [laughs]
Any goals for yourself at this point in your career?
Oh yeah, of course. With this being my first EP and the timing of the EP with COVID still going on, I have not done any big shows yet. Once I got off the show I was definitely traveling and getting booked for different events, but I want to definitely get on some festivals. I’ll travel hopefully when all of this has calmed down and it’s safe to really go on tour soon. Do more live performances. Hopefully if not this project, on one of my next singles or projects getting recognized for an award. Oh, and performing at an award show, I have a lot of things I plan to do in the near future.
What’re you most excited for as the world starts to open back up?
I’m excited that festivals and shows are back open. For a lot of artists, that’s such a big part of it. Of course making the music and putting it out for your fans to listen to is one of the most important parts, but also getting out and being able to turn up with your fans. Having people come out to see you performing these songs live is a big deal. The whole virtual live performances are nice, but it’s still not the same type of feeling. I’m excited that festivals have opened back up, for me to get a chance to get on one hopefully in the near future. I’m excited to get out and live in my craft. Be able to go out to hopefully meet fans again, do some more Meet & Greets.
Anything else you want to let the people know?
I’m really excited for everyone to hear this project, I hope people really really listen. I hope they listen to the lines because I love putting in fun metaphors and wordplay in there that people have to catch. Rewind, listen back and say “oh shit, she said that like that?” I’m excited for people to really get to know me. I am working on more music like this, this is just an introduction to what I can do. You’ll hear a lot more songs from me like “No More” where it’s melodic but still rap, just so much more to come.