Wynne had no plans to rely on her viral notoriety — including getting misidentified as Eminem’s daughter — to jumpstart her Hip Hop career. Despite racking up millions of views on social media thanks to brief clips of her rapping, the Portland-based MC decided to play the long game.
For the West Coast artist, fleeting recognition wasn’t part of her goals. Instead, Wynne strived for longevity and respect, even if it meant not taking some of the easy layups presented to her.
In October, Wynne began what she considers the first chapter of her career by dropping her If I May mixtape. The 11-track project features an all-star lineup of producers — Sounwave, Thundercat, Hit-Boy and DJ Dahi, to name a few — as well as collaborations with Dreamville’s J.I.D and Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard.
Following the release of her debut, GroovyTracks caught up with Wynne to discuss her journey up to this point. In the first half of a two-part interview, Wynne explains why she didn’t try to capitalize on her viral fame, opens up about the strangeness of being called Eminem’s daughter and details her commitment to the Portland Hip Hop scene.
GroovyTracks: What was your introduction to Hip Hop and when did you first start writing raps?
Wynne: My introduction was through my older brother. We shared an iTunes account, so I just kind of got all the music that he had, and he had a lot of Eminem, Kanye, JAY-Z and Lupe. I just kind of fell in love immediately when I heard it and was doing a lot of reciting and trying to rap along to it. When I was 12, I was like, “Damn, I should do this with my life. I should actually write them.” And so that’s what I did every day, I was just locked in my room writing 16’s and ended up here somehow.
GroovyTracks: Do you remember a specific moment that you said, “OK, I can do this? I’m good enough at it. This could be my career.”
Wynne: I think that when you’re a creative, you have to be a little bit crazy. And I’m crazy enough to think that I can do anything. I think when I first started doing it, I was like, “Damn, I actually think I’m pretty good at this.” I wasn’t — I was trash, but I thought I was good. So, that’s all you need to continue. And so I really decided when I was 12, I was like, “I’m not going to do anything else. I’m not going to have a plan B. I’m just going to do this.” So, it was pretty early.
But I think even when I was in high school, I started doing like … There’s a company called TeamBackPack, I don’t know if that’s still around actually, but they do cyphers. I went to a competition they had in L.A. They had a couple thousand, 2,000 people and I was one of the 200 finalists or something like that. They held this big event in L.A. and I went. I was 17 and competed against these 28-year-old dudes. I stood up on a mic and I did my cypher audition and shut the room down. I think that was the first time I was like, “Dang, I think I’m actually better than some of these guys who’ve been doing it.”
GroovyTracks: Yeah, I think TeamBackPack actually might’ve been where I first heard you. It was one of those cypher videos.
Wynne: Yeah, that competition that I was entering was to do like an official TeamBackPack cypher. And then it would come full circle a couple of years later when they did one in Portland and that ended up going viral as the Eminem’s daughter thing.
GroovyTracks: Speaking of going viral, what’s it like for a brief clip of you spitting to be your first impression to so many people around the world?
Wynne: It’s super weird. I think the first time it happened, it was a little bit shocking. It was in 2016 I believe, and it was very much like a roller coaster. It was up and down. Because I just posted … it was just like a little freestyle. And I’d never posted one of those of me on social media before.
And at first, I was reading all the comments, which were overwhelmingly positive actually. It was shocking. But every now and then, you read those that just kind of send you into a dark hole. And the next year that it happened was through WorldStar and that was three times as big the first one was. It was cool because I had already been through it, so I learned what not to do.
It feels a little bit weird because I never set out to be the viral white girl because it’s pretty corny. I didn’t want to be a gimmick. So I intentionally kind of set myself back and tried to prevent myself from posting too many because I didn’t want that to be the narrative. I didn’t want that to be the way that I built my career.
We went and met with labels, managers and things like that. I didn’t really put anybody on my team because I didn’t really want to capitalize off of it. So I met a couple of people who, like my manager I met off that video, and I wouldn’t sign with him for another year. We built our friendship and then just our relationship before we really went into anything.
And the same thing happened when I went viral off the Eminem’s daughter thing last December. Obviously, a lot of opportunities kind of come through that a lot of people hear about you. And I guess I wasn’t really like dropping music off the back of these viral moments because that’s not necessarily … I didn’t want to market myself as Eminem’s daughter — as a white rapper and as a woman.
As a white rapper, you’re already under the shadow of Eminem. And as a woman, you’re already under the shadow of a man. So being Eminem’s daughter was the ultimate son, it feels like. I mean it’s definitely a compliment, but I didn’t want to let myself be the face of that.
So I’ve tried not to jump on the train of too many of these viral moments. It’s built my fan base and that’s helped. But with this project release, we really wanted to show people this isn’t a gimmick. This is something I’ve been working for my whole life.
GroovyTracks: It’s got to be bizarre when you get misidentified as Eminem’s daughter and it explodes. To this day, are you still dealing with that perception of people thinking that you’re really Em’s daughter?
Wynne: Oh my gosh, yes. Even like a couple of weeks ago, the thing resurfaced. It pops up people’s Snapchats and Facebooks, and I got another 10,000 followers over a week. Because it doesn’t stop; it’s so clickbaity. And I even had rappers who I idolize and look up to hitting people on my team — not knowing that they worked for me — saying like, “Hey, have you see this video of Eminem’s daughter?” And they’re like, “Yo, that’s Wynne. I work with her.” I’ve had people recognize me for it. It’s super weird.
GroovyTracks: When these viral moments were happening, you were at the University of Oregon. What was it like walking around campus and having people recognize you?
Wynne: It was cool. It definitely started to crescendo the more and more moments that were happening. But I would be in class on my first day, and they say like, “Turn to the person to your right and tell them something about yourself.” And so I’d be like, “Well, I make music.” And they’d go, “I knew it! I saw you on my Twitter. I knew you were that girl. I knew you went here.” So that was weird. That happened a lot actually.
Or I’d go out to bars on the weekend and I’d be taking pictures with people and my teachers started to notice it on their own Facebook pages. That actually ended up working out in my favor because they kind of helped me work around the amount of schoolwork, so I was able to do music full-time.
So it was definitely weird and an adjustment, but it was also really sick.
GroovyTracks: You mentioned getting attention from labels. Were there any offers you were seriously considering or were you headstrong about staying independent?
Wynne: I was pretty headstrong. It was always exciting because you dream of that moment from the time that you start. You just want to be wanted as an artist, you want people to invest in you. So, it was definitely super exciting. But my team and I all know this is a longterm thing and something we want to build brick-by-brick.
So when people came to offer us off a viral moment, it didn’t feel super authentic. Some of the labels even called themselves out. During meetings with a couple of them, we’d walk in and they would kind of give their spiel about, “We saw you on Twitter and you’re going viral and that’s cool.” And then I would play the music and they would be like, “Oh, we’re sorry. We’re doing you an injustice. You’re an artist. And you’re not here to be a viral little one hit situation.”
That was super respectable and made me feel good about the assumptions that I was making going into it. So, there’s been a couple of moments that have been exciting that are still being fleshed out. But I’m pretty happy with being independent for the time being. And when that time comes, if it comes, that could be in two months and it could be in two years. But we’re not in any rush.
GroovyTracks: You touched on not capitalizing off those viral moments and not rushing into your first project. What’s impressed me is the way you slow played it and put out a few singles. Can you tell me about that decision process of playing the long game? How did you avoid the pressure of flooding the market to maintain recognition and keep your name out there constantly?
Wynne: I think it has a lot to do with confidence and the team that I have around me. I think when those moments happen, a lot of people think they were planned or that we paid for the WorldStar post. We didn’t create that Eminem thing as a marketing campaign, we didn’t pay WorldStar. These things really just happened.
And because of that, it’s not like we could prepare for them. When the second video popped off, my team was out of the country, my family was gone, my right hand was in a different city. I was sitting by myself trying to figure it out. So, it was partially just like we need to take time to figure out what we’re doing because … it wasn’t like a wrench in the plan. That isn’t the right word, but it was something we weren’t ready for.
We didn’t have a project sitting on the back burner ready to get dropped. And when we started assembling the team, it was very much a conversation I was having with myself like, “What’s my sound?” I’m an MC, first and foremost. Up until the last couple of years, I wasn’t really making full songs with hooks. So, it was a lot of artist development and just kind of finding my path, finding my voice as an artist, as a writer.
And so when those things started happening, it was a pretty easy decision because I was just confident. I didn’t feel like I needed a viral moment to launch me into a career. I’ve always been ready to build day-by-day, one fan at a time. I treated it more like a boost, more of a career boost than a starting point. On my team, we don’t even consider my chapter one even having started until the day we put out the project. A lot of fans consider that chapter one to be the first time they saw me on WorldStar. And that’s really when we started piecing together the pieces of what we hope to be a longterm career.
GroovyTracks: Listening to If I May, what stands out to me was just the full range on display and songwriting. The content is much more than just, “I rap well. I’ve got bars.” Was it really important to you to make your first statement something so well-rounded?
Wynne: Yeah, I didn’t want to be boxed in with my first project. I probably listen to more R&B than I do Hip Hop these days. I was working with The Illaquips. They actually produced a track on it called “Ken Mastrogiovanni,” he was the drummer. And I really started freestyling with them. We would sometimes freestyle whole hour-long sets at house shows. And in doing that you start to … you have to sing. So pretty much all of the melodies, most of the flows, some full songs with lyrics were just freestyle. Like “Hungover” was freestyled and that’s a pretty full-on R&B cut.
I guess I didn’t intend with any particular song to be, “OK, now I’m going to make an R&B song, and I’m going to make a this. And I’m going to make a this.” But it just kind of happened and I fell in love with it. That’s some of my favorite music to make. I wanted to show people I’m an MC at the core, but I can make songs. I can lean pop, I can lean R&B if I want to. So, it was a fun challenge to get myself to write to other styles of beats and try melodies and harmonies for the first time.
GroovyTracks: On “The Thesis,” you not only collaborated with Damian Lillard, but you’ve also got some Portland Hip Hop luminaries in Vursatyl and Illmac. Was working with them a moment of validation? Did it feel like you’d received your credentials in the scene by collaborating with these guys?
Wynne: Definitely. I think as much as a Hip Hop credential, it was just like city love. Like Vursatyl is one of the first people I met on the scene. He was actually there at the TeamBackPack cypher event, which was my first time showing face in the Portland scene in 2017. He did a cypher that night as well, and he’s such a legend in the city. So is Illmac, and obviously, Dame doesn’t even have to be said. And I knew that for the project and just for repping the city and repping the ever-growing Hip Hop scene here, I needed to put together a cypher record with all of those people.
And “The Thesis” is actually a local monthly Hip Hop showcase that happens in Portland on the first Thursday. They let local artists come and headline in like 120 cap room and build their fan base that way. So in the spirit of that, that’s why I wanted to bring all these people together. And it’s different generations, it’s different sections of the city. I think that’s really beautiful. Nothing like that has been done in Portland before. So, I felt honored to be able to pull it together.
GroovyTracks: Do you feel a responsibility to put on for Portland in a way that hasn’t been done before?
Wynne: Yeah, I don’t know if I call it a … it doesn’t feel as much like a pressure or responsibility. It’s almost like a passion. I really believe in the city itself. It has a long way to go in terms of the sociopolitical climate and the development in terms of a real industry culture here.
I feel like I just kind of have a little bit of an edge to help develop it. And it feels like it’s given me more of a purpose. Now, I feel like when I go to L.A., I’m not there to look for an apartment and to establish myself in the scene there. I’m really there on a mission to put on for Portland.
And I’m actually from a suburb of the city called Lake Oswego. The scene brought me in. And the OGs here — StarChile, rest in peace, DJ OG One, Cool Nutz — all of these people have been here developing the scene and curating it for years. And there haven’t really been artists to break out. Like there was Aminé, but a lot of people don’t know that he’s from Portland. And that the city wants a champion. So if I can be one of the people to help develop that, then I’m going to do everything in my ability to make that happen.
Check back soon for Part 2 of GroovyTracks’s interview with Wynne.