LOS ANGELES (AP) — You’d be hard pressed to find a rap duo doing it like City Girls. They’ve been bringing life-affirming, pretty-girl scam rap to the masses since they were featured on Drake ’s “In My Feelings” and launched into superstardom with their 2018 debut “Girl Code” and its hit single “Act Up.”
A lot has changed since then. Three years ago, the Miami-based duo of JT and Yung Miami released their sophomore album, “City on Lock” shortly after it was leaked. They’ve worked to make sure things move as smoothly as possible with their third full-length album, “RAW.” It’s City Girls, as fun as ever — with marked growth.
“’RAW’ is just being authentic and being ourselves,” says JT, who did most of the speaking in their interview with The Associated Press.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the album — true to their spirited party records and moments of real vulnerability — came easy. Across the last three years, the duo hasn’t felt immune to the pressures that accompany fame and influence creativity.
“I feel like, when creating music, it relates so much to your life, and as your life change, your music change. So, it’s a lot of pressure from different sides, like people saying, ‘Oh, you don’t sound like your old self. Or people just basically saying, ‘I want to hear growth in the music,’” she continues. “It’s a line of division as an artist, when you’re creating.”
Of course, there’s a lot to celebrate here, from the NSFW club banger “Piñata” and “Tonight,” which samples Lil Kim, to the JT freestyle “No Bars,” her first solo single since 2019’s “JT First Day Out,” which led to the launch of a No Bars Reform initiative, created to provide resources to other formerly incarcerated women and help them rehabilitate into society.
There’s also an all-star list of collaborations on “RAW,” from the dizzying trap of “Static” featuring Lil Durk to the Dr. Luke pop record “Flashy,” with Kim Petras. “Kim Petras is beautiful. I love her songs. I love her music,” says JT. “(When) she sent the demo back in, she sounded amazing.”
Then there’s their track with future Super Bowl halftime performer Usher. “Originally Chris Brown was supposed to get on ‘Good Love,’ but I don’t know what happened with that,” says Yung Miami. “So, I personally reached out to Usher, I sent the record, he sent it back, and that’s how ‘Good Love’ came about.”
And a collaboration with fellow Floridian Muni Long on the sexy R&B tune “Emotions.” “I just hear her voice on it,” JT says. “She writes great music so we felt like she would be perfect for that song.”
That track follows the sing-along rap record, “Show Me the Money,” emphasizing the no-skip, smooth transitions of “RAW,” what JT refers to as “turn down, turn up, turn down, turn up” sequencing.
The math is working. When asked about their place in hip-hop — on its 50th anniversary, no less — JT is acutely aware of City Girls’ position. “Every time I think about, like, us being rappers, I always feel blessed. Like, damn, we are really rappers. We are really a part of hip-hop,” she says, expressing particular gratitude for being “the only female rap group right now. “And I think we were the first female rappers to go platinum since Salt-N-Pepa, and to chart over than Salt-N-Pepa… It’s a great feeling. I feel like we doing our thing and we will continue.”
As for their listeners: “I want them to feel good, you know, liberated,” she says. “I want our album to kind of be an escape from this world because it is always so serious and it’s always so stressful.”