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The City Girls Are Ready for Their Close Up

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  • Posted on 21st Jul, 2022 15:17 PM

The fierce Miami rap duo have worked for everything they've ever wanted. Now, they're out for what they deserve.

The City Girls do not care about respectability politics. The rap duo, made up of JT (Jatavia Johnson) and Yung Miami (Caresha Brownlee), has become known for unapologetically sex-positive anthems that fit perfectly into the music industry's current women-in-rap renaissance. Their brash lyrics and all-or-nothing approach to success has helped them redefine what it means to be Black, bougie, and, most importantly, a boss.

This summer, the pair are taking their get-money mantras on tour across North America with Jack Harlow—and onto the small screen as co-executive producers of Rap Sh!t, a new HBO Max comedy series from Insecure's Issa Rae. The show, an example of art imitating life, follows leads Mia (KaMillion) and Shawna (Aida Osman) as they break into the music industry from Dade County, Florida, just as the City Girls did.

"I am just excited for all women in hip-hop. We came from nothing and made it into something," Yung Miami tells BAZAAR.com. The duo are joining our Zoom meeting from separate locations but are so in tune they could finish each other's sentences. While Yung Miami is playfully unfiltered, JT's energy gives mogul in the making. And it's clear from even a brief conversation that each one is the other's truest backer.

The City Girls push back against limited notions of who is deserving of luxury and stand as bosses in their own right. They are recognizable to women groomed in inner cities, who are inclined to speak with bravado to ensure survival. The pair's connection to Miami's rich hip-hop history runs deep. Their debut music video, "Fuck Dat Ni**a," features cameos from hometown heroes DJ Khaled and Trina (who is Yung Miami's godmother), and the song samples vocals from "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" by another Florida emcee, Khia. Last year's breakthrough bop, "Twerkulator" (a callback to the 1992 house hit "The Percolator"), was even sanctified by another legendary East Coast emcee, Missy Elliott, who directed the video. A mega-popular mixtape, two albums, and prominent collaborations propelled City Girls to the Coachella Festival stage earlier this year. "We showed people we could work an audience," JT says matter-of-factly.

Marcelo Cantu

It was a triumphant return to performing for JT, who was arrested in 2017 while shoe-shopping at Nordstrom and charged with buying clothes and gift cards using stolen credit card numbers. She was ultimately convicted of aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud, and served 24 months in a federal correctional institution. (Her incarceration inspired the song "Intro (#FreeJT)" and an accompanying social media movement).

Fans rallied around her while she was in custody, and she and Yung Miami stayed focused on the next steps of their career. "When Caresha was on tour with [her] baby, she would send pictures of her costumes and with her dancers. I was always saying, 'Dang! I can't wait for us to go on tour together,'" JT explains. "This show with Jack Harlow will be my first time going on tour with her."

In addition to the Come Home the Kids Miss You Tour, City Girls have an album on the horizon. Their latest single, "Good Love," features Usher and interpolates "I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)" by Miami legends Luke and 2 Live Crew's track. "I'm excited," Yung Miami says of the era ahead. "Fans can expect a whole lot of City Girls shit and a lot of ass shaking. It's going to be the whole City Girls experience." Adds JT, "City Girls shit—fun, elevation, and bars!"

Each of their previous records is a master class in finessing. The City Girls get what they are supposed to acquire, and they are not shy about their expectations. That consistent "Nothing comes for free" doctrine rouses City Girls' core fan base, even if it might offend the listeners incapable of financing their lovers.

On "Top Notch," JT raps, "Say you gotta pay for this … I just got my hair did, then shit on hoes like it's a hobby … I ain't goin' there, that's an opp party / I'm a bad bitch, I'm a Black Barbie." When asked to elaborate, she says, "I really feel like everybody should know their worth. If you want somebody to pay for it, make them pay for it. If you are cool with whatever agreement y'all got going on, be cool with that too. But for me, I stand for getting what I deserve. I require a lot, because I give a lot. I feel like there are women out here that give so much of themselves and don't get much in return."

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The world, they agree, tends to go out of its way to humble confident women. But they're not interested in letting that happen. Says JT, "My confidence is unshakable in and out of the studio, because I already have been through a lot. Words can't break me. People can't break me. I've been through damn near everything." More often than not, whether engaging in business or love, you get what you pay for. JT's message is straightforward: "Don't give what you're not receiving."

Yung Miami habitually raps from that same songbook, though there's a different motivating factor behind her grind. "It's because I got kids to feed! So I have to get this money," she explains. The mother of two has a retail website, CareshaPlease.com, where she sells everything from luxury pieces to candles to satin sleepwear. She also maintains a popular podcast of the same name, produced under REVOLT, where she discusses life, entrepreneurship, and relationships with her industry peers.

Everybody should know their worth. If you want somebody to pay for it, make them pay for it.

"I see Yung Miami really honing in on her voice and understanding the power of her influence not just as a rapper, but as a boss," Isha Thorpe, the platform's senior managing editor, says. "Today, it's Caresha Please. Tomorrow, it could be her launching her own production company to give voices to the people of Miami who go unnoticed."

Yung Miami describes her ambitions in no less humble terms. "I am manifesting to become a billionaire," she says. "I want to use music as my stepping stool to do other things. I would like to get into fashion and movies."

And why not? She and JT have already lived to see their own come-up inspire an HBO show. As Rap Sh!t co-executive producers, they're able to help guide the storytelling around Mia and Shawna's Miami experience. "That is my city. That is where I am from. It means everything to me. Dade County is how I get to rap about what I rap about," Yung Miami says. "Working with Issa on the show is a great look. It's been a good experience to enter more of the acting scene and do [the series]. We're still learning and growing," JT adds.

The City Girls have spent years fighting for their dreams to be taken seriously. Now that they've arrived, there's no limit to what they'll do next.

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