How many female rappers have people spoken of in recent years? Two, I’m guessing– Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. But there’s a fairly new female rapper on the scene, and she’s unlike anything you’ve seen or heard before. Young M.A., a Brooklyn, New York native, occupies a liminal space in the rap community, straddling the threshold for female and queer hip-hop musicians.
Her real name is Katorah Marrero, but the rapper chose the name “Young M.A.” to represent herself, standing in for the phrase “me, always,” which seems to not only be the identity of her brand, but also her personal mantra.
Young M.A. is unsigned, which is surprising given the attention she’s garnered over the past few years, not just from Billboard or the lay members of the hip-hop community, but from huge celebrities, like Beyonce, whom she opened for in 2016 at the 82,000 seat MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The artist has released mixtape after mixtape, each reaching huge levels of success, including her song “OOOUUU” which reached the Billboard Top 100 also in 2016. Most recently, she released an album titled Stubborn Ass on Valentine’s Day, which she shamelessly self-plugged on her twitter with a reference to her sexuality.
Young M.A. openly identifies as gay, a move that sets her apart from almost all other rappers in the industry. Even bolder than just publicizing her sexuality in her everyday life, she publicizes her attraction to women in her music. While being a gay female rapper differentiates her from 99% of the hip-hop community, it also means that she shares numerous similarities with the men who run the rap game.
In her music, she doesn’t shy away from detailing the explicit minutiae of her sex life with savage lyrics like “You call her Stephanie/I call her Headphanie” (OOOUUU) and “Make her body jerk/legs lock-iana” (remix of Thotiana by BluFace), much like the male artists with whom she shares a stage. They also don’t shy away from sharing the sordid, and often inappropriate, tidbits about their own lives. While other female rappers also use vulgar lyrics, Young M.A. does so in an unconventional way: instead of focusing on her own womanly sex appeal, she focuses on the sex appeal of other women. Due to this full disclosure approach, Young M.A. has found her niche within the industry, unabashedly promoting other women’s sex appeal and her own sexual conquests.
However, she doesn’t want her sexuality to overshadow her music. In an interview with The Fader, she said, “If I change people’s lives, that’s all that matters to me. I don’t want to be the first ‘dyke rapper,’ ‘aggressive rapper,’ you know what I mean? I don’t care for that.” Clearly, her sexuality, as expected, is a significant part of who she is, but her music is bigger. In fact, she credits music with helping her cope with the loss of her brother, Kenneth, who died in a gang-related incident in Pennsylvania. In the same interview, she said, “I didn’t know how to handle things without my brother, but music just kept coming back to me. I used to write about it a lot, just so I could cope with it. I think that’s why I love music so much; I think if I didn’t have music, I would be in a bad position.”
Thankfully, she did have music. Music that is unequivocally good. Young M.A.’s songs are also distinct from much of the music that’s popularly relevant. Instead of writing two or three verses with a catchy or fierce hook, the format of her songs tends to be more on the side of rambling, but without the negative connotation. Her music is rife with long, extravagant verses and acrobatic rhymes, which ostensibly displays her talent. Take for example her remix of the song “Thotiana” by rapper Bluface: in the original, there’s a chorus that almost entirely dominates the song interspersed with several quick verses, but in Young M.A.’s rendition the entire song is one verse offset by only an intro and an outro.
Young M.A. has certainly carved out space for herself in the realm of rap. She’s created a space for herself and the other musicians who will follow her, a space of greater inclusivity and acceptance. By following the blueprint of male rap artists who rap about women, which luckily fits into her identity, she’s been able to spawn a new generation of artistry. Nonetheless, her lyrics have been met with some controversy. She’s been accused of misogyny and of accepting the narrative that women are property or purely sexual objects, the same principles which the rap community also touts.
However, this negative attention has really only been focused on her, a female rap artist, which makes the entirety of the argument rather hypocritical. If artists like Jay-Z and XXXtentacion can create music objectifying women while detailing the sex acts they perform on them and escape unscathed, why are Young M.A.’s critics so quick to dismiss her music? Calling a woman sexist for doing the same things as men is rather… sexist. Sure, her music includes the same themes as male artists, which are inherently misogynistic, but this seems to be more indicative of a problem with the rap industry as a whole, rather than just one woman who happens to have a sexual interest in other women. The rap industry has been largely known for popularizing and monetizing from the objectification of women, so in some way couldn’t Young M.A.’s lyrics be a way for women to reclaim and capitalize on the injustices men have consistently forced upon women?
Young M.A. has found a way to be successful in an industry that, historically, has little respect for people like her: queer and female. However, she’s turned that around and created a path that aids in her success. If it’s wrong for a woman to talk about women in the same ways men do, then she would have very little hope for reaching mainstream fame. The female rapper has found a way to work the system. And honestly? Good for her.