Snow Tha Product is a 10-year veteran of the recording industry, with a score of mixtapes and a debut album (Unorthodox) under her belt. Currently signed to Atlantic Records, that record’s title aptly describes her against-all-odds career.
Previously plagued by periods of stagnation, Snow is finally starting to smell her flowers. Her work on The Hamilton Mixtape standout “Immigrants” secured a VMA win for Best Fight Against the System, and “Nuestra Cancion” is the hit single she’s always deserved.
Nearly a decade and several hundred spins after I first came across her work on Datpiff, when Snow picks up the phone for our interview, I lead with the wrong question:
“What is it like to be a woman in hip-hop?”
Snow attests that she’s talked about her race (Mexican-American) and gender until she’s “blue in the face,” but at the same time, she understands how discussion can help to break through the barriers to entry in hip-hop.
Noticing the intrigue in my voice, Snow clarifies that the issue isn’t the conversation per say, but rather the binary of audiences. It’s an echo chamber competing with a group of people who are ready to tune out difficult conversations.
If talking about institutional barriers in music has stopped being helpful, what’s the next step? “Start giving props to the people who are doing what they need to be doing, regardless of gender or whatever else,” Snow explains.
Hip-hop, she contends, needs to put an emphasis on the artist as an artist, and the music as music. “They used to always do female showcases and only-female this and only-female that,” she recalls.
In the same breath that the industry spotlights female artists, it also constricts their identities, creating an uneasy sense of tokenization.
Snow’s response to this catch-22 is transcendence, citing Cardi B and Nicki Minaj as two women who were given the opportunity to push themselves as incredible artists—period. Snow sees this wave as a moment for the industry to go beyond “putting a lot of girls on a list, [and instead] make a list with men and woman and just be like, ‘These people are dope!’”
This transcendent attitude has been one of the keys to her success. “Once you start ignoring all of that and believing, ‘I’m dope and it doesn’t matter for what or for who, I’m just fucking dope,’ then you start trying to transcend that,” Snow says. “It comes to a point where my gender or my ethnicity can’t be the first thing that you mention when you mention my music. Some people call me a ‘Latin-femcee,’ but, no, I’m a rapper.”
To help push the unabashed assertion that, above all else, she is a rapper, Snow began to release footage of her shows. The videos turned heads.
“They see that there really are numbers and there really are fans,” she explains. “For a rapper like myself, I didn’t have the hit record. I’m a real rapper, I’m speaking on real issues, and sometimes people don’t wanna hear it. Then they’re like ‘Oh, shit! Your show is fucking dope, it’s an experience.’”
Beyond the shows and the bars, Snow and I agree that personality is king. While Cardi B's work on the microphone is only part of the draw for Snow, the "secret sauce," Snow says, is in her humanity. “She was making mistakes and owning up to them,” she says, adding, “Honestly, right now, your personality and how you talk to your fans is more important than the music.”
Just because there's increased value in personality, however, doesn't mean it's negative; it’s more a safety net. “You can get a single that just pops off, and if you don’t, then your personality resonates with people and you still have a career,” she explains. Conversely, if an artist has an unsavory character, they’re more likely to be rightfully called out. In that way, the personality system has its own checks and balances.
To think a success story rests solely on personality and music would be too idealistic. With money and label politics serving as the predominant gatekeepers for success, I ask Snow how her signing to Atlantic has impacted her career.
“Well, I’ll never shit on Atlantic, because they changed my life,” she admits gratefully. “I had twenty dollars in my bank account, nobody took me seriously—even in my own culture. It wasn’t until a major label gave me that co-sign, that’s when a lot of people starting giving a fuck about [my music]. And [Atlantic] gave me enough money to start.”
Even still, problems with her health and her vocal chords led to Atlantic setting her on their back burner, which might have been a horror story for another artist, but not for Snow. “I went the independent route on a major,” she details with pride. “I went to my brother, my family, my friends. I said we’re going to do our own shit and when Atlantic cares, they’re going to come back.”
And they did come back, ready to push Snow Tha Product in her purest form.
“I can’t promise everyone the Promised Land and not get there. Even when I’m tired or I can’t do it anymore, they push me when I need help. It comes from the fact that I’m not a rapper that’s just doing this for rap; I literally have a culture on my back,” Snow says, mentioning that her mother is sitting across from her on the tour bus.
The Promised Land looks like stability and sustainability. Snow remains ever humble, telling me: “Being a Mexican kid in California that never thought she was going to be a rapper, and now having sold-out shows across the country, to me, that’s already amazing.”
Before hanging up, she puts me on a brief hold to speak to her mother, who is holding one of her baby photos. When she returns, I ask Snow what she would say to her younger self.
Following a sweet sigh, she says: “Don’t focus on the comments, just work and keep pushing.”