Coi Leray says she's following in her dad's musical footsteps
Coi Leray looks back on her childhood fondly.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 11, 1997, the “Players” sensation was raised in New Jersey by her mom and dad, rapper Raymond Leon Scott, known as Benzino.
As the only girl in a family of six children, she grew up feeling like “one of the boys,” she told PEOPLE. “It was lit,” she said to DJ Vlad of her childhood. “It was tough, but it was lit at the same time.”
Coi and her father, the former co-owner of hip-hop magazine The Source, have gone through their share of public ups and downs throughout her career, with the pair alternately expressing love for one another and trading barbs on social media.
The two have recently appeared to patch things up, with Benzino showing support for Coi during her set at Rolling Loud Miami 2023.
From her upbringing with her mom to following in her dad's musical footsteps, here’s everything to know about Coi Leray's parents.
Benzino rose to fame as a rapper in the 1980s
Born Raymond Leon Scott in Boston in 1965, Coi’s father initially went by the stage name Raydog before later promoting himself as Benzino, according to his Spotify bio.
He first came into the public eye as a member of the group Almighty RSO. They debuted in 1986 and were ultimately picked up and dropped by several record labels due to multiple scandals.
He and a few former Almighty RSO members later created another rap group called Made Men. In 2001, he released his debut solo album, The Benzino Project, with Motown and ZNO Records.
Benzino co-owned The Source
The Source, once known as the “bible of hip-hop,” was the preeminent magazine on hip-hop music and culture throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It was founded by David Mays in 1988, who later brought Benzino on as co-owner and company president.
The pair were both fired in 2006, after several scandals — including a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former editor-in-chief Kim Osorio — prompted major advertisers to withdraw their support. The company filed for Chapter 11 in 2007, according to Billboard.
Benzion opened up about the magazine’s reputation on the Drink Champs podcast in 2020, saying, “Dysfunctional as it may have seemed, the relationship between me and Dave and how it was kind of made The Source what it was. Dave being from college, I'm being from the streets, it just came from two perspectives, and that's how we ran the magazine.”
Most recently, in 2023, he reflected on his actions as a boss during a conversation on the My Expert Opinion podcast. "I had to learn and grow," he said. "I wasn’t right. And that’s not the way to be."
Benzino and Coi’s mother were together for 9 years
The former couple were together for about a decade before splitting in the mid-2000s, on the heels of Benzino’s forced exit from The Source. They welcomed two children together, Coi and her brother Taj. Coi’s mother already had two sons from a previous relationship, while Benzino also had one son (and later welcomed another in 2015 with Althea Heart).
After their separation, the pair worked hard to co-parent their kids, Benzino said on Hollywood Unlocked’s Gagging with Jason Lee podcast.
“I think me and Coi’s mother might have been together for about 9, 10 years, and after we broke up [Coi] still flew to me every Christmas, every summer, every spring, every birthday, I didn’t miss it,” he said, adding that he always strived to be there for his family.
Coi’s mother worked as a bartender to support her kids
After her parents split, Coi’s mom primarily raised her and her brothers on her own in New Jersey. While the family had previously enjoyed a more lavish lifestyle, they had to adjust to a new normal after Benzino’s exit from The Source.
“When I was nine [I] really started understanding things. Money wasn’t flowing how it was [before], so when I moved in with my mom things were different,” she told DJ Vlad.
The "Self Love" singer revealed her family relied on food stamps, and she ultimately dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to pursue work full-time. “It also humbled me,” she shared.
The family’s financial status change was a major shift for everyone, Coi told DJ Vlad, admitting that her mother struggled.
“She was a bartender, she started bartending,” she said. “To adapt from that lifestyle to the new one, everybody had to get uncomfortable. It was about building back up,” she explained, adding that the entire family worked hard to support themselves.
“We wasn’t close to where we started, but everybody was working," she said. "My mom was working, my brothers were hustling, I got a job as soon as I could. I worked at any job – A&P supermarket, Dunkin’ Donuts, Palermo’s Bakery, pizza shops.”
Coi’s mother has always been supportive of her career
Coi’s path to stardom has been unique, with the rapper first dropping out of high school at age 16 to pursue a sales job.
When the singer approached her mother with the idea, she was immediately supportive, Coi told DJ Vlad, explaining that she started making enough money to support herself.
”That decision “made me the person I am today, and it helped me become a young woman,” said the Grammy-nominated artist, who got her own apartment and car as a teenager and worked for Yellowstone Capital.
The "Baby Don't Hurt Me" vocalist has referred to her mom as “one of my biggest supporters,” sharing love for her on TikTok in videos where you can hear her mom leading a prayer.
Her father is a reality star
After his public fallout at The Source, Benzino turned to reality TV. He was a mainstay on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta for the show’s first three seasons, from 2012 through 2014.
He continued his time on the small screen with Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars in 2015, joining the season 4 cast. While on the show, he proposed to singer Althea Heart, with whom he later welcomed a son, Zino, in 2016.
Coi’s mother stays out of the spotlight
While Coi and her father have pursued careers in the spotlight, Coi’s mother has opted to keep the details of her life private. Neither Coi nor Benzino have publicly shared her name, and she’s only made rare appearances on the “Bops” singer’s social media.
Coi and her dad have had a turbulent relationship
Coi and her dad have had several public spats that have played out on social media, starting in 2021.
At the time, she shaded him in the lyrics of her song, “No More Parties,” rapping, “My daddy let me down, but I promise you, I won’t let up / I wanna say f--- that man but the s--- won’t make me better."
It sparked a back-and-forth between them online, which both parties have since admitted they aren’t proud of.
Benzino later opened up on the We in Miami podcast about how devastated he was by the rumors that he was a “deadbeat dad,” once again reiterating his love for Coi.
“I’ve been called all kinds of s---, but a deadbeat dad? Come on, man,” Benzino said. “I love my daughter. ... I don’t want to be known as that. I don’t care what people think, but that hurt me. That’s my daughter, I raised her."
He continued, “When people say I hate on Coi’s career and jealous and all this, that s--- is like, evil. Because my love is huge for that little girl. That’s my little girl.”
Benzino said seeing Coi perform live for the first time was “surreal”
Benzino showed his support for Coi at her Rolling Loud Miami 2023 set, and afterward, she revealed in an interview that it was the first time he’d ever seen her perform.
Benzio said it was a “surreal" moment. “I love her. Seeing her like that ... You can say I’m biased, but honestly, like, I don’t see nobody else doing that. She’s amazing, man," he added.
When asked what it meant to him to see her perform, Coi jumped in and shared that she was following in his footsteps. “It means that I’m carrying this hip hop s---, this legacy s---,” she explained.
She hopes to patch things up with her dad
In a wide-ranging interview with PEOPLE, Coi opened up about some of her biggest inspirations, noting that Rihanna’s public struggles with her father have encouraged her to address her relationship with Benzino.
“I'll tell you something personal, right? And this is probably the first time I've ever said this, but one thing Rihanna had said was she had forgave her father. And when she forgave her father, it changed her life. And ever since she did that, it helped their relationship,” she said, adding that she hopes to reach the same place with her father one day.
Coi continued, “And me being younger, me being the one that looks up to her, being able to see that motivates me to one day, hopefully ... on a personal level with me and my people, we come to those circumstances.”
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