Growing up with three siblings and lots of cousins in Inglewood, California, Becky G learned early how to stand out. "You gotta do something to get people's attention when there's new babies every three weeks," says the 16-year-old rapper with a laugh. "My way was just being extra loud."
Today, Becky (born Rebbeca Gomez) is a new kind of rising star – a third-generation Mexicana who raps, sings and dances, and has serious mainstream appeal and a remarkable ability to slide between the Latino and American worlds. CoverGirl recently made her its youngest-ever spokeswoman, and pop hitmaker Dr. Luke signed her to his Kemosabe Records in 2011 after seeing her pop covers on YouTube. (She's currently working on her debut LP for the label.) "I was impressed with her confidence," says Luke. "I think she can go as far as she wants."
Becky says watching her family fall on hard times in the past has kept her humble even as her career blows up. "Every day when I'm working, it crosses my mind," she says. "Now there's nothing better than when I come home and I'm like, 'You know what? I wanna buy groceries today.' I can do little things like that." A highlight of her year came when hero Jennifer Lopez made a cameo in her video for "Becky From the Block" – one of her most popular clips, with 7.3 million views. "I've watched Selena too many times," Becky says. "The part that always stays with me is, 'You're either too American for the Mexicans or too Mexican for the Americans; you can never be in the middle.' But it's like, 'No, you really can!'"
This story is from the November 21st, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.