There was no doubt, as 2012 got started, that Kenisha "Tip Drill" Myree was at the top of Miami's stripper food chain. The top-drawing dancer at King of Diamonds, she pulled in as much as 10 grand a shift. There were a couple nights, she says, where she brought home $20,000.
Thanks to a jaw-dropping signature act, which involved sliding headfirst down a 32-foot pole before coming to a stop inches from the ground, and KOD's popularity among high-rolling rap heavyweights, she'd become a hip-hop celebrity, namechecked in lyrics by The Game, among others. An accidental appearance on MSNBC talk show Morning Joe last January even gave her a dose of mainstream fame.
But then things came crashing down -- literally.
In the early morning of February 18, Tip Drill's act went horribly wrong. As she slid down the King of Diamonds pole, an unknown object shook her balance and she smashed, face-first, into the stage. While she recovered quickly enough to appear in Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap" video a few weeks later, she suffered a broken jaw, fractured cheekbones, and lost a kidney. She quit King of Diamonds and vowed to stop stripping.
Fast-forward 18 months, and Tip Drill the stripper is now Tip Drill the rapper. With years of hard knocks and even harder partying behind her, the 26-year-old has her sights set on becoming Miami's most successful female MC since another ex-stripper, Trina, left the pole for the mic.
On a muggy night in early July, Crossfade finds Myree, clad in tight black athletic shorts, a matching black top, and a pink beenie emblazoned with the word "Ratchet" over her bleached blonde hair, at work inside CT Music Studios in Sunrise. A cognac-filled Solo cup at the ready, she's recording a track called "No Time For Dat" for Shit Happens, an upcoming mixtape, the phrase referencing both the unfortunate incident at KOD and her fondness for toilet humor.
"I was rapping before, but it wasn't my main priority, so I had to make people understand why I was transitioning," she says of the evocative title. "And it was because shit happens. I had to do it. And then I'm always taking shits."
Her every move at the studio, including our interview, is captured by a cameraman taping scenes for a reality show project she and her close friend, fellow stripper and former New Times sex columnist Skrawberry, were planning to shop about their efforts to transition out of dancing. (The idea's since been scrapped in favor of a live-streaming online chat show based around the twosome's colorful Twitter presence.)
In the year and a half since she's begun rapping seriously, "Tip" has recorded tracks with Trina, Gunplay, and Ace Hood, opened shows for Chief Keef and Jim Jones, and hit the studio with stalwart producers Cool and Dre. But success in the rap world has been slow to come. Her fame is certainly no greater now than it was in the dancing days: Google Tip Drill and the top result is a February 20, 2012 story on her fall at KOD, by rap news site BallerStatus.com.
However, she issued some attention-grabbing artwork for Shit Happens late last year -- the cover shows her lounging on a toilet, pants down at her ankles -- but the mixtape still has not seen release. "Everything is about timing, it has to be right on cue," Tip Drill says of the delay. "Especially since I'm trying to transition from a stripper to a rapper, it's hard to make people take me serious."
While her output thus far -- "Bands," a run-of-the-mill club track with Lil Scrappy; the trash-talking "Yeah Ho!" -- has not been earth shattering, it's clear that she's approaching her new job with total professionalism. She records endless takes of each line, and frets over the smallest details.
"I don't think there are people who are doing what I do," Tip Drill says of her approach to rap. "All the female rappers now look like Nicki Minaj. They're all fine, they all got their butt done.
"When I want to be sexy, I can do it," she shrugs. "But I burp, shit, fart, and do all the stuff that men do. It's not in my character to be feminine like them. I don't get my nails done. Nobody else is like me. They're all just girls," Tip Drill laughs.
Raised between Long Island and Coral Springs, Kenisha Myree grew up rough. Both of her parents sold drugs and went to prison, and she herself spent time in a group home after getting caught stealing cars, among other infractions. At 16, she'd already tried stripping. "I got caught lying, so I had to stop," she says. Two years later, after giving birth to her son, she was back on the pole.
She eventually found her way to King of Diamonds just as the club, owned by late titty bar magnate Jack Galardi and managed by Miami bass pioneer Disco Rick, was finding its way into hip-hop legend via WorldStarHipHop video clips, and lyrical co-signs from the likes of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne. But like many of the patrons recklessly throwing rent money at KOD's dancers, she got a little too caught up in "the life," she says. Her fall, while physically exacting, proved to be the eye opener that jolted her from an unsustainable lifestyle.
"It made me look at everything differently -- I was outside of the box now," Tip says of the experience. "I was making over 100 grand a year, and I don't have nothing to show for it. So when I fell, it made me think, You ran through all that money? I thought, If I have to do it again, I have to have goals. I need to put my money towards something instead of cars and clothes and shoes and bags."
To help finance her rap career -- she's not signed to a label, or backed by investors -- Tip Drill went back to the strip club, working as a waitress at The Office, KOD's more modest Miami Gardens neighbor. For a few months, she even returned to stripping. But she's since left both behind.
"It's hard when you're dancing, and trying to do something else," she says. "You gotta drink, [and] you have drunken nights where you don't want to get up the next day. I'm trying to take it serious."
Tip Drill's greatest asset on her quest for rap stardom might just be her Twitter persona, which easily ranks among Miami's most entertaining. She compares fart stories with the equally pottymouthed Skrawberry, hilariously breaks down current events, and flirts with fawning female fans. Though she has a boyfriend, Tip Drill is outspokenly bisexual, meeting promising Twitter overtures with a request for a "stomach to ass ratio" pic. ("I like a big butt," she says.)
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The request has become such a catchphrase that she even made it into a t-shirt. And it's led to plenty of sex for both her and her man. "In real life, girls are scared," she says. "They'll say, 'I saw Tip Drill, I was gonna say hi.' But on Twitter, the girls love every famous stripper. There's a couple girls on there, if I tweeted them, I probably had it. Or my boyfriend did."
For someone so open on social media, it's surprising to hear Tip Drill describe herself as an introvert. But she guesses that her shyness is part of what's held back her advancement in the music game.
"I do everything myself," she says. "But there's a lot of shit that I won't do. I have a lot of pride."