“Hey Mama,” David Guetta’s current single featuring Nicki Minaj and Afrojack, is the French producer’s latest dance hit to cross over to pop audiences and invade the Top 20. The crackling dancehall track from Guetta’s 2014 effort Listenhas become the album’s biggest hit in the U.S. to date, moving up eight spots to No. 19 on this week’s chart, and represents another winning collaboration for Guetta and Minaj, who teamed for the Top 10 hit “Turn Me On” in 2011.
Minaj handles the salacious verses on “Hey Mama,” but the chorus is driven byBebe Rexha, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter best known as the featured artist on Cash Cash’s 2013 electro-pop hit “Take Me Home.” That’s Rexha’s voice singing “Beating the drum like dum di-di-day/I like the dirty rhythm you play” over squelching horns on the hook — and although the singer is credited as a co-writer (along with six others) on “Hey Mama,” she is curiously not listed as a featured artist on the track next to Minaj and Afrojack.
“We talked about it — I actually emailed Guetta about it,” Rexha tells Billboard. “I really wanted to be featured on it, because, you know, I’ve been signed and dropped, and now signed a second time, so it’s been hard. What ended up happening was that it looked like a lot of names on the title, so they wanted to keep as many low features as possible. That’s what I was told, and it makes sense to me. I guess more than two [featured] names don’t look good on the radio.”
Rexha, who has reinvented herself on Warner Bros. Records after dissolving her original deal with Island Def Jam, previously contributed to a Hot 100 smash when she co-wrote Eminem’s “The Monster,” a No. 1 single featuring Rihanna. Although Rexha hoped to see her name next to Minaj’s on “Hey Mama” — which the songwriter penned alongside Guetta, Minaj, Giorgio Tuinfort, Afrojack, Sean Douglas and Ester Dean — she ultimately believes that pop fans will gravitate toward her voice regardless of how the song is listed.
“It’s tough hearing your voice on the radio, on a chorus, and knowing that people think it’s another artist,” says Rexha. “It’s cool, and I see how fast it’s growing, but I think it will get people talking anyway. I’m just blessed to be a part of it, and that hopefully my voice will start becoming instilled in people’s brains. When my own stuff gets going, I’ll sound familiar to them.”
Rexha will look to jumpstart her solo work when her new EP, I Don’t Wanna Grow Up, is released on May 12. Featuring the single “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy,” which has sold 19,000 downloads to date according to Nielsen Music, the release will be followed by a handful of Europe shows and then a 43-date stint on the Warped Tour this summer.
“‘I’m Gonna Show You Crazy’ is one of the most angst-y songs on the EP, because it was written during when I wrote ‘Monster,'” Rexha notes. “I was upset and feeling dark, and a lot of these songs are just about me growing up and trying to love myself and understand relationships. I think what people get confused about is that they want to label me as this EDM girl, but a lot of this stuff is genre-less. One of my biggest inspirations was Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. The most important thing to me is that it’s all really raw.”
Guetta could not be reached for comment for this story, although he posted an Instagram photo of Rexha on Tuesday night (Apr. 28) with the caption, “Check out @beberexha she sings hey mama together with @nickiminaj and is a dope writter too.” As for Rexha’s other work with Guetta, the singer-songwriter is anxious for more people to hear the Listen track that she is officially featured on, the album cut “Yesterday.” “Hopefully that comes out [as a single],” she says of the song, adding that Guetta is “really awesome to work with.”