Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
MyVerse is bringing back battle rap.
Intrigued by underground cyphers she saw growing up in Orlando, Fla., the Puerto Rican-Panamanian poet started to use her gift of wordplay in a more competitive setting, participating in freestyle battles throughout the city.
“What people really don’t know is Orlando has a big freestyle rapping scene. It’s embedded in our hip-hop culture. We pride ourselves in freestyling,” MyVerse, born Natalia Pitti, told FIERCE. “I used to watch them spit at the top of their head and I just thought, how is this possible? I wanted more. So I went on the Internet looking up freestyle battles, and I came across Lady Luck vs. Remy Ma, and that changed my life. I was just like, wow, this is fire. This is so cool.”
Nearly a decade later, it’s her own rhymes that are stirring the interwebs. MyVerse’s bars are so tough that they caught the attention of Nick Cannon, who asked the young talent, who’s also a member of the historic breaking and hip-hop group the Rock Steady Crew, to audition for Wild ‘N Out, joining the cast officially in 2019 for season 13.
We chatted with the southern-based Latina emcee about the art of battle rap, spitting on the Wild ‘N Out stage, joining the Rock Steady Crew, her upcoming projects and more.
FIERCE: You grew up in Orlando, Fla. — my ‘hood, 407, Eastside, ayyy — so I know it’s not exactly the first city that comes to mind when we think of hip-hop. When and how did your love for rapping begin?
MyVerse: My first love that got me into rap was doing poetry. I started off as a poet in the scene out here, and I was just really fascinated with wordplay and with the structure of bars. I was really fascinated with multi-syllabics, when you can get a big word and find three words that rhyme with it. I started doing poetry at 12 years old. My mom didn’t let me listen to the radio, because she was super Christian, so I couldn’t listen to hip-hop artists. So my discovery of hip-hop was on my own. It was wanting to learn the culture. I realized I was a fan of lyricism when I heard Eminem, and then that opened me up to Pun and Biggie, and I just loved it.
FIERCE: You were raised in a Puerto Rican-Panamanian home on the Eastside, which boasts of Latinx and Caribbean culture. How do you think the music around you, from what was heard at home to what folk were playing on the block, informed your style today?
MyVerse: A lot of my friends were form New York, and a lot of them were listening to Pun and putting me on to music. Like I said, my mom didn’t let me listen to rap, so my friends were my outlet. I can’t say there’s like a definitive album that did it for me, because this was the era of burning CDs, so my friends would burn CDs with Mobb Deep, Nas, Cormega. Not the most righteous way, but that’s how I learned. This was also the mixtape era. My first hip-hop CD I bought was a mixtape, which was Street Wars by P Cutta, and, in a way, it opened up the door for battle rap for me, because that was a CD that had strictly beef, street wars.
FIERCE: I know that you studied journalism after high school. At what point did music become something that you wanted to pursue more seriously and professionally?
MyVerse: I went to school for like a year, and I realized I couldn’t afford the books. I couldn’t afford any of it. That shit becomes expensive, and I wasn’t about to take out student loans. So I went back into the poetry scene. I started doing poetry on beats. At first, it sounded so bad, like so bad! There’s a science to writing bars, to writing flows, and I think that fascination with multi-syllabics can hinder you because you’re now so focused on rhyming versus getting your message and flow. And, if I’m being real, this is something I’m still learning. But at this time, a well-known local artist named Madd Illz asked to manage me and do an EP together. Unfortunately, we were going in two different directions, so I decided to part ways, but this is what helped me start taking this seriously. I started doing the math, and I started thinking, if I can sell a CD at $5, and sell 10 a day, that’s $50 a day. I can do that and multiply. And I kept going from there.
FIERCE: I’ve interviewed various Spanish-language and English-language rappers for this series, but what’s different about you is that you specialize in battle rap. Why?
MyVerse: I just fell in love with battle rap. When I was young, my mom didn’t let me do shit. Everyone was at the skating rink or at house parties bumping and grinding, and I wasn’t allowed at any of it. But on Wednesdays, a big church called Faith Assembly, I know you know the one, would hold youth night, and everyone would come out, every one.
FIERCE: Oh, I know! I would be out there, too. Goldenrod, my block haha.
MyVerse: Right! It was the spot to be at. Afterwards, rappers would circle up and battle each other. What people really don’t know is Orlando has a big freestyle rapping scene. It’s embedded in our hip-hop culture. We pride ourselves in freestyling. I used to watch them spit at the top of their head and I just thought, how is this possible? I wanted more. So I went on the Internet looking up freestyle battles, and I came across Lady Luck vs. Remy Ma, and that changed my life. I was just like, wow, this is fire. This is so cool.
FIERCE: Yes, the good ol’ days. I definitely remember. So you then become inspired to rap, and your skills land you a spot on Wild ‘N Out this season, though I know you’ve also been on the show in the past. How did this pop off for you?
MyVerse: From battle rap. After two mixtapes into my career, I started battle rapping, and I guess Nick Cannon or his producers caught wind of it and had emailed me to audition for the show. MTV had originally wanted to work with me on a show they were working on called Rap Report, where you’re doing the news through rapping. That ended up not happening, but I guess I was still on their radar, so when the opportunity to audition for Wild ‘N Out came, they hit me up. It was crazy! But it was also a wild time in my life, a time of transition. I had just moved to Atlanta. But I ended up making it work and went to New York for this audition. There, I meet Jess Hilarious, B.Simone, Pretty Vee, they were all trying out with me. We had to do some games, and, really, I was just so-so on that. But then a producer asked me to battle Nick, and they really, really liked it, so I got a callback. I was in the finals to be a cast member, but I believe if God say it’s your time, it’s yours, but if it’s not, it’s just not. Everything went wrong that day. There was a tropical storm, so my flight was delayed. I was supposed to go on national TV at 9 p.m., and I ended up arriving at the studio at like 8: 30 p.m. I was a mess, and I definitely didn’t perform to my best abilities and didn’t make the show. That was season 9. The producers told me to take improv classes and audition again, and I did. I moved back to Orlando and I signed up for classes. Then they hit me up for season 13, asked me to audition, I did, and now I’m on the show. Being on the Wild ‘N Out stage is very different from battle rap. As a performer, you have to be like a standup comedian. You have to believe in your joke and stay committed to it.
FIERCE: Watching the show, it looks like it’s just such a hilarious and fun space to be in. What has been your wildest, in a good way, experience on the show thus far?
MyVerse: I think the wildest experience, to me, is being able to go toe-to-toe with people I look up to in the battle rap scene. Charlie Clips, Hitman Holla, Conceited, these are cats that I have so much respect for, so to be able to go toe-to-toe with them bar for bar is an honor and it bigs me up. I get to be there with these great lyricists, so that’s wild. I just can’t believe it all came form battle rap.
FIERCE: You’re also a part of the Rock Steady Crew. That’s major! What does it feel like to be a member of such a historic group for both hip-hop and Boricuas?
MyVerse: Nena, I don’t know. I believe it’s God’s divine appointment. I’m such a spiritual person and believe things work out the way they are supposed to. In 2010, I was emceeing this party, not rapping, and Crazy Legs was there. In the last 10 minutes of the event, I was like, let me just rap real quick, so I did, and he looked at me like, “Oh, you nice.” So we exchanged information, collaborated a bit on his podcast, but then he asked if I was interested in being a part of the crew. I obviously said yeah, but he made it clear that it wasn’t going to be easy because it was something everyone in the crew had to agree to. Rock Steady is a family thing. We’re a family. This is us building with each other. And so I started hanging out with them a lot, for like years. In 2013, three years later, I was like, “what’s good? Am I ever going to be a part of Rock Steady or what?” So they were like, “all right, let’s get this rollin’.” January 1, 2014 is when I became an official member of the Rock Steady Crew, and it was just like another day with the family. Just coolin’. It was natural.
FIERCE: I know that you also work closely with Crazy Legs and have been a part of the rebuilding efforts the group has led on the island. Your “100% RMX,” for instance, talks a bit about the struggle and resilience you saw on the island. Tell me, as someone who self-identifies as a humanitarian, what role do you think your music can play in resistance and social justice efforts?
MyVerse: Man, I feel like music is such a powerful entity. I think it’s like the fifth element. We got water, fire, earth and air, and then there is music. It’s a universal language. It’s something we feel within that moves us. It can change your life. It saves your life. It opens up a way of thinking you would have never thought before. How amazing hip-hop is for so many people, underprivileged people, helping them make something of nothing. Music brings us together. We speak to each other in code and are able to send our message and really wake people up. It paints a picture. It provides imagery. That’s what Curtis Blow did for New York through hip-hop.
FIERCE: Absolutely! This year has already been an exciting one for you. Can you tell us what else is in store for you in 2019?
MyVerse: Well, most immediately, I’m dropping a mixtape, and it’s called Natalia Did That. I’m also dropping an album called the Social Experiment, and the campaign for it is ill because it’s like a bunch of social experiments. It’s me experimenting in social settings and seeing how people will react to certain things and what people will do if certain scenarios happen. That’s the campaign around it. So I’ll be releasing singles between all of that, but it’s going to be cool.
FIERCE: You’re still early in your career. What would you like people to say about MyVerse in 10 to 15 years?
MyVerse: I would want them to say that, man, MyVerse is the greatest rapper of all time, haha! That’s what I want them to say. She’s a great rapper and she did it with integrity.