On her debut solo single, “Becky from the Block,” Becky G raps, “Now one day I’ma be a crossover/Right now it’s just who is that girl?/But one day I’ma be all around the world.” The song, released in 2013, is a riff on Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny from the Block.” (Lopez appears in the video.)
Those lyrics have proven to be prophetic. Becky G, after years of trying to flesh out an identity, has finally found her musical footing. She’s a bona fide crossover star, but not the way you’d think. The 22-year-old singer has found her biggest successes by moving from English to Spanish-language music. Her debut full-length, “Mala Santa,” was released in October. She’s also clocked millions of streams collaborating with Latin urban stars Natti Natasha, Bad Bunny and Maluma.
It’s a long way from Becky G’s first hit, the 2014 pop trifle “Shower,” which she says “just about anybody could’ve sung.” And though you might recognize her as the Yellow Ranger in the 2017 “Power Ranger” reboot or as sassy singer Valentina on “Empire,” Becky G has found now her power by just being herself. She performs Thursday at RodeoHouston, and before that, talked about identity, loving George Strait and being inspired by Selena.
Q. You recently played the San Antonio Rodeo. Are you ready for RodeoHouston?
A. I actually also played the San Antonio Rodeo many years back, very early in my career. I have some very dear friends of mine that are from Texas, some that are also artists themselves, and I remember them telling me, ‘San Antonio Rodeo’s gonna be amazing, but that’s just the warm-up, man. The day you get to Houston Rodeo, I promise you, that is gonna be the day.’ And it finally came. Not that one means more than the other, but they’re such different experiences.
Q. The past year has been full of career highs. Can you feel the upward motion?
A. I think that was the first time I really felt like, ‘OK, now I’m really making a dent.’ I’m kind of starting to scratch the surface of all the many, many things I hope to accomplish one day. Every milestone and every step forward has been such a learning curve for me. I don’t really ever feel like I’ve made it. The truth is, I work in an industry where things are forever changing. There’s always something new to learn and new people getting involved. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps me excited.
Q. Your album ‘Mala Santa’ (‘Bad Saint’ in English) gives us two sides of you, from the title to the cover.
A. ‘Mala Santa’ to me is more than just an album. It’s setting the tone for this new era of Becky G. I feel like so many people discovered me as a young girl. I grew up in those beginning stages of viral videos that had the power to change people’s lives like it did mine. A lot of people for a lot of years were like, ‘Becky G, the singing in the shower girl.’ I was ready to move on and establish something new. I wanted to conquer one of my biggest fears, which was doing Spanish-language music. I really found myself in this new phase of my career, in my Spanish music, and ‘Mala Santa’ embodies that, the duality of what I feel my experience has been. Being Mexican, but being American as well. Being an artist that was discovered as a rapper, but I also sing. Going from that young girl to now being a woman. Just totally owning that we are so multifaceted and we can be just about anything we wanna be.
Q. Why was singing in Spanish scary?
A. There’s just such a lack of representation of our experience. Being born here in the United States of America but identifying with being Mexicana and being so proud of that, it was such a constant struggle living my life simultaneously in both worlds. I didn’t know which one I belonged in. When I decided to start my Spanish project, it was taking agency and saying, “This is me, and I shouldn’t be made to feel any less than.” I wanna show people that. I wanna make some waves here.
Q. You’re performing at the Selena XXV tribute concert in May and sang on a cover of her song ‘Si Una Vez.’ What does Selena mean to you?
Selena is everything all at once. Somebody who hasn’t been with us for quite some time has still been with us all this time. That speaks so loudly to her presence, what she represented and what she accomplished. And then you think of all the amazing things she would have been able to accomplish if things didn’t take a turn the way that they did. I think that hope, that drive, that unity she represented with her fans and with her family, just her authenticity, that is what continues to inspire not just myself but so many other individuals.
Q. What’s your favorite Selena song?
A. That’s like asking me my favorite food because I love food in general. You have the obvious ones, like ‘Como la Flor,’ ‘Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,’ but I also love ‘Dreaming of You.’ It has a sweet spot in my heart. Those are my top three.
Q. First album you purchased?
A. I remember this so vividly. I had one of those little portable CD players. I got the Christina Aguilera album with ‘Genie in a Bottle.’
Q. Since we’re talking Rodeo, favorite country singer?
A. Believe it or not, I’m such a country girl. I’m convinced I was from Texas in a past life. George Strait is an obvious one. But I also grew up listening to Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts.
Q. Must-haves on the road?
A. I’m gonna sound like such a millennial, but my cell phone. That’s how I work and that’s also how I say goodnight to my family. Also, bringing at least one family member with me. My DJ, Awsumo, is my cousin. We grew up together.
Favorite junk food?
Hot Cheetos with limón. Or, it’s not really junk food, but Fruta cut up with pico de gallo and tajin. So good.
Favorite TV show to binge?
I like watching true crime shows. Cold cases and whatever, all that stuff. I don’t know why. It’s an easy watch for me. I know that sounds so crazy to say. If I’m home, I’ll just put it on and do laundry and clean my house.
WATCH George Strait – I Cross My Heart VIDEO BELOW:
You’ve collaborated with everyone from Lil Jon to J-Hope of BTS. Who’s left on your wish list?
JLo is one of them, and I got to mark that off the list very early on. Everything else, I’m kinda chillin’.