Baltimore rapper Rye Rye, a protege of M.I.A., could be hip-hop's next breakout star

Rye Rye has been on the cusp of rap stardom for some time. About three years ago, the trendy, provocative rapper M.I.A. discovered the Baltimore rapper, whose real name is Ryeisha Berrain, and hooked her up with a major record deal.

Last week, Rolling Stone magazine named her an artist to watch.

While her long-delayed debut album, "Go! Pop! Bang!" won't be in stores until May, she has just released a a free, 18-track, downloadable mix tape, "Ryeot Powrr, to drum up support for it. The 20-year-old East Baltimore native draws from both pop music and Baltimore Club, and still loves dancing at the Paradox.

Question: You're well known as a rapper, but in this mixtape you cover not just Ke$ha, but Miley Cyrus and Willow Smith. How did you pick the covers?

Answer: They're songs that I like personally. They were my favorite songs in 2010. Every time the Miley song ["Party in the USA"] came on in my car, I just sang along to it. The chorus is great. I like Miley singing it. Fans of mine probably say, "I don't listen to Miley Cyrus," but I just added my dirty lyrics and fun-ness to it.

Q: Not many people would make a connection between the two of you.

A: I felt that connection because her chorus was saying, "It's a party in the USA," and I thought to myself, "I'm the legit party person here," so I thought it would be cool to work it. I never could imagine it being associated with rap and club, but it worked very well.

Q: How long did it take to record it?

A: Just two takes. The whole mix tape was recorded in two weeks.

Q: One of the hallmarks of your music is its sense of fun and frivolity. "Witchdoctor" is a good example. Do you write with humor in mind?

A: I think about the chorus first, then I think of the beat. I don't aim for funny, but that's my whole vibe. I like to keep it fun.

Q: You're also well known for your colorful outfits. Where does that come from, growing up in Baltimore?

A: It came from traveling. When I was in Baltimore, I was a pretty typical girl. I wasn't experiencing all this stuff I'm experiencing now. I toured with M.I.A., and her style rubbed off on me, then I developed my own style. It also comes from the fans.

Q: What's the ideal outfit?

A: Lots of colors, and light T-shirts and leggings. Anything that's popping with patterns, colors and prints. It's sort of fun and sexy at the same time. When I started, I just wore what felt comfortable. M.I.A. got me more into color, clothes that show off the body, but in a way that isn't too sexual or grown-up. I just want to be fun because my music is definitely representing that.

Q: How much of your music is influenced by her and by growing up in Baltimore?

A: I think it's 50-50. All of my music represents Baltimore because I grew up listening to Baltimore Club music. I'm a dancer. When I make music, I go in that direction. I just want to share our sound.

Q: Where did you dance when you were younger, and do you still go?

A: The Paradox. I still go, here and there, when I'm not on tour. It feels like home. I'm around all the people I grew up with. I go to dance with my friends and to show people that I'm still normal and not stuck up. When I'm there, I'm in my zone. It influences my music as well because I'm staying connected to that Baltimore vibe

Q: You're a prolific tweeter (@RyeRye). What do you get out of it?

A: I used to not tweet. I think people realized I have a great personality and they kept telling me, "You need to let the fans know." I find it funny. I enjoy the connection with the fans.