Having come onto the scene attached to Kreayshawn, one of the most polarizing figures in hip-hop’s recent history, Lil Debbie clearly values her independence. “I just want people to know it’s fucking hard,” the Bay Area rapper tells me defensively, exasperated by all the hate and shade thrown her way. “Let a bitch, like, you know, live.”
Nearly 45 million YouTube views later, many people likely recall her—in oversized spectacles and a denim vest—from the “Gucci Gucci” video, the stylishly silent Teller to Kreayshawn’s braggadocious Penn Jillette. When that video blew up in 2011, Debbie (otherwise known as Jordan Capozzi) was just barely old enough to buy alcohol. After her unceremonious ouster from White Girl Mob, she found herself adrift. Over the past two years, however, she’s built her brand, aggressively cultivating an online fanbase through social media, collaborating with streetwear labels like ALIFE and Married to the Mob, and securing the support of rappers like Snoop Dogg and Riff Raff.
Judging by the tenor of our conversation, Debbie’s experience has hardened her. The industry, as she frequently calls it, tore apart friendships and subjected her to online bullying. Informed by this, she comes across confident and cocky, a product of growing up in public. She casually drops self-confident boasts that essentially goads her haters, of which she seemingly has many, at least if “Bitches,” the latest single off her recent Queen D EP, is meant to be taken at face value. Though not adverse to naming names, she throws thinly veiled barbs at certain “white girls” signed to major labels like Def Jam and imprints like Young Money Cash Money. While there’s still something kind of sympathetic about Debbie, don’t you dare call her a victim. A self-described “open book. she’s benefitted from her sharp tongue, her outsized online persona feeding the social media beast. Debbie is undeniably aware that aligning with someone as divisive as Riff Raff further feeds into this image of how she sees herself or at least how she wants others to see her.
Noisey: I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since CMJ when you opened for Riff Raff.
Lil Debbie: Did you like it? Did you have fun?
I came to the show to see Heems because I’m a Das Racist fan. I got there early so I got to see most of the openers.
But that wasn’t your first New York show.
No, no, no, no, no. I had previously went to New York and performed with Freddie Gibbs.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time asking you about stuff from your past. But tell me about your influences, what you listened to growing up.
I’m from the Bay so the people who had influence on me were a lot of Bay Area artists like Mac Dre, The Jacka, J. Stalin. I also listened to a lot of Madonna. My Mom was a huge Carly Simon fan, a huge Tina Turner fan. Janet Jackson, of course. The Spice Girls—like, to this day I wish I was Sporty Spice. I’m kind of sheltered in listening to music. I listen to a lot of Brazilian jazz and stuff. I just can’t keep up with all the random ass artists that come out nowadays. There’s just, like, so much going on to keep up.
You’ve just dropped your new release Queen D. How do you cut through all that noise, the competition out there?
Luckily I came into the game when there wasn’t really anybody like us. I don’t like to talk about Kreayshawn and V-Nasty, but I feel like we kind of paved the way and opened doors for female artists to finally be themselves. Not just focus on ass and titties, and what you’re wearing, being a video vixen, being a video hoe. We made it okay to finally be yourself. I feel like no one can really take my place. I mean, everything I’ve done, I’ve done. And everything I’ve done in the past is being recycled in the industry now.
When you stand out, that invites people to question and challenge. A lot of the lyrics on Queen D are targeted at haters. I was like, wow, she has that many people coming at her?
Oh yeah! My career was built on bitches hating me. I was kind of pushed out of White Girl Mob. They didn’t wanna fuck with me anymore. After that, Kreayshawn was slandering me a little bit on the Internet. As much as I love Kreayshawn and love what she did in the music industry and all that shit, her fans really fucking suck. They’re so fucking rude and they’re bullies. So I was bullied for a really long time—and not even just by Kreayshawn fans, but by Kreayshawn. And from V-Nasty, from other people that I knew. I lost a lot of friends because of the whole situation. I lost a lot of friends because I entered this industry.
Me rapping—and I hate saying this—was derived from hate. I got so much hate and people saying, “You’re never going to fucking be shit. You’re never gonna make it.” I still get it, but it’s not as bad anymore. I was like, You don’t think I can do it? You don’t think I can make music that’s as good as what Kreayshawn put out? You’re fucking tripping. She had a writer. Everyone was delusional. Everyone was tripping. So I did what no one wanted me to do: I made music. And my music ended up really good and a lot different from what anybody else is doing right now.
Still, there are people who are discovering your music through people like Riff Raff or because you’re playing shows in their towns. It must be nice to be noticed for what you’re doing right now.
Exactly. I’m happy about it. I wanna go on tour with, like, Beyonce and 2 Chainz or whatever. But it’s really cool that I can go on my own mini-tour and have sold-out shows or at least sell half the tickets. I’m not a signed artist. I’m not with Def Jam. I’m not with Young Money. I’m not with an investor who gives me $80,000, $20,000, $5,000 for anything. So it’s cool that I can do my own show and be the headliner.
You have this online presence that makes you hard to ignore or not engage with. You’ve got your Debbie’s World web series, Twitter, Instagram. You’re documenting a lot of your life online.
I basically don’t have a personal life. I’ve sacrificed that for the people though. My life is an open book because there are girls out there exactly me. There’s a lot of female rappers that are signed and doing their thing but it’s like, how relatable are you? You look good, you’re bad as fuck. But how relatable are you? People just want someone to relate to, emotion-wise, music-wise, anything.
You’re taking the time to participate in Twitter trending topics like #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday). Do you see that direct fan participation as vital to your come-up?
I feel like people know about my style and my originality because of Twitter. I’m just me. I don’t even know why people want me to be their Woman Crush Wednesday, but I’m thankful. It shows me people know what’s going on. My whole thing ever since I moved to L.A. is you have to touch the street. You have to touch the people first, before you go and sign to Def Jam or you sign to Young Money. Because you just look contrived. You look contrived. It’s a set up. They needed a bad ass white girl, so they signed one to Def Jam. They needed a white girl in Young Money, so they signed one to Young Money. But were they in the street first? Did they do collabs with artists in the street first? For me, it’s about touching the people before you touch huge industry shit. People aren’t going to feel you if they feel like they’ve seen it from somebody else first.
I’ve always been an underdog. I probably always will be an underdog. But guess what? People like the underdog, because people can relate to it. The other day I was watching this music video with Lil Herb and Lil Bibby, like ghetto-ass gangster 19 year olds rapping in Chicago. It has three fucking million views! They’re standing around not doing anything. But you know what? People wanna see that real shit. People love it. It’s so weird to me. But, you know, whatever.
It’s interesting to see who has your back. You got a co-sign from Snoop, which is amazing. He said, “I got a lot of love for Lil Debbie, out the Bay Area. She makes great music, real hip-hop music from the underground. Understanding the game, the dynamics of the game, as well as being original, being fly, staying true to her roots. It is what it is.”
The real ones, they stuck with me. I’m blessed to have that. Fat Trel, SD from GBE, Riff Raff. I’m blessed to have those people in my life, supporting me and backing me. [Snoop], in general, is a fucking awesome person. Period. I don’t think I’ve heard him speak negative talk about anybody ever, as long as I’ve been around him.
Tell me about your video for “Bitches.” Where did that idea come about?
I like doing good music videos. I feel like anybody can go on the street and shoot a music video. I’m sick of seeing that, benchpresses and graffiti. And then people are flying to other countries to shoot a video, wasting so much money. So I decided to shoot on a boat in the water because I didn’t see any females doing anything fun like that. Everybody wants to be so serious… I wanted it to be like Lil Kim-esque, but not too extreme. I’m not into transforming my hair or my makeup or being some weirdo bitch. I have a director. He helped me do “Bake A Cake,” which was completely my idea. [For “Bitches”] he wanted to do something with a little Debbie and an older Debbie and see how it would all come together.
What’s going on with your next project California’s Sweetheart?
That is almost done. I’m talking to you while getting ready to go to the studio. I have like four more songs to finish and then I’m putting it out. It’s my baby. I’m really excited about it. I’ve done the photos for it. I want it to be perfect. It’s my real project and I want it to be amazing. A lot of people pressure me, “Why aren’t you putting your shit out? You only have one song a year.” Who cares? You either fuck with me or you don’t. All my beats are good. Everything I do is fucking catchy. There’s nothing you can really say to that.
Who else is on the tape?
It’s just me. I don’t believe in the hype. I don’t feel like I need anybody else’s stamp to make it in the industry. That’s why I don’t have any features. My thirst isn’t that real for other features. I want people to see what I can really do. I don’t need anybody else on my mixtape to make it better.
What do you want people to know about Lil Debbie that we don’t know already?
A lot of people think that I’m a hardass or that I have, like, a bad attitude. My Twitter people perceive me on the Internet like a whole different person, but I’m a really sweet person. I’m fucking funny as shit. Literally my life is an open book to the public, so people know almost everything about me. I mean, my fans sometimes fucking don’t even call me Lil Debbie; they call me by my first name. I’m a pretty sheltered person. I don’t take bullshit. I’m fucking hilarious. I smoke a lot of weed. I’m out here.
If I wanted to be super famous and signed to a label, if I thought that was the best idea for me, I would’ve been done it. People are really mean to me. They hate on me, call me thirsty for fame. It’s all because of being in stupid ass fucking White Girl Mob, honestly. I will always fucking catch heat for that shit. I just want people to know it’s fucking hard. It’s hard being an independent artist—a white female independent artist. Give me some fucking slack.
I know people ask you questions about a lot of old shit. I wanted to get a sense of what you’re like as an artist at this point in your career.
Thanks for not asking me any stupid White Girl Mob questions.
Gary Suarez lives in Queens and tweets on Twitter - @noyokono