Photo Credit: @kumoshai for Okayplayer.com
First Look Friday: Gloss Up Is Putting On For The Lineage of Memphis Rap
For the latest First Look Friday, we spoke with Gloss Up about her roots in Memphis, coming up in the rap game alongside GloRilla, and more.
Gloss Up arrives at the Okayplayer offices in Brooklyn on a cold and cloudy winter day in January. Accompanied by Brandon Farmer, her manager, and Jonathan, her videographer, there’s an excitement in Gloss’ eyes as she enters, the stop at our office a part of a promo run for her new mixtape Before The Gloss Up. She’s glammed up and wearing a look that exudes comfort and confidence: a cream, pink, and baby blue plaid shacket, a white tee, a blinged-out Quality Control chain, sky-blue denim jeans, and white boots – all rounded out with over 30 inches of straight Black hair.
Hailing from Memphis, the 25-year-old Gloss Up is known as an affiliate of fellow rising Memphis rapper GloRilla. But back home, she’s better known as Jerrica Russel. As a child, she split her time between her mother’s house and her grandmother’s home in Memphis, being the oldest girl on both her mother's and father’s side.
“Growing up in Memphis was fun,” she said. “I got a lot of siblings, but my mama [has] four kids. My dad [has] seven. I’m the oldest girl on both sides.”
At a young age, Gloss was already showing an interest in rapping. Although her mother forbade her from listening to hip-hop, that didn’t stop her from writing rhymes of her own in notebooks her mom thought were filled with poetry. As she got older she continued to rap, uploading freestyles over Future’s “Tony Montana” and Meek Mill’s “Heaven Or Hell” on SoundCloud, and even participating in daily freestyle battles in high school with a friend.
“I used to rap battle this dude at lunch every day. He used to make me so mad,” she said. “I used to go home and have my rap prepared for the next day because he used to have me fucked up, but he was so hard. So it helped me a lot.”
Along with hoping to become a rapper, Gloss was also earning hours to become a licensed cosmetologist, having done it from ninth to 12th grade. But when she graduated she didn’t take the state board, instead choosing to continue her path as a rapper.
At first, things seemed to be going well. She continued to drop freestyles made from her dad’s bathroom, recording herself on her phone and rapping on a Snowball microphone her and boyfriend at the time bought. She had also connected with a crew of female rappers, they’d pull their money together to drop videos. But things began to sour with the group, with jealousy among the other members leading to her leaving the crew.
Photo Credit: @kumoshai for Okayplayer.com
“It was just hating vibes, people thinking they were Beyoncé. It kind of made me not want to do the group stuff again,” she said of the group, adding that the experience prepared her for working with the crew of female rappers she’s since found in GloRilla, Aleza, K Carbon, and Slimeroni.
Working jobs at Nike and Denny’s, as well as selling T-shirts to make ends meet, Gloss still made time to work on her music, which ultimately led to her meeting GloRilla in 2019. Forging a close friendship with each other, the two pushed one another to tighten up their music and stay focused. Videos and freestyles ensued, with the two supporting and appearing alongside one another in their music. That same year, Gloss Up dropped her first project, Different Shades of Gloss. Throughout it, you can hear the hunger in her voice; as she addresses her haters and aspires for a rags-to-riches life, her distinct and focused flow is what glues it all together, showcasing her progression as a rapper.
Two years later, Gloss Up and GloRilla performed in a talent showcase where they met producer HitKidd. He saw something in the two of them and immediately wanted to produce for them, along with a few other emerging female rappers. The end result was “Set The Tone,” an energetic cut that didn’t just catapult GloRilla into female rap conversations, but also Gloss Up, K Carbon, and Slimeroni, too.
“Everybody just went in there and rapped, and somehow [it] just came together,” Gloss said. “When we did that song, I didn't think it was going to do nothing. Normally, when I go to the studio I listen to my songs a thousand times. I ain't even listened to that song because I didn't think it was going to do nothing. So [then] we did the video, and it just went crazy.”
With the momentum from “Set The Tone,” Gloss didn’t let up. She consistently released freestyles on YouTube and, thanks to the views of those freestyles getting higher and higher, eventually landed on Quality Control’s radar. After getting lawyers and trusted advisors to assist her with the paperwork, she eventually signed with the Atlanta-based label, saying she knew she’d be in the right hands of the label’s founders Pierre “P” Thomas and Kevin "Coach K" Lee because of their work with the City Girls. Since then, she’s appeared on the buzzy, “My Neck, My Back”-sampling “Real B*tch” by fellow QC signee Lakeyah, and is now pushing Before The Gloss Up, her Quality Control debut.
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That same hunger heard on Different Shades of Gloss is also present here, but it’s also nice to hear her having fun on it, too. Such is the case with the GloRilla-featuring “Bestfrenn,” a ballsy and braggadocious standout that finds the two trading bars over an infectious beat about their friendship. At the end of the single, Gloss Up excitedly exclaims, “We got rich together,” a statement indicative of how the pair’s lives have significantly changed in the past few years.
With that has also come some challenges, most notably Gloss being on the road more away from her sons (two-year-old Jayce and two-month-old Jersey). But she is grappling with it as best as she can.
“I feel like I'm doing everything that I'm supposed to be doing to be where I'm supposed to be,” she said. “I want to perform on big stages. I want to be a better artist all over. I want to even try different genres, different vibes, and do different things.”
She also hopes to collaborate with Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Moneybagg Yo, and Lil Durk at some point in the future, further showing how she wants to experiment as an artist as she continues to rise. But until then, it’s clear that she’s excited for the next steps in a career she’s wanted to have since she was a child, and is putting on for the lineage of Memphis rap — particularly Memphis female rap like La Chat and the late Gangsta Boo — in the process.
“I feel blessed by the fact that they been giving us our flowers,” she said of the two female Three 6 Mafia members. “Well, Gangsta Boo been giving us our flowers when she was here. She [has] always been a nice person. She always said good words and [was] encouraging. I hate what happened to her. She will be missed. And far as La Chat, I just talked to her. I love her. I appreciate her as well. Those two are some icons, and people always say that I remind them of La Chat or Gangsta Boo. So I feel good.”