Published Oct 01, 2019"I'm nervous and excited at the same time," Young M.A tells Exclaim! The Brooklyn rapper, who first broke onto the scene with her single "Ooouuu" in 2017, has been steadily preparing for this very moment — the release of her debut album, Herstory in the Making.
Though obvious in sentiment, the album title cloaks ten years of emotions relating to the death of Young M.A's brother, as well as the aftermath of growing up too fast, and the rapid fame that would eventually follow.
"That day [September 26] is a very sad day, just because of who I lost. My brother was my everything, my other half. He's part of the reason why I do music, he's like my motivation," a soft-toned Young M.A says. "[That] was a point in my life where I witness life [and] understood how serious it is, and it ain't nothing to be fooled with, because life is short. That was the day that I had to grow the fuck up and take care of my family."
Fuelled by what happened ten years prior, M.A. took the pen to create an album that re-lives those moments, while also providing life lessons for generations after her. By contrast to the rough, sexually explicit and intimidating lyrics she's known for, Herstory in the Making gives insight to the human being behind the tattoos and screwface.
"I'm not afraid of trying new things and giving people something different. With this album, I wanted to accomplish different sounds and see where I could take myself on different production. I didn't wanna stay on that raw M.A that the majority of people expect, I wanted to give them all different sides of me, because I am a human being," she remarks. "It's not always tough, tough, tough all the time. We all go through emotions, we go through issues in our lives, and on this album, I wanted to give that vulnerable side of me. It's me spitting bars, but I'm [also] speaking to you in a certain way."
M.A uses songs like "Sober Thoughts" and "No Love," two of her most vulnerable, to reveal some of her most daunting moments.
"I was literally just listening to that song right before you called," she laughs. "'No Love' is one of those songs where I'm just giving my experience on how it is to grow up in Brooklyn, in the streets, in unfortunate environments where anything and everything can happen to young kids out here. Unfortunately, it happened to my brother before he could even turn 21. That's really where the inspiration came from, because when he was murdered, he was murdered by someone close to him. That's one song that's like, look into your circles sometimes, because it's not [always] your enemies you could have an issue with, sometimes it's the people closest to you," M.A continues solemnly.
"The streets life and all that stuff that these young kids think is so cool and so dope… they don't understand the consequences that come with being in the streets. It's never good, there isn't real love out there. Love is when you take care of your family, and you have a family that supports you, loves you and is loyal to you — not this shit in the streets these kids look up to so much. That was one of those songs I wanted to elaborate on to the youth, to let them know that this ain't where it's at, and it's not what you think it is."
For M.A, the reality of the streets mixed in with sudden fame, which she admits was "a little too much, too fast," left a cyclone of fears and paranoia that she cautiously lays out in "Sober Thoughts."
"People think it's peaches and cream because you're famous, [but] they don't understand [that] you're still dealing with personal problems and personal situations in life. The fame can also put you in a depressive mood, because now your life is different — there's no longer privacy, there are a lot of people expecting something from you, your family and friends change on you sometimes. You don't know how to cope with it, so you cope with it doing the wrong things like taking drugs, drinking, acting out or [however] it is you decide to release that anger or frustration that you have.
"On ['Sober Thoughts'], I'm talking about consuming so much alcohol trying to forget certain shit, like dealing with the death of my brother and having that lonely feeling at times — being known by the world, but still being lonely, and certain family members that you have that once knew you as cousin this or cousin that now looking at you as Young M.A. There are highs and lows of the fame: one minute everybody is kissing your ass, but as soon as shit starts dying down, nobody gives a fuck about it and it's on to the next."
Fortunately for Young M.A, she has found balance in both her personal and professional life. With newer management, a better understanding of the music industry and the determination to make music that matters, this Brooklynite knows exactly what she wants and how she'll get it.
"I'm the type of person who likes moving at their own pace and right now I'm in that space. I feel more at peace now — I feel more complete and this is the peace of mind I have. I had to learn how to develop myself by myself, because I honestly don't feel like anyone will be able to understand me. I'm so different than any other artists just based on what I represent, sexuality-wise — they've never seen this before. What label could handle me or market me beside myself? I know about me. This isn't just about me being an artist or this glamorous person, it's deeper than that, I'm literally inspiring people.
"I still got labels calling and I'm still turning stuff down because I don't feel like I'm ready yet — let me drop my first album and then I can go into talking business. I don't want anyone to be in control of anything that I've been putting so much work into. [But] now I can move into a new chapter, start fresh again, start working on my sophomore album and any of the deals I decide to jump into, I feel like it'll make sense now, because I'm at peace."
Independent album Herstory in the Making is out now.