This story was originally published April 19, 2023. In honor of the Cut’s yearlong celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, we’re looking back at stories featuring artists who changed the game, plus sharing plenty of new ones. You can find them all here.
Caresha Brownlee wants to know if I believe in aliens. The rapper, one half of the group City Girls and better known as Yung Miami, beckons me to walk past the Maybach and Range Rover parked out front. The 29-year-old is both curious and inviting as she welcomes me into her home in her native Miami and peppers me with questions about my worldview.
Inside is expansive, filled with neutral flooring, tables topped with books about Tom Ford, and beige chairs draped in Hermès throw blankets. The high ceilings in the entryway reveal a set of open stairs that disappear into a second floor. Despite the signals of wealth dotting the 29-year-old’s home, this is a house that is unabashedly lived-in. Toys her 9-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter had played with and discarded line the edges of her home in tiny, neat piles.
After sizing me up and deciding I’m someone she can trust, Brownlee opens up. But her initial reluctance is understandable: Since she and her rap partner, Jatavia Johnson, a.k.a. JT, have rapidly shot to fame, every bit of Brownlee’s life has become fodder for criticism. “I have no privacy,” she tells me. “I feel like I can’t even express myself. If I really want to be myself, I have to do it at home. I can’t freely go out of the house or do like I want to do.” For every bit Brownlee’s life has transformed for the better and become increasingly grand, it seems it has also, for the sake of self-preservation, grown somewhat smaller: “I literally stay in the house,” she says.
She leads me to a room lined with vanity mirrors and glass dressers filled with luxe goods like Chanel jewelry (her favorite label and a stark contrast to the large bottle of Cetaphil resting atop the drawers) and motions for me to sit across from her in a matching pink swivel chair. Her bedazzled velour suit — also pink — shimmers while she lights a Jo Malone candle, and she promises to make me a “Caresha Please” cocktail, a concoction of reposado Tequila and strawberry lemonade with sugar around the rim. As we sit, a pink-and-blue neon sign that also says “Caresha Please” (it’s the name of her podcast and clothing line) hangs above us, gleaming. Behind us, a wall of windows peeks out into the backyard, where a bright-blue pool sits surrounded by both lush greenery and toys I assume her children left behind: deflated swimming inflatables and one tiny cowboy boot.
By now, Brownlee has blossomed like a cactus flower, kicking off her fuzzy green slippers to tuck her legs comfortably beneath her and pulling back her waist-length, jet-black hair into a low ponytail. She’s talking candidly, quickly, playfully, and decisively in her distinct, singsong cadence, the same one she uses when she raps on songs like “Pussy Talk” (“This pussy make movies, wetter than a whale”) and “Rodeo” (“I’ma ride ya like a Bronco”). She tells me all about her recent foray into acting (earlier this year, she starred alongside Nia Long in Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris’s You People, and in the television series BMF) and her new role as a producer (she worked with Issa Rae on Rap Sh!t, a show inspired by the City Girls themselves).
As candid as she may be about her inner world, the rapper is possibly even more inquisitive about what goes on in the minds of others. Her curiosity has led her to start her own talk show called Caresha Please, on which she and guests like rap legend Trina, Megan Thee Stallion, and rumored flame Diddy (an episode that garnered 5.2 million views on YouTube) toss back shots and cocktails and speak frankly about sex, a topic Brownlee simply deems a regular “part of life.” When she asks questions, her sentences begin slowly as she finishes formulating her thoughts and speed up near the middle into the end, her mind moving quicker than the world around her. “I’m very, very curious,” she trills. “I be wondering about people!”
Between your talk show, merch line, music, and acting, you’re doing everything. How big is the Caresha empire going to get?
I think it’s just going to keep getting greater later. I want everything: to be an actor, an artist, and entrepreneur. It’s just my work ethic that’s gonna determine my success. I never expected to be an artist. I will say that I manifested being famous. I always thought maybe I’d be somebody’s baby mama or wife, girlfriend, or something like that, or just an influencer.
So how did you and JT get together? And when were you like, Wait, we can actually do something with this?
We’ve been childhood friends since middle school. We never planned on doing anything together. One day she called me: Let’s make a song. We were just playing around and it blew up. But we never planned to be artists or rappers or a rap group.
You have such a specific sound, and your cadence is so distinct. Are there artists who influenced you?
I think it’s so funny and crazy that you said it is, because I really want to change the way I talk. I just feel like it’s my accent. It’s growing up in Miami, it’s my slang. I talk like my mom.
Why do you want to change the way you talk?
A lot of people don’t understand it, and they take it as being, like, illiterate or not being able to talk properly. I always think about it. I’ll be like, I’m gonna do it, but I never followed through. I can’t disguise my voice even if I wanted to.
So when’s the next album coming out?
Girl, I ain’t even gonna tell! I don’t know, like it is coming, and it will be sometime this summer for real, for real, for real. When you doing a project, it takes time. We’re trying to sit through it and make sure that that’s what we want to put out. It’s gonna hit different.
You and JT became famous very quickly in the past few years. How has life changed? What’s been the biggest difference that you’ve felt in your life?
The privacy part. I feel like it’s a gift and a curse. It’s bittersweet. No matter what you do, you can never please. You gotta be strong, because with the fame comes a lot of attention, a lot of opinions, a lot of backlash. I have no privacy. You could be going through a death, and you still got people that’s laughing about it or joking about it.
That sounds difficult to go from having a normal life to almost having to watch yourself all the time.
I feel like I can’t even express myself. I used to go live [on Instagram] all the time and say whatever. Now, I can’t go live and just be drunk. They make something out of nothing. It’s kind of frustrating.
Do you feel like that changes the way that you move even in private?
Yeah, I would say I’m very aware. Sometimes, I just don’t give a fuck. But then a lot of times, I don’t even want to deal with it. I don’t want to have to clear nothing up or say, Oh, I didn’t mean it like that. So now I’m just more chill, calm, collected, and very aware of my surroundings. When you’re a public figure, you gotta move a certain way.
Would you trade the fame so you could go back to having a more private life?
I wouldn’t trade nothing. Because I felt like it’s my destiny. This is what God wants for me. I just feel like you got to learn how to deal with it.
How did you know you were destined for fame?
I always had such a strong personality that everybody that I came in contact with has always loved me. Before I was famous, I was hood famous. Like, everybody in the city knew me. I was doing club appearances. They would book me and people would come and just want to party with me. I think it was always the way I carried myself. I was popular on the internet. I always had the best men in town. I was just the talk of the town. I was always just that girl!
Are you into astrology at all? Do you feel like your sign manifests in the way you carry yourself?
One thing about Aquarius, if we want something, we’re going to get it. If we speak to it, it’ll come into existence. I don’t know why.
You’re also getting into acting now. Tell me about how that came about.
When I did You People, Kenya Barris called and he had a role that he wanted me in.
You didn’t expect to ever get into acting?
If I’m going to be 100 percent honest, no. As far as in a music video? Yeah, but never in a movie. When I did it, it was kind of cool. It was real fun. Like, it was an experience. I had Nia Long there. I had La La. Nia was like, “You got it, just relax, like, just let it flow.” Learning the lines, they was helping me. And with BMF, I actually reached out to them and was like, “I wanna, do y’all got something for me?”
So you got a taste of it, and you liked it?
You People? I loved it. I was just being myself. But when BMF came, it was just something totally different. I still loved the experience, it was a good experience.
How did you find it different, acting like yourself versus playing a character who is not like you at all?
It was hard for me because the BMF scene, it was so emotional — like my [character’s] husband got killed and, in real life, my baby father got killed. I always say I never got a chance to go through the emotion of my baby father getting killed and feel he’s gone because I was always working, which was a good thing because it kept my mind off of it. It was good and bad. If not, I don’t know where it would have took me. You know how some people go into a deep depression? I thank God I was able to keep working because I’ve got kids. I felt it, of course, but I didn’t have a breakdown until after the fact. When I did break down, it was bad. It was horrible.
When did this happen?
It’s going to be three years.
If you feel comfortable talking about it, you were distracted, working, and when the breakdown happened, how did you know?
I just was depressed. I cried every five minutes. I’d just get in the car and go sit, and I didn’t want anybody to see me crying, so I’d just drive nowhere crying. In the shower crying. Don’t want to do nothing. Don’t want to talk to nobody. Going through memories, going through all of these emotions, and finally feeling like, Why? Just questioning, just a dark place.
How long did you go through that and what brought you out of it?
I went through it for a while. It was on and off. Then I started talking to this guy, this basketball player. At the time, I was just so depressed. I was just so out of my mind. I met somebody new. And he was just something different for me. He just took my mind off of what I was going through. He just came and was level-headed and was there for me.
Are you ever going to write a book about yourself?
I’ve been thinking about it. If I ever wrote a book, I feel like I could sell a million copies.
When was the last time you felt embarrassed?
When BMF came out. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was like, Oh my God, everybody’s laughing at me! It’s okay, I laughed too. I don’t take nothing personally. I don’t give a fuck, whatever. I find laughter in everything. Like bitch, I’m gonna laugh with y’all, we’re gonna laugh together.
My ears are ringing. It’s the rain.
Can you sense when it’s going to rain?
I can smell the rain.
Do you feel like you’re in tune with the earth?
Yeah. I’m very, like … I want to know how we got here, who the first people here were, is aliens real? I wanna know if there’s life on other planets.
Do you think there’s life on other planets?
Do you think so?
I’ll tell you if you tell me first.
What do you think aliens look like?
I think they’re ugly as fuck and they’re a little grayish. Would you run if you saw one? Or would you want to go and touch it? I would run so hard. I went swimming with dolphins once, and I don’t like the way dolphins feel, like the slime. I don’t like stuff that’s not human, I don’t even like cats. Wanna know something? I was on Instagram and I hashtagged cats because I want to see what cats be doing with their owners. And I said, People that got cats are fucking crazy.
The reason I don’t like cats is because growing up one day, my grandma’s neighbor had a cat, a fat white cat. I jumped at the cat, and the cat chased me down. She had to come and call the cat because it was chasing me. I was running, crying, screaming.
What about dogs?
You know what’s funny? I’m supposed to be here interviewing you.
I’m very, very curious. I be wondering about people!
You interview people on your talk show, Caresha Please, which makes me giggle, makes me cackle …
You like it?
Yeah! What made you want to start a talk show to begin with?
Do you know Justin LaBoy? We had did his show in Miami, and Diddy came, and he sat through the interview. After the interview, he came to me, and was just like, “What’s your number?” He wanted me to meet him at his house in Miami. I met him at his house, and he was like, “I think you should do a podcast. You’re good at it. You’ve got a strong personality.” So that’s how it came about.
Diddy was your first guest on your show. You have been so open about your relationship even though a lot of public-facing people normally don’t want to be, and you have let people in. Why did you decide to do that?
I felt like, it is what it is. Eventually, people was gonna find out because he is who he is, I am who I am. We was just like, if we’re going to put it out there, we’re going to be the ones that talk. I don’t like anyone talking for me.
Are y’all still together?
We’re still friends! We’re still good friends! But we’re single. That’s not my man. We had our own situation, I’m not gonna put a title on it. We were fucking with each other hard. We were together every day at one point. He supported me, I supported him. I’ll let the internet call it whatever they want to call it.
You’re so open about sex on your show. Was there any hesitation in sharing that with your audience?
What part, say it.
The “golden showers” thing.
I never said he was the one I did that with. Sex is a part of life. I’m grown, and maybe I talk about it too much, but everybody’s got their personal experiences. Some people get shitted on. Some people live life on the edge, some people boring as fuck. I watch a lot of porn, bitches get peed on. If we grown and we in the house just chilling and want to talk about sex, what’s wrong with that?
Okay, now I want to talk about your upbringing. You grew up in Miami; how do you feel like that has impacted you?
Miami people are so different. Our culture is different. Our lifestyle is different. I got tough skin. A lot of stuff that I can take and I can deal with, most people can’t. Like people’s opinions, I trend damn near every day. Sometimes I wake up and just search my name and see who waking up and talking the fuck about me. It could be seven o’clock in the morning and a bitch is tweeting about me.
Growing up here, your mom was friendly with Miami legends like Trina. What was it like growing up witnessing parts of that world?
I was like, Oh my God, I want to be that. We went to the Dade County Fair, and people were going up to her and taking pictures with her. People were stopping her, we could barely get food. I was like, I want to be rich and famous.
What is your relationship with your mom like now?
We’re like sisters. I can go to her and tell her anything. I ain’t gotta worry about her. I’ve got a mom and a friend and sister all in one. We’re tight. The hardship and the struggle and sacrifices she had to make to make sure I had a decent life, I feel like I owe her a lot.
You’re a mother yourself. How has that changed you?
Being a mom teaches you patience. You think before you say something.
You talked a little bit about fashion, and you’re getting into the world of high fashion with Moschino and LaQuan Smith. What has that entrance into the fashion world been like for you?
I just love fashion and dressing up. I like working with designers just to see where their mind go and just see how they even come up with a design, just to see that creative space. It’s fun.
You have your own clothing line. What do you want the future of that to look like?
I want it to be something like Juicy Couture, which was one of my favorite designs. The Juicy bracelets with the charms. I also love Von Dutch. I want to be one of the biggest designers it can be. It’s just starting, and I have to stay consistent. But I do feel like if I stay consistent and I really do it the right way and take my time with it, it can really be a big brand.
Chanel is one of my favorite fucking … I will spend my savings on Chanel. It’s timeless. I think about timeless pieces, colors, fabric, the details of it, how they stitch it. I had a Chanel bag from when I first started rapping, and it’s perfectly fine. I’ve always been into fashion, but now it’s a passion. I want to sell my own clothes. I want to take what I love from my favorite designers and make my own.
What’s your morning routine?
I wake up at 7:30, get my kids ready for school, take them to school, go to the gym, come back, and do a little nap.
What are your tried-and-true beauty products?
My Anastasia body shimmer. One thing about me, my body is going to be oiled up and you’re gonna see some glitter.
What is the most interesting thing in your bag right now?
My gun. I got my gun license on me.
What would your last meal ever be?
A T-bone steak, loaded mashed potatoes, and broccoli. I love broccoli. And I love, love, love mashed potatoes.
When was the last time you cried?
Two days ago.
Are you normally a crier?
I cry for anything.
What do the next ten years of your career look like?
I don’t like to plan ahead. I just like to live in the moment. Whenever I get so excited for something, it never happens. But I hope Caresha Please will be like Fenty, I hope that City Girls be the biggest fucking artists in the world, and I hope we just prosper.
What would you have been if you hadn’t followed this path?
I really wanted to be a mortician because I’m so obsessed with death. I really want to know why people die, how they die.
Apart from your career, when you close your eyes and you see yourself at 80 years old, what are you seeing? What does life look like?
I hope to be at peace. I hope to be rich, vacationing, traveling the world, and still fucking, of course. Maybe on a yacht, just enjoying life, enjoying what I worked hard for.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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