Rooted in Realness
How many times have you come face to face with someone you have always admired only to experience disappointment? Add a touch of celebrity to the mix, and the consensus is stars are often far duller than their dazzling online, onscreen, or onair personas suggest. Born Katorah Marrero in Brooklyn, New York, Young M.A is in opposition to “Hollywood” types by being wildly unique, free from gimmicks and forced relationships in order to climb social ladders. She has no interest in riding each new trend to “stay ahead.” No. Young M.A tossed the antiquated music biz shticks in a bin, doused them with gasoline, and currently stands tall holding a book of matches—readying for the blaze. Fraudulent fuckers beware.
Jacket and pants by ICEBERG, shoes by TIMBERLAND
Young M.A has made quite a name for herself with the first single, “OOOUUU” going triple-platinum. She recently landed a guest spot on Sam Esmail’s Emmy award-winning series, Mr. Robot. And with the recent release of her album, Herstory in the Making, she shows no signs of letting up. Young M.A has enough charm, swagger, and talent to win over the toughest of critiques. She is in a lane built solely for her. Fuse all that with the innate aptitude to build an empire, and you have a recipe for success. Frankly, Young M.A.’s only real opponent is the woman in the mirror.
And it’s clear she knows her worth.
In “No Mercy,” the intro to her latest album she raps, “Competition lookin' for me. I was waitin' at the top. But ain't no competition. Ain’t no one in my position.” The 40 million YouTube views on her single “BIG” are a testament that fans have been eager for new music.
So why the two-year gap between albums? From a consumer’s point of view, the wait can seem harshly personal. But Young M.A believes, “Your vision and passions are the two main things you gotta lock-in. I definitely care about how much time is in between projects. I have people out here supporting me. But at the same time, I have to remember that at the end of the day, it’s me being creative. Now I’m not making music for only me, I’m making music for others, and that kind of changes the creative zone.” Piquant points.
As Young M.A steps in front of even bigger screens, all eyes on her. She landed a major cameo on season four of Mr. Robot. “Music is my first love, but I’m the type of person who likes to try new things. I’m not a routine person. I like challenges, so I’ve been into acting. Just being on set with the actors taught me so much. That was my first time acting and dealing with casting, a director, or anything like that. My character’s name is Peanuts [We both laugh]. It was fun and interesting, and I was grateful for being on set.” She also taught writer, producer, director, Sam Esmail how to dap.
Jacket, pants and shirt by HOOD BY AIR, shoes by TIMBERLAND
Prior to the limelight and custom-made diamond grills, Young M.A had been honing her hustle, proving to herself that she could play and win with whatever cards were dealt. Those cards were messed up. As if high school wasn’t tough enough, Young M.A was hit with some heavy life changes. Just before starting her senior year, her brother, Kenneth was tragically killed. She speaks his name often to keep his memory alive. She gets still and recalls. “My senior year was a disaster. I had to catch up on top of dealing with death and being in a new school. It was a challenge, but it was something I knew I had to accomplish. There were plenty of times I felt like giving up, but I knew I couldn’t. And on top of that, I was figuring out my sexuality.”
Her pain and subsequent triumphs are felt—not only through the way she carries herself, but also in her lyrics as she paints pictures. And with catchy lyrics like, “Yeah I’m Young M.A., but she call me papi,” I think it’s safe to say she’s figured things out.
Sweater by ICEBERG
Young M.A is relatable, talented, and genuine. The importance of moral codes that uphold honor and integrity is not lost on the 27-year-old. It’s in her DNA. Her foundation was solid long before she stepped on the rap scene. “My mom was a hustler, and she made it happen. Just watching her as a kid, seeing her handle her business taught me so much on what I needed to do. When we lost my brother, I knew I had to take the lead and take charge. My mom had to work since my brother passed away, so I got a job as soon as I graduated high school. I constantly worked until I became who I am today.”
Young M.A also took notes from industry pioneers—50 Cent and Jay-Z. “Music-wise, I listened to so many artists. I studied the game. Musically, 50 Cent is one of my biggest influences. Jay-Z inspires me by his mental; how smart he is and being from Brooklyn. His change from being this rapper into being a businessman. To this day, Jay-Z inspires me the most. And it put me in a position to understand not what I want to do, but what I need to do.”
Left - Sweater by HOOD BY AIR, jeans by ICEBERG, shoes by TIMBERLAND
Top Right - Jacket and pants by ICEBERG
Top Left - Sweater by ICEBERG, vest and pants by A-COLD-WALL* X DIESEL
Before Young M.A and I got into the conversation about drug abuse and the impact on young people, namely artists who’ve passed away too soon, the noise level in the studio began to rise. Young M.A had no problem silencing the room: “Yerrr! Can y’all keep it down, please.” As she turned back to me, I could hear the sincerity in her voice, “This is really serious. This is something I want to be heard.” With the passing of rapper Juice WRLD still weighing heavy on my heart, I too am searching for clarity. Young M.A adjusts the volume in her voice to explain her viewpoint:
"I just want kids to understand. They hear certain things in music like, 'I took this drug to get over this,' and kids will believe it. They’ll go through one heartbreak and feel like they gotta take a drug then become addicted. And I think people don’t speak on that part. That’s literally the root. Let’s start from where it begins, instead of saying where it ended. I just think kids are not understanding that life is gonna be what life is. It’s not perfect; it’s not gonna be easy. And I think we’re being taught that certain things are supposed to be a certain way, and if it’s not, then we’re supposed to numb the pain with drugs. I just want the youth to understand there's no excuse. Even if you’ve been through the worst of the worst, drugs are not the way at all. You’re gonna go through heartbreaks, you’re gonna go through parents telling you what you don’t need to be doing, you might feel like running away sometimes. I feel like this younger generation is a little more vulnerable. I definitely feel artists have a responsibility and play a part in what’s going on. Where else are they getting it from?"
A rhetorical question in need of an answer. I will do my part and keep the conversations on this subject going.
As my time with Young M.A neared its end, I felt as though I had known her for years. I was happy to have shared that time with her. As a bonus, I was not in the least bit disappointed!
I got in the car, plugged in my earphones, and hit play on Herstory in the Making. Young M.A—a true mensch indeed.