Buried among the big names lined up for this year’s Video Music Awards Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pink there’s one smaller name who has nevertheless been making a major splash in the rap game: Young M.A.
The 25-year-old rapper scored a hit with 2016’s “OOOUUU,” which includes lyrics about a queer relationship and lesbian desire. Here’s what you need to know.
1. She reps Brooklyn.
Young M.A was born in Brooklyn, New York, and began rapping at age 9. moved around a lot and then eventually landed back in the borough when she was 16.
Brooklyn was also the subject of her first viral hit. According to aVogueprofile of the rapper, her song “Brooklyn (Chiraq Freestyle),” caused an online sensation after Dr. Boyce Watkins, an author and commentator criticized the song’s “violent, negative, genocidal energy.” In an interview withVladTV, Young M.A eventually thanked Watkins for the critical post, which actually garnered her more publicity.
2. Her most popular track is “Ooouuu.”
“Ooouuu” came to life because, as Young M.A toldGenius, she needed a “feel good” record.
“This is a record where I just wanted to be cool on the track,” the rapper said. “I’m chill, I’m humble a lot, I needed one of those records.”
The strategy paid off as the song racked up several accolades.Rolling Stoneranked it #11 on its list of the best songs of 2016, andBillboardnamed it the 16th best pop song of 2016. It also landed on year-end best lists atPitchforkand theVillage Voice.
Earlier in her career, M.A told Vogue, she was told to rap in a “more feminine” way, but eventually left that behind and decided to rap openly about her sexuality on her tracks, as she does on “Ooouuu.”
“The nerves was actually then,” she remembers. “I held in being sexually attracted to women for so long that once I got that out of me, the music became easy.”
3. Actually, a lot of her lyrics discuss her sexuality.
The lyrics on “Ooouuu” are not a one-time phenomenon. On “Hot Sauce,” off her EPHerstory, Young M.A raps:
“My girl getting on my nerves, I ain’t going home
Ain’t got time for this shit (I don’t got time for this shit)
I ain’t got time for this bitch (I don’t got time for this bitch)
Big brown bone, she look like Babe Ruth
She let me hit it out the park like I’m Babe Ruth
Then I hit my dougie, ooh I’m pretty though
Bring that Hilfiger back and I’m jiggy though”
4. Young M.A has also been criticized for her misogyny.
In an essay inThe Root, writer Samantha Master took Young M.A to task for recreating some of the worst parts of toxic masculinity culture.
“Her success, and the success of her gender-fluid counterparts, including Young Thug, are partly rooted in an affirmation of and nod to the old guard of gangsta rap: heterosexism and misogyny,” Master wrote. “ Young M.A, in some ways, has used the cultural space largely created by black women to promote the re-enactment of elements of toxic masculinity.”
Several outlets have since discussed whether Young M.A’sdecidedly queerlyrics would be considered misogynist if they were being rapped by a man. Most people have concluded yes.
Young M.A responded to these accusations in an interview withFader, saying: “At the end of the day, men can be described the same way as men describe women,” she says. “A man can be a ho, just as much as a woman can be a ho. And I’m a woman myself! I respect women. I respect my mother.”
5. Her mother tried to help her come out.
Young M.A toldHigh Snobietythat she tried to dress more femininely to please her mother.
“Man, my mama already knew,” the rapper said. In “Quiet Storm,” Young M.A raps: “Mama wondered why I never liked to wear a skirt / Or wear a purse, I tried to be girly once / But fortunately it didn’t work.”
But, little did she know, her mom was trying to help her come out the whole time.
“I used to throw little clues for her to just say it,” her mother toldFader, “because I knew once she would have said it to me, she would feel comfortable and she would be able to live her life the way she wanted to.”
On a freestyle track, “Ether,” Young M.A encouraged other LGBTQ people to come out, too.
“To all my gays struggling, still stuck in the closet / Just come out, be you, never try to disguise it.”