For six years, four months, and five days, Reminisce Smith sat in the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, a 45-minute drive north from the Bronx, where she was born. Separated from her son, Jayson, and husband, Papoose, she plotted her comeback, studying the rap game. Soon, she came to a conclusion: With the exception of 2Pac, every rapper who served time suffered for it, career-wise, upon release; none found greater success. With social media now allowing artists to  release music and address fans directly, the MC we know as Remy Ma knew she had to start rapping the moment she touched ground.

And so she hit the studio hours after being released from prison on August 1, 2014, meeting DJ Khaled to record the “They Don’t Love You No More” remix. One week later she knocked out a song with Jadakiss. Then a record with Ty Dolla Sign. Then, since it was summer 2014, she touched Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” instrumental. She was 34 years old, without state ID or driver’s license, without health insurance. She had to find a school for her then 14-year-old son, who was living out of state at the time. But she had a plan, and she stuck to it: She’d reestablish her music-industry presence before getting her life in order.

“Looking back,” Remy, now 37, says, “I guess it was a good decision.”

There was more to come. In 2015, Remy joined the cast of VH1’s reality series, Love & Hip Hop: New York, establishing a footprint in another medium. She also scored a hit record with “All the Way Up,” a collaboration with Fat Joe and French Montana that went double-platinum and spawned a slew of unofficial remixes.