There’s only one thing that Danielle Bregoli does not want to talk about, her publicist says at the beginning of our call. While her iconic 2016 appearance on Dr. Phil—responsible for spawning the now immortal catchphrase “Cash me outside”—might have launched her into the public eye, Bregoli is keen to show how she’s moved past the heavily memed encounter. No longer the car-stealing, knife-wielding, twerking 13-year-old daughter who tried to frame her mom for a crime, Bregoli has managed to successfully parlay her way into a bona fide hip-hop career. And she’s actually pretty good.
After her debut single, “These Heaux” (read: “these hoes”), earned her the accolade of being the youngest female rapper ever to appear on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, she inked a deal with Atlantic Records, released three gold-certified singles, and dropped a 15-track mix tape. In her short time as a performer, she’s already been tapped by the Billboard Music Awards and the iHeart Radio Music Awards for her work. All of which is to say that the 16-year-old is taking her music very seriously.
“Usually during the week I’m in sessions six to eight hours a day,” she tells the Georgia Straight on the line from her adopted Los Angeles home. “A rehearsal, or a photo shoot, or filming, or something like that.”
For Bregoli, who raps under the stage name Bhad Bhabie, the toughest part has been the need to persuade people that she’s worthy of her musical success. Often pigeonholed by her youth and bad-girl rep, she finds that some promoters and audiences expect her to be no more than the Dr. Phil caricature—a famous face to front some beats. In reality, Bregoli more than holds her own alongside names like Ty Dolla $ign, Kodak Black, and Lil Yachty—all of whom she counts as friends and collaborators.
“People have certain doubts, or they’ll be shocked that I can do regular things sometimes—it’s kind of weird,” she says. “People will be like, ‘This is low-key fire,’ or they’ll be like, ‘Oh, she’s young, I can’t say anything about that.’ And I’m like, ‘What? Just because I’m young you can’t comment on my music?’ I mean, some people will give me more tips with things, or they’ll be a little bit easy on me. But then sometimes, they’ll just do the, like, ‘She’s young, she can’t do nothing.’ Get out of here.”
Bregoli has grown both personally and musically since 2016. Toning down the outrageous behaviour of her preteen years, she believes that people often make the assumption that she’s still just as bad—even though, by her own admission, “I’m not usually like that.” Instead, she’s putting her energy into developing her talents: her instantly recognizable voice and—despite titles like “Hi Bich” and “Gucci Flip Flops”—often insightful rhymes.
“I think my music is, like, so much differently,” she says of how she’s progressed since she started her career. “It sounds so much differently. When I was young I didn’t really know how to record that well. I was just, like, trying to get the lyrics out. It wasn’t, like, the sound I was worried about. Which sounds kind of dumb, but that was kind of like my mindset. But yeah, it’s definitely different now—I’m now more worried about my sound.
“I want to be the person who proved everyone wrong,” she continues. “ ’Cause everyone always swore I was going to be this little 15-minute-of-fame lil’ bitch that was going to come and go, and I’m here. I keep doing great things, and I’m not going nowhere.”
Bhad Bhabie plays Venue on Friday (May 10).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays