Six years ago Rebecca Marie Gomez, also known as Becky G, went through a midlife crisis. Midlife crisis, the musician said, of course, the term is relative to her current age — 16 years old.
After her parents lost their home, she and her five other family members moved into her grandparents’ converted garage — making Becky G “one of six in a garage the size of a bedroom,” she said in an interview with the Daily Trojan.
She started to think about what she could do to get out of there.
“My way of doing that was music,” she said.
And despite her family struggles and young age, the 5-foot tall peppy singer and rapper has made her way into the music industry, recently releasing her debut single and music video, “Becky from the Block.”
On Thursday, Becky G, the Mexican-American hip-hop singer, songwriter, rapper and dancer from Inglewood, Calif., came to speak to professor Josh Kun’s communication class, COMM 307: “Sound Clash: Popular Music and American Culture.”
Kun, who had been a fan of Becky G’s ever since he saw her “Becky from the Block” music video, thought her presence would be especially inspiring in a class centered around issues of identity, race and ethnicity within pop music.
“I was very impressed by the fact that somebody so young seems so clear about how she is representing herself as a young Mexican-American woman,” Kun said.
During the lecture, Becky G spoke to students about breaking into the industry, growing up, the importance of family and what goes into making music videos. Despite describing crazy situations as “bananas” and sparingly using other colloquial language, the young musician appeared composed and profound, as she discussed important topics such as heritage, belonging and identity in music.
Billy Vela, director of El Centro Chicano in the Division of Student Affairs since 2005, described Becky G as “extremely articulate yet dope and down all at the same time.”
“At 16, I loved how she presented herself, her love for her hood ‘Inglewood,’ her family, and her Mexican roots, which is visible in all her videos. I and many others can truly relate,” Vela said in an email.
Becky G credits her maturity to her experiences growing up.
“A part of the reason why I am so mature, I feel, is because of the way I was brought up and [because of] the hardships of my family,” Becky G said. As the oldest sibling of four, she often had to step up and take on a leadership role in her family. “Mentally, I had to get my stuff together,” she said.
After her family lost their home, 9-year-old Becky G began to think about what she wanted to do with her life — and her mind went in one direction: She wanted to be an entertainer.
For six months, with her parents’ permission, Becky G began to act in commercials and short films. She picked up work wherever she could, handing over money to her family to help pay the bills.
Meanwhile, she did covers and remixes of songs, posting them onto YouTube. In 2011, she posted a cover of Kanye West and Jay Z’s song, “Otis,” in which she rapped 30 bars in a row. Despite the video having what she called a “bro budget,” she nevertheless caught the attention of Dr. Luke, who signed Becky G to his Sony Music Entertainment label, Kemosabe Records.
“I feel lucky. YouTube has become such an amazing platform for people to share their talents. There are still so many underdiscovered talents waiting to be found,” she said in yesterday’s lecture.
Now, Becky G does all she can to represent her culture and her city in the most honest, way possible.
In fact, “Becky from the Block” tells Becky G’s story, including her time at Inglewood Elementary School, her trips to the local Kelso market and her 30 uncles who will chase any boy who tries to date her.
“No matter where I go / I know where I came from,” she repeats over and over in the song.
In her music and videos, she constantly references her family’s past and the struggles she has endured to get where she is.
“It’s okay to be proud of where you come from — it was very natural for me to do that,” she said during the lecture.
“I am Mexican-American. It is part of me and it is in my blood. I even speak Spanglish.”
At the end of the day, her career’s goal is to relate to the Mexican-American community. Vela reiterated that he is very impressed with how Becky G represents her Mexican roots.
“She is well grounded and representing our community extremely well,” Vela said in an email.
Moreover, she works hard to represent Latin America in a positive and authentic way.
“All of Latin America is now adapting to the American culture — and we speak Spanglish. We speak English, Spanish and Spanglish,” she said in the lecture. And that reflects in how she chose to represent herself asone of the faces of Covergirl.
“It’s like making a potion,” she said in class. “I always make sure in everything I do, there is always that little flick of Becky G.”
Not only does she constantly refer to her heritage and past, but Becky G also makes many references to her family.
“There is nothing bigger in life than to have a good relationship with your parents,” she said during the lecture. She went on to compare her parents to bumper lanes in bowling — constantly keeping her within the lines.
Her grandparents moved to the United States so her family could have a better life; thus, she works hard to prove to them that they were successful.
“[My family] came here for a better life. Me doing things in my career is showing them that they really did it,” Becky G told the class.
And when she’s not singing, dancing, rapping or writing, she is doling out mature advice such as, “Learn to not take every opportunity that comes your way,” or, “Have respect for yourself and don’t exploit yourself.”
Respecting oneself can be difficult in an industry that encourages artists to fit into a marketable mold.
“There is a lot of pressure to be perfect … There is a box that [the music industry wants] you to stay in. And I’m kind of, like, I’m going to stretch out of the box a little bit,” she said in the lecture.
Kun, who was already expecting Becky G to be charming and smart, had no idea what he was in for when he invited her to come speak to the class.
“I don’t think I was ready for just how thoughtful and profoundly intelligent she is. She possesses the maturity and smarts of someone far older than she is,” Kun told the Daily Trojan. “I have interviewed lots and lots of artists, and it’s rare that I am this impressed with somebody who is this young. [She is] authentic and honest, but also smart — really smart. I could listen to her talk for a long time.”
And despite being praised for her outstanding maturity, Becky G still strongly believes in a college education. She wants to study business, possibly at USC.
“School is what gets you everywhere,” she said. “My closet is filled with Trojan stuff. It is really special for me to come here today.”