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City Girls, Separated by Prison, Want to be Icons

On the day Drake released “In My Feelings,” the Number One hit featuring City Girls, one half of the Miami duo began a two-year sentence

Yung Miami is readjusting. She’s only been rapping for 11 months, but is already signed to a major label as half of the duo City Girls, released a critically acclaimed mixtape (Period) and is currently featured on a Number One song (Drake‘s “In My Feelings“). Just as everything began to skyrocket, though, Yung Miami was left alone to handle the business; her best friend and rapping partner, JT, began serving a two-year prison sentence for credit card fraud on June 29 – the same day Drake released Scorpion, and City Girls’ career immediately shifted into a higher gear.

“I just keep doing everything we were doing before she left,” Yung Miami, 24, says over breakfast. She flew into New York from Miami the night before will promptly be on a plane back to Florida in a matter of hours. The early mornings and constant travel, already new to the rising rapper, are more difficult without JT, and she’s finding it hard to get motivated.

“I be getting bored and find myself getting lazy. I just wanna lay down.”

Caresha Brownlee and Jatavia Johnson – Yung Miami and JT, respectively – met as teens. They met through mutual friends; Brownlee was close with Johnson’s cousins, and Johnson knew Brownlee’s middle school best friend.

As Brownlee puts it, growing up in Miami means growing up fast. “My childhood was an adult childhood,” she recalls, noting that while she was not allowed to go to strip clubs herself as a teen, Johnson would go to them with their friends at 17.

“Eleven months ago, I was just on Instagram selling clothes, and now I’m on a song with Drake.”

“[I’d go] to block parties and clubs,” she continues. “Everything in Miami closes late. A regular strip club closes at like 5:30 or 6 a.m. A teen club was closing at 2. We teenagers! What we gonna do outside of the house at 2 o’clock in the morning?”

Though rapping came later, a love of hip-hop music started early. “My little boyfriend used to take me to school every day, so I grew up listening to a lot of trap music,” she explains, citing Young Jeezy and Miami staples like Trina and Trick Daddy as early favorites.

A career in music was far from Brownlee’s mind until last year. Instead, her sights were set on fashion. She set up an Instagram page called Caresha’s Collection (“My name’s Caresha and it was my collection,” she explains) and sold bandage dresses and wigs. With her rising star power, she’s hoping that she can eventually get an endorsement or maybe even design her own collection.

Her direction changed last August, however, when she stopped by Johnson’s dad’s in-home studio. As City Girls, the pair recorded “Fuck Dat Nigga” as a joke with a beat they had and Brownlee’s cousin as the engineer. Confident, brash and anti-broke boy, the duo’s first single set the tone for what was to come. Soon, the song caught the attention of Pierre “Pee” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee of Quality Control Music, the same label that signed Migos and Lil Yachty.

The girls signed with QC in November, to their own confusion.

“We only had two songs when they signed us,” Brownlee recalls. “When we got signed, we said to each other, ‘Man, we ain’t no rappers for real. We finna sign this contract like we playin’ with these people!'”

She credits Pee and Coach K with helping turn them into artists during the process of recording the mixtape Period. “I ain’t gonna lie, we got cussed out so bad,” Brownlee says with a mischievous cackle. “We would go in the studio and do, like, one song. It would take us a day to do one song. It would take us six hours to do one verse.”

There was a lot of fear on Brownlee’s part that she had to overcome. She was admittedly inexperienced and felt shy in the studio. “When the mixtape dropped, that’s when I really started enjoying music,” she says, noting that the positive reaction upped her confidence.

It helped, as well, that they were only rapping about their expertise.

“My mom always told me ‘Don’t talk to a man who can’t do nothing for you. If you talkin’ to a man, make him do something for you.’ I don’t wanna talk to a broke boy. Period. That’s why it sounds like we’ve been doing it for a while. We just talkin’.”

“I ain’t gonna lie, we got cussed out so bad. We would go in the studio and do, like, one song. It would take us a day to do one song. It would take us six hours to do one verse.”

Period attracted attention from all corners, but it was an Instagram follow from Drake that blew Brownlee away – and eventually got City Girls on a Number One song. “We was like ‘Is this Drake?!‘” she says of when the follow occurred. “I clicked on that page a thousand times to make sure that it was the verified account.”

Pee called the duo soon after, with news that Drake had a song for them to jump on. They flew to Atlanta where Pee was keeping a copy of “In My Feelings” secure. The lines “‘Resha, do you love me?” and “JT, do you love me?” were already on the song.

“When Pee played the song and Drake says our names, we was like ‘Oh bitch, Drake knows our names?!’ I’m about to cry talking about it.”

After Scorpion dropped and JT began her sentence, Brownlee finally met him in her hometown at a listening party he hosted. She was speechless, but he happily informed her that he was drawn to the City Girls because of his appreciation for the city they represent.

“Eleven months ago, I was just on Instagram selling clothes, and now I’m on a song with Drake.”

Everything between Period‘s release in May to the success of “In My Feelings” has been an exciting counterpart to the stress behind JT’s looming sentence. Johnson’s sentence was handed to her in January, and after a brief delay that was granted so she could attend the BET Awards, she began the sentence on the day of Scorpion‘s release. The friends spent the last few months leading up to it making plans and trying to have fun.

“We want people to never forget us”

“We were prepared for it,” Brownlee adds. The timing of her sentence with the duo’s great successes is not at all lost on her either.

“It’s a minor setback for a major comeback because it’s a movement. Everybody know JT now. When she come back, everyone will be paying attention. When she get out, she gon’ be big. God brought us this far.”

Brownlee is motivated to keep busy, finding herself more confident in the studio now and working on songs so that when JT returns, all she has to do is add her own verse and finishing touches. She won’t let jail keep them from achieving their destiny.

“We wanna be icons. We wanna be legends. We want people to never forget us,” Brownlee says, “Ten years from now we want to still be hot. We want to be big.”

In This Article: Drake, RSX

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