"Lil CC let it slap with the bass," Drake raps on his new song "Money in the Grave."
If you're asking yourself who Lil CC is, you're not alone. Before this weekend, the 21-year-old producer had never released a song, and she was much better known for her successful modeling career as Cydney Christine.
Lil CC says she started learning to produce songs as a sophomore in high school, but it wasn't until a chance run-in with Drake at a post-Grammys party that her ambitions as a producer started to take shape. Two years after first messaging Drake and asking him if he could say her producer tag, CC had another conversation with the Toronto rapper about her music career.
"When I ran into him at that event, he came up to me and he was like, 'CC, are you still making beats?'" she remembers. "I was like, 'I kind of just model now, but I have been playing with it.' And he was like, 'Man, you got to send me something.'" CC sent Drake a pack of beats, including one called "Money in the Grave," which she worked on with her friends Ljay Currie and Asoteric.
Then, four months ago, Drake sent her a video of himself recording the "Lil CC let it slap with the bass" line in the studio. A couple of days before Game 5 of the NBA Finals, he told her his plan to drop the song as a celebration of the Raptors' victory. When it comes to the finishing touches, she adds, "As far as I know, Rick Ross got on that very last-minute."
Now, the first song she's ever released is a Drake single. Not a bad start.
On the morning after the release of "Money in the Grave," Complex spoke with Lil CC about the beginnings of her music career, how she wants to inspire more women to start making beats, and what she has planned next. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.
Before we talk about the music, I know you've also had a successful modeling career. How did you get into that?
I first started modeling about two years ago. Before that, I was playing basketball. I've always been kind of tall and thin—lanky-looking. So after I quit playing basketball, I met my manager, Jacob York. And then he got me signed to my agency, Wilhelmina. Ever since, I've been getting booked out of the country on different makeup campaigns, lifestyle campaigns, stuff like that. But I've always had a passion for music since I was really young, which I never thought of pursuing. It was just more of a hobby.
When did you start taking music more seriously?
I've always played music. I played the drums throughout elementary and middle school, and a little bit of high school. I'm more familiar with the drums than any instrument because that's kind of where it started. And then I learned how to produce in my sophomore or junior year of high school. We would literally just make Vines and stuff, like little basic beats. That's kind of how I learned. Then my friends would jump on freestyles. Two years ago is when I started to take it serious.
[Drake] came up to me and he was like, 'CC, are you still making beats?' I was like, 'I kind of just model now, but I have been playing with it.' And he was like, 'Man, you got to send me something.'
What made you want to be a hip-hop producer, specifically, instead of being a singer or any other kind of musician?
I'm not really a talker. When I first meet people, I don't really talk a lot. And I know I can't sing. I liked to rap, but I'm not really the type to be in the direct spotlight. I'm more of a low key person. Like I said, I'm more into beats than anything. I always pay attention to the beat and listen to how they made it, counting the different sounds that they use in different beats. Ever since I was a little kid, I would do that.
You tweeted that "Money in the Grave" is your first placement as a producer. I'm assuming you mean first major placement.
No, this is my first song ever.
Oh, really? So before this, you've mainly just been honing your skills?
Yeah, since taking it more seriously, I've tapped into it more. Yeah, like getting the actual equipment, learning the different plugins and how to use them, and how to make different sounds.
When did you make the "Money in the Grave" beat, and how did the whole song come together?
I was with my friends, and we went out one night after the Grammys, to this Grammy event. Drake was there. It was Drake and Meek Mill's event. I've never met Drake, but I had messaged him two years ago when I started to take producing seriously. I just asked him to say my tags. I didn't really expect him to get on a beat or anything, because back then, they were kind of whatever. So I asked him. I was like, "Oh I produce. I want you to say my tag. I feel like that'll help a lot." I sent him some beats, and nothing really happened after that.
But when I ran into Drake at that event, he came up to me and he was like, "CC, are you still making beats?" I was like, "I kind of just model now, but I have been playing with it." And he was like, "Man, you got to send me something." I was like, "Alright, well, bet, then." I hit up my cousin [Ljay Currie], a family friend, who taught me how to make beats when I was really young. I hit him up and I was like, "Yo, Drake wants me to start making beats again." He was like, "Man, you better do it." So I threw a couple beats together. My cousin went through them and helped me with them a little bit. Then I sent Drake a pack of probably like 10 beats. He picked the one I named "Money in the Grave."
Oh, that was you who named it that?
Yeah, I named the beat "Money in the Grave." Me and my team did. So, yeah, he named the song after that.
Did Drake tell you what he liked about the beat, and why he wanted to rap over it?
He likes the grungy-type beats that still have a little bounce to them. He hasn't really given me any specifics. I just feel like that's why he picked that one. That's more his type, because if you listen to the rest of my beats, I'm very versatile. I can make any type of beat. I just feel like this one was more his speed. Also, I'm from L.A., and it has kind of a West Coast bounce to it. I feel like that's why he picked it, too.
You said you asked him to say your tag two years ago. But on this song, he does even more. He shouts you out on the intro, and then, on the hook, he raps, "Lil CC let it slap with the bass." What was your reaction when you heard that?
That was so crazy to me. A week after I sent him the beat, he actually sent me a video of him in the studio from when he was working on it. He sent me that probably four months ago. I was like, "What?!" I remember I was in London at a photo shoot. I was shooting for a brand, and I was right in the middle of a photo shoot. I was going crazy. That was crazy.
That's awesome. And I'm assuming Rick Ross was added to the song later on?
Yeah. As far as I know, Rick Ross got on that very last minute.
Drake announced to everyone that this song would drop after the Raptors won the championship. Is that when you found out it was coming, too? Was it a surprise to you, like the rest of us?
No, no, No, he told me. He told me probably a couple days before Game 5.
You're credited as the main producer. But Ljay Currie and Asoteric are credited as co-producers. How did that work?
Yeah, Ljay Currie is the family friend who I was talking about who was helping things out. And then the other guy is his friend.
Right before this interview, you mentioned on Twitter that it's your goal for women to produce more songs.
Yeah. While I was coming up producing, it was hard. There were no women to actually relate with, who were going through the music business. The music business is full of men, and I want more women to be into this. I want more females to actually try it, at least. They might actually sound hard. I just want them to try it. I want more females to tap into and get into what men are dominating. I feel like women can change a lot of things. That was my goal. I want to inspire other women to get into something new.
This is your first song and first credit, which is a wild start. Do you have other songs in the works?
Yeah, I do have other artists that have reached out, or that I have reached out to. My goal right now, though, is I really want to work with female artists. That's kind of my next goal. I really want to put out as many songs as I can with female artists. That's my goal for the summer.
Are you going to keep modeling? What's your plan to balance music with modeling?
Yeah, I want to do as many things as I can. I look at myself as a brand of many things. Never in my lifetime have I had myself down to one thing. I've always done a bunch of things, so that's what I'm comfortable with. I'm definitely going to continue to model. I want to be the best model I can be. The best producer I can be. The best CEO, actress, and whatever else I decide to do. I want to be the best at everything.