In her own words, buzzing Milwaukee rapper Lakeyah talks about how she sees her role as a prominent woman in rap.
Lakeyah sees and hears everything. The Milwaukee-born rapper doesn’t just have her ear to the streets, she’s present. Signed to Quality Control Music/Motown Records — where acts like the City Girls and Migos were fostered through a Gen Z-Motown system and culturally adopted by Atlanta — rap stardom would seem like an easy approach in one’s eyes. However, for Lakeyah, fame doesn’t fit into that particular frame.
Emerging onto the scene with rap freestyles over songs like Monica’s “So Gone” and JT’s “First Day Out,” her visibility landed her a spot next to QC founders Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Pierre “P” Thomas. It was a deal, according to Lakeyah, that seemed to align perfectly.
Destiny and timing are two words that belong with Lakeyah on this journey through music. Faith and the timing are what landed her a spot on XXL’s 2021 Freshman Class — the first artist from Milwaukee to be chosen; which isn’t bad for a woman who once felt over-looked in her hometown But with increased visibility with her DJ Drama-hosted mixtape My Time, No Pressure (Pt. 1) EP, collaborations with Latto, City Girls, and Tee Grizzly, the true timing of Lakeyah’s arrival to mainstream lies in her ability to weigh the darkness of life with the light her talent has shown.
We spoke to Lakeyah to discuss how she sees her role as a woman in rap, growth as she expands as an artist, grief, and more.
As told to Kia Turner
On her eager beginnings with Quality Control:
I always wanted to be signed to QC. I remember watching all their interviews from when they first signed Layton [Greene] or [Lil] Yatchy, I would just watch everything. They were so supportive of everybody and very hands-on with people’s careers and I wanted to be a part of that. I used to get a lot of comments back from people like Tank, Keyshia Cole, and Brandy so I knew it was possible for me. I didn’t want to do anything else. I thought I wanted to be a dermatologist or nurse but I knew I had to take my talent and make revenue from it.
In my first year, I collaborated with a lot of male rappers because I wanted to show I’m just as hard. They put these men on these different types of pedestals. It’s women rappers who are making the bars catchy and people know I can rap as well. We had a female rapper who came into the game and killed people and she was a song with all male rappers. That’s what I wanna do.
On creating the No Pressure (PT. 1) EP
When I first started creating it, I wanted to create fun summer songs. I wanted to show that I could make records. There’s a difference between making songs and making records that can break and are on the radio. I wanted to showcase that I could do that as well because I’ve shown that I can rap. I’ve done the ciphers and my first three mixtapes so I wanted to work with some real producers and get some real beats in here. I wanted to show the real Lakeyah. I will always have an R&B/hip-hop fusion on my projects because that’s where my fanbase is.
On how she handles social media
I’m not an influencer turned rapper. I’m a rapper that influences. What makes me different — because I’m not a “pick me” and I wouldn’t say “Oh I don’t do this and I don’t Twerk” — I’ve very confident. You can hear it throughout my music. It’s rich, it’s luxurious, it’s braggadocious, and I wanna exude that to my fans. I get vulnerable but I carry a lot of confidence. I’m relatable. I was very insecure growing up, I had a lot of flaws about myself that I couldn’t keep my eyes off. When I started to create music, I started noticing things about myself. Even when I started putting myself out there, other people noticed things too. Like these people think I’m confident and beautiful and I want to be that. I didn’t have specific people to look up to for that so I want to be that for people. It was always life that inspired me.
I don’t think [my sexuality] makes me. I’m not Lakeyah who dates this type of gender. I’m Lakeyah the artist. But it is me, it is a part of me but it’s not a part of my artistry. And sometimes people don’t know how to differentiate that.
On dealing with grief
I just pray a lot now. I have a supportive partner, someone you can just let it out with. Taking some breathing room because as Black women we work hard as ever sometimes can indulge in our work so much that there is nothing else. You have to take breaks, a lot of mental breaks because it can become overwhelming and I had to tell myself that. When I get in these feelings and these vibes, I want to work to distract myself. You have to take care of yourself. Keep your nails and lashes and hair done, keep yourself up so you feel good.
I lost my cousin two years ago right before I got signed and didn’t let it out. Usually, at funerals, I don’t cry it just doesn’t feel real right away. I put a lot of my feelings on paper. Because I can’t speak about my feelings so being able to write them is a blessing.
On her five female Goat rules
1. Have confidence because these bitches can’t hold a candle to you.
2. Keep yourself looking good to your standards.
3. Mind yo business.
4. Be about your bag.
5. Be good.