Cassie Rytz on being a woman in grime: “Stay driven, have thick skin, go hard”

It's no secret that it's hard being a woman in the music industry. Galdem Sugar star Cassie Rytz explains why it's no different in the grime scene...

Females in grime? That’s a phrase rarely heard. But over the past couple of years there’s been a surge of female talent, especially in the rap community, for example the global success of Stefflon Don. Although this is a huge win for female rappers, there are still injustices. The emergence of Galdem Sugar – the BBC Three show following a group of rising female grime stars – brings these very injustices to light. The all-female cast (consisting of C Cane, Pre Wavy, Laughta, Madders Tiff, and Cassie Rytz) show us their rise to the top, with all struggles included. Rytz – an outspoken 18-year-old from south west London – chats to me about rap, gender, and being on a hit TV show.

So, Galdem Sugar.  What was it like having cameras around you all the time? 

“I didn’t know it was gonna be that big [a deal], you know what I mean? Because the cameras were big: massive things that I’d only seen filming people in The Only Way Is Essex and them sort of things.

“I must say, I really enjoyed it. I knew the cast so it was a lot easier working with them and I knew that what they were saying was coming from a genuine place. It wasn’t a thing where, ‘Oh, they’re just saying this ‘cuz they’ve just met me and they’re bouncing off whatever.’ Even though, again, we got to know each other more personally, we still knew of each other. We still did try and encourage each other so I knew there was no fake… if that makes any sense. Like, nothing was being said just for the show. Yeah, it was from a genuine place so I enjoyed it.”

How did you already know the girls?

“I knew them because obviously I used to go to radio sets a lot and I met a lot of them through that.

“I met Laughta in Soho at a radio set. The first time I met C Cane it was at BoxPark. And I knew of her music as well so I was a huge fan. I knew from radio sets as well, and I met Pre Wavy through radio sets and Girls of Grime as well. Oh yeah, and I met Madders through Girls of Grime as well.”

How do you feel about doing grime at such a young age?

“I feel very, I’d say, at ease now, because when I started doing grime properly I was 16, 17 years old. That was literally two years, one year, ago.

“I was going through a lot of problems that were making me very angry. And I needed a way to express it the most and I just felt that grime had the right… it was the right genre to allow me to express the anger that I had within me. I was singing from before and I just thought to myself, ‘This isn’t expressing the anger I wanna express. It’s not giving me the chance to do that.’ So I just decided to start doing grime and I already had like the flow for it. I was doing skippy flows when I started rapping and it was like… yeah I just thought it was the perfect genre.”

Who are your main inspirations?

“Chip. Definitely. Chipmunk as he started out as. But Chip definitely got me into wanting to do grime. I just loved his wordplay. I just thought, and think to this day as well, no one can touch him lyrically.

“I put out my first single ‘Shell’, which is basically straight bars. [Chip] inspired me to write that song in that way because he used to do songs like ’96 Bars of Revenge’ and he would have straight bars throughout that. No choruses. Nothing. And I just wanted to see how that feels and I wanted to be, like, at his level. Top!

“Big Zuu as well. Big Zuu also like… hard. Hard, hard – that’s all I can say. Big Zuu: I admire him so much.

“Yeah, [Big Zuu] just doesn’t fear anything. He just goes for it. He’s so driven as well. I like AJ Tracey‘s music as well. I like how he likes to dabble into everything and that’s what I’m tryna do as well.”

Any women?

“Yeah. Stefflon Don like I really rate her. She kinda made me wanna dabble more into the kinda dancehall side as well. I released a song called ‘Not the One’ and it’s not really easy writing them kinda songs but it is. It’s like you kinda have to… not dumb down a lot of things but in grime, I’d say I’m more lyrically and everything. In [dancehall], you don’t really have to be. It’s more melodic. It’s more vibey. And that transition is not very easy. Especially when you overthink like me.

“And Spice as well. She’s a dancehall artist, and I’ve been watching her since day one.

“Watching [Spice], she is so driven. I even heard, watching interviews on her talking about her past stories, how her house burnt down and the only thing she had were the two school shoes on her feet and the clothes on her back, and she knew from that point on she had to succeed. She used that to drive herself even harder to where she wanted to be, and that was really inspiring to me.”

Would you say that if you want to be a female in grime, or the music industry, you need that type of drive within you?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You definitely do because especially in this kind of genre, in this kind of scene, it is not easy at all. I mean, I got lucky in a sense where I met a manager that’s actually a very very good manager that showed me a lot of things that I never knew could for an artist, an up-and-coming artist before.

“Even though my manager was there to have my back, it’s still up to you as the artist. You have to put the work in as well. That’s in general anyway. Being a female artist, especially in grime, not a lot of people take you seriously. There’s even a couple people like, ‘Girls doing grime? Like this is mad! What are they gonna say? What do they have to say?’.

“The way men view girls already, especially in the grime scene, the way they view them is a fuckery. So it’s one of those things where it’s not easy for us ‘cuz they already see us as these little weak things: ‘She’s a girl though. She’s a girl’.

“Just because I’m a woman it’s a bit different… like of course it’s gonna be different, we still have different walks. That’s just something we can’t help. Unless you a girl and you’ve hung around with a lot of boys, then that’s a different story. C Cane, for instance, can tell you something different but then again, someone like her especially, will see the differences.

“It’s hard. It’s hard being a female, and I’m not moping about it.”

On ‘5 Hours of Dooms’ you went bar for bar with T-Roadz, a male grime artist. Should more female artists go bar for bar with male artists?

“Yeah, I feel like it’s not a thing where just like, ‘Oh girls, we can show that we can do it too – Fuck men!’. We’re showing you that we can do it too, but yeah, we can stand aside with you lot.

“Like, we’re here as a collective. So we can be professional. We can be friends. We can be great and work together.”

What would you say to a girl who wants to get into grime? 

“Write the hardest bars you can, practice them constantly, and just be the best ever! Always have an open mind.

“With a lot of things we go through, that I go through with my family and everything. I can’t… I just know personally I can’t afford to rest. I can’t afford to quit. I know how close I am, and they can be that close too.

“It’s hard like you really just need to keep your head straight and just kind of take everything as an advantage to get to where you need to go.

“I’m not saying men can’t feel these ways too! I’m would say that it would be easier for them to get into this kinda door than us. It’s just a thing where we need to still keep pushing because it’s not a thing where we’re 100% there yet.

“So you know, just stay strong, thick skin, but also have great people around you – that’s all you need. Anyone who’s giving you bad energy, cut them off.”

Any final words?

“Just, I’m here for the women. Yeah, man. Big up the galdem. I love how the scene’s moving now though, like I must say Girls of Grime is helping out a lot. We need to keep pushing. Getting the right message out there and I feel like we can really change people’s lives. I feel like I can change people’s lives. I can’t wait for people to hear my music.”