New Jersey native pineappleCITI inspires dancing. Her latest single, “Dance,” released on Red Bull Records, features undeniable hip-shaking grooves. Packed with cheeky punchlines and an effortlessly smooth flow, CITI summons memories of lost summers and late-night parties. From 2017’s self-titled debut to 2019’s neonBLUE, her tunes unlock something base in the listener.
A self-professed light in a cruel world, CITI’s desires extend beyond music. Her hopes touch on books, motivational speaking, and more. You can hear it all in her music, which isn’t shocking when you consider the artist born Brittany Dickinson survived a near-fatal car crash three years ago. The crash changed her perspective on life, making her savor every day, and put that energy back into her tunes and into her dream of making it in music, which she’s had since the age of six.
Inspired by her musical family, CITI puts on for Jersey, but she also puts on for the queer community. You hear it all over “Dance” and other smashes like “I Need A Coupe” and “Who.” There’s a security to pineappleCITI’s music—she knows who she is, and she is unafraid of her truth. Of course, that truth will go on to create space and inspire others for generations to come.
Let’s start with Jersey. What does NJ mean to you?
New Jersey is everything for me. My first single that went viral back in 2016, “Rose Colored,” I was reppin’ Jersey. I’ve always had such a strong pride for where we’re from. Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah. When you come up from a state with legendary people, it gives you the drive to be legendary yourself. That’s what being from here has done for me, just my motivation to become who I’m becoming.
At what point did you realize it was music or bust for you?
After being a daycare teacher for two years back in 2014. I took on a job that was supposed to be part-time, and I wound up being caught up in the nine-to-five. I saw the money coming in and had bills to pay. I was actually pretty depressed working that job, but I loved the kids. I used to make songs for the kids to learn better. When I did that, my boss came in, and she was like, “Wow! You sing and rap really good! You should make a children’s album.” That was it for me—let me get up outta here. Even through mundane life, my talent and passion is showing through.
I quit my job that day. Once you put in that work, God will carry you the rest of the way. I met my producer Fresh that same week, and within two weeks, we had made my first album.
You radiate positivity, which I imagine is partly because of your near-fatal car crash three years ago. How did your recovery inspire you?
My car accident was maybe two months after quitting my job. Everything happened very, very fast for me. My song was taking off; it was on Hot97, and labels had started calling me. Scottie Beam and Elliott Wilson had reviewed my song the same day I got into the car accident. I remember being so excited and then getting into that accident five minutes later. It showed me I’m human. We all have an end date. I wanna go out living my purpose and my dreams.
There was even a moment in the car, after the accident, I had a watch on… I felt like it was God talking to me. God was like, “Take your watch off, put it in the passenger’s seat.” As I’m putting it in the passenger’s seat, the airbag flies past my face. If I didn’t take my watch off, my nose could’ve been broke. A bunch of different stuff.
Not being able to walk for two years let me know we’re not invincible. I wanna go out knowing I did everything I’m supposed to do on this earth.
It’s the same with me and my brain surgery—I knew I had to write.
Everyone has that “Aha!” moment. You might not have any money, or you might be facing eviction. Everyone hits that point in their life where they know what God whispers in their ear is what they’re supposed to be doing.
You’re dedicated to your community and making bigger moves outside of music. Can you share some of that with me?
New Jersey doesn’t really have a hub. We feel like we need to leave in order to prosper. I want to get us to a point where we allow Jersey artists to shine through. There’s so much talent here. I wanna help other artists in the next generation propel Jersey to another place.Aside from that, I wanna get into motivational speaking, writing books, acting. Music is my passion, but it’s amazing how my eyes have been opened to all the other things I didn’t know I was good at. Songwriting for other people. It’s so many other things I wanna try my hand at! I wanna write a book to help people get up from their rock bottom.
You’re so serious about spreading positivity.
I’ve been down before. I’m not positive all the time, but what helps me is there’s always somebody who I’ve been positive to that’s gon’ bring that positivity back my way. It’s all just karma, man. I don’t do anybody wrong. I know for sure, what you focus on is what you manifest. I’m pushing past obstacles and know I have the ability to do whatever I set my mind to.
What’s something people always get wrong about you and your art?
Originally, people assumed I was just a rapper. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s so much to my musicality. I love making R&B songs. I’ve written pop ballads for Kelly Rowland. With my first song, “Rose Colored,” because it was so many bars, people expected to only see that side of me. But the more you listen to my music, you’ll understand I’m a very multifaceted artist.
The new single, “Dance,” feels like exactly what 2020 needed. How important is it to you to help people with your music?
Very important! If you listen to 99 percent of my songs, there’s a message behind it. With “Dance,” the most important thing was to give people what they needed during this time. Maybe you just need a pick-me-up in the morning. With all my songs, I want people to find some comfort beyond it being a fire beat and some nice words.
Are you ever worried people aren’t open to receiving positivity so they’ll count your music out?
I’m not really worried. That’s just a fact. There’s so many people—there’s gonna be an amazing amount of people—if they hear your music, they’re gonna like it. I don’t worry about who doesn’t like my stuff, because there’s so many people who will. I don’t make my music for people who don’t like it. I started off because I was passionate, and by the grace of God, there’s other people who found it cool, too.
Finally, I just wanted to thank you for being open about your sexuality in your music. Why is that important to you?
First off, I’m glad you and your partner was able to get down to “Dance,” man. That’s amazing. It’s important to me because representation is important. Think about Kamala Harris winning the Vice President-Elect… What that means to little Black and brown girls… It’s important for me to take on that same role.
At first, it wasn’t intentional. I just happened to be Black and gay and a woman. That’s who I am. But people relate to that! I’m gonna continue relating to myself, and there’s so many people who relate to me being me. I’m extremely happy by the joy people get from being able to sing a song and not having to change the pronouns. That makes my day.
Photos by Thomas Falcone.