Mulatto is one of the breakout stars of 2020. Photo Credit: Alex Figueroa
First Look Friday: Mulatto Crowns Herself the Rap Game's 'Queen Of Da Souf'
For this month’s First Look Friday, we had a candid conversation with Mulatto, who shared her thoughts on female rappers collaborating, being raised in Atlanta, and making music with artists she looks up to.
Before Alyssa Stephens chose her rap name, Miss Mulatto, she was a young girl with ambition from Atlanta.
The rising MC has been rapping since she was 10. She recalls one particular conversation she had with her father about taking rap seriously during her younger years. After this talk, she said her parents immediately began putting money and support behind her. This would be the beginning stages of her rap career — which she says her parents helped her build from the ground up.
“Atlanta is a Mecca for Black entrepreneurship,” Mulatto said during a phone call ahead of her Queen of Da Souf mixtape release party. When expanding on this she adds she was always exposed to Black business owners one being her father who was a car enthusiast. He provided candy-painted cars for rap videos during her childhood, according to Billboard.
Stephens grew up listening to T.I., Outkast, Lil’ Kim, and Nicki Minaj, who she discovered when she was in the fifth grade. (She recalls during our conversation that she even got bangs to match Nicki’s.) But, Atlanta's Gucci Mane would prove to be influential for her, “Gucci was always my favorite rapper,” she said.
By the time she was 13, Miss Mulatto was traveling for performances in other cities. This was when she began noticing how much of an advantage she had being from Atlanta. The level of access she had was apparent; she also realized she had more of an opportunity to be creative in her hometown. “[Everything] would just feel so obtainable growing up in Atlanta. It’s something that you got to explore and compare to other cities because we definitely had advantages growing up,” she said.
In 2015, when she was 16, it was announced she’d be a part of Jermaine Dupri’s reality competition show, The Rap Game, proving her effort had finally paid off. This was where she was given a stage to take things to the next level. After winning the inaugural season, she decided to not take a record deal with Dupri's So So Def Recordings. Instead, she opted to remain independent and release her own music.
What followed over the next two years were two mixtapes and an EP. Alongside these personal wins, she decided to relinquish the Miss from her rap name in favor of just Mulatto. She chose to keep “Mulatto” even though it’s deemed problematic by many. The stage name reflects her who she is: a biracial woman with a Black father and a white mother. “I knew what the definition of the term was, and I knew its history as a kid,” she shared with Billboard. “I [wanted] to flip that negative and make it a positive.”
“Bitch From Da Souf,” which arrived at the beginning of 2019, would prove to be Mulatto’s mainstream moment. The single arrived nearly a year after she signed a distribution deal with Atlanta-based StreamCut. This recognition and momentum carried Mulatto as she dropped two EPs, Big Latto and Hit The Latto. She made another splash when she dropped her "Bitch From Da Souf (Remix)" featuring Miami legend Trina and California's Saweetie last December.
In March of this year, Mulatto signed a recording contract with RCA. And by August she dropped Queen of Da Souf, her debut RCA mixtape which is in her own words is a more mature version of her artistry with raw, Southern flavor. Now 21, she revels in continuing to provide sex-positive, raunchy bars that celebrate her womanhood. She hopes to keep encouraging women to embrace their sexual selves.
The project's first single is “Muwop,” which features her favorite rapper Gucci Mane. This full-circle moment proved to be beneficial, the video racked up over a million views in one day on YouTube.
We spoke to Mulatto ahead of the release of her debut RCA project Queen of Da Souf. During our expansive conversation, we talked about the current state of female rappers, her Atlanta roots, and more.
Queen of Da Souf is Mulatto's debut project. Photo Credit: Alex Figueroa
How has quarantine been for Mulatto?
So, the beginning of quarantine was real rough. I wasn't doing anything but going to the studio and staying at home. But then the first time I had to break the little quarantine was when me and Gucci shot the “Muwop” video. That was my first time traveling during quarantine. So I had to go to Miami to shoot the video.
From there it just was like, "All right. Well, we're going to slowly start working again or whatever." So I still haven't done any shows, but as far as shooting music videos and doing interviews and going to the studio and stuff like that, I mean, we've been trying to get the ball back rolling again, to be honest.
That video was fire. And I see you're working with Todd White now. He's so amazing as a stylist. I feel like he really took your style to another level.
Yes, he did. And it just showed me how important a stylist is and your whole look will just elevate after that. Image is a big part of being an artist. So it just adds to the whole picture.
It sucks that female rappers and artists have to really tap in, in that way, and make sure that their hair is always on point, their style is on point and their makeup has to always be on point. But I just feel like, with Todd, he's so young and he really gets it.
He does. I'm big on energy and vibe and him being a part of the team, makes everything so cohesive.
You appeared in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” video. How did that feel?
I feel great. I believe it was her PR, somebody from her team had reached out to my manager three, four days before the actual video shoot. So it was really short [notice]. And I just did not believe it, I thought it was a prank call. I was just like, “Cardi don't even know who I am.” So it took me a minute to register. I'm like, “No, you got to prove to me that this is legit, whatever.”
That whole experience was so dope and Cardi, I just have so much more respect for her for doing that and giving us that platform. And just knowing how much exposure she would give us just being in the video. That was really inviting and welcoming of her. A female running it to the females that's up and coming.
Cardi wasn't even a part of our cameos, but she came to the dressing room and stopped getting ready just to come down there and be with us. She was just telling us how pretty we looked. I love Cardi.
Mulatto's career started with an appearance on The Rap Game. Photo Credit: Alex Figueroa
Can you talk a bit about past four years, since you’ve moved on after winning TheRap Game?
It's crazy because, like you said, coming from The Rap Game, it's just crazy to see the elevation and just the growth. If you would've told me five years ago that I would be where I'm at now, literally making history. Just the other day I [became the] first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go gold. If you would've told me that five years ago, I wouldn't have believed you.
It's just crazy and it shows that working hard and praying hard, it pays off. And you’ve just got to stay down and wait [for] your turn. Anybody who knows [me] I've waited patiently five years, I don't watch other people surpass me and be like, "Damn. Why is it not my turn? Why is it not my turn?" And I prayed for it. I would just second guess myself so much. And then just so many people doubting you and stuff, but that just goes to show you nothing can overpower that hard work.
What was the recording process for Queen of Da Souf ?
It's really so easy because I've been in the rap game since I was 16. I'm 21 now. So as a woman, as a human being, it just naturally reflects in my music. I have experiences to talk about, new relationships. It’s [about] just going through different things in life that I have to talk about now. Seeing new things and just learning new things.
So what was the process like for you getting features from 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, City Girls for the mixtape?
Being that it was called Queen of Da Souf. I wanted them Southern features that [were] going to be like, "Oh shit. She's coming. She's coming." So I feel like 21, that's Atlanta culture. That's just iconic, whatever. That was so simple. I actually had remixed one of his songs in the early stages of my career and performed that in front of him just in the city on a couple of occasions.
21 he's seen my come up, that was really easy, was really supportive of that. Then the City Girls, we just [were] Instagram friends, heart eyes like, "Hey sis. Congratulations sis." So that was easy. Everybody made this project so simple. When I tell you I started recording it the beginning of quarantine and just being locked in, recording. And then the features [were] just the last thing that I had to tie in together, like choose the pieces that I wanted and then had my people reached out to [their] people and just making it.
What’s your songwriting process like, are you typically alone or no?
It's really all different. So for instance, “Bitch From Da Souf,” I wrote that just laying in my bed, typing notes on my iPhone. Sometimes I'll go to the studio and just go in the booth on some freestyle shit. Sometimes I'll work with a writer and collab on some shit.
But because I write it's like, I only work with certain writers because I'm not there like, "Oh, just cut..." I'm going to go in top to bottom and then you just cut what I said, type shit. So when I work with a writer it can be some collaborative effort, but I'm definitely open to working with writers though.
As a writer, I just know, more brains in the room, more creativity in the room, it's just better product. So I used to be like, "No. I got it right. I got it right." But now it's just it could go either way. I write at home, I write in the studio, I'll freestyle work with somebody else, it's whatever.
The City Girls and Mullato song is my favorite one on the tape.
That was one of the last songs that I added to the project. I was in Los Angeles finishing it up and just cutting the last couple of songs. And that was one of the ones that we [were] like, "Oh shit. This one got to go on the project." And I was just listening and I'm like, "Yeah. What if we put City Girls on this?"
And they [were] like, "Oh yeah. Oh yeah." Because the song by itself was in its own lane. We [were] like, "Oh shit. This one of them ones." And with that City Girls feature on top of it. Not only being the City Girls, just the fact that a female collaboration, that Southern female collaboration, the people, I just know they going to eat that up.
Gotcha. And so in terms of dropping the “Bitch From Da Souf (Remix)”, what was that like for you? Because I'm from Florida, I'm from Orlando, but I love Miami. So just the fact that you even got Trina on that song, I was like, “Okay. This is too much.”
It was iconic. Southern female rap is having a peak moment right now. Trina held it down [and so did] Gangsta Boo. But there's only been a select few of Southern female rappers in the past to hold it down. For the most part, everyone was from New York or just up North. Period. So to have Trina co-sign me and just be a part of that remix, especially on a song called “Bitch From Da Souf” that's literally iconic.
Honestly, when I had my team reached out to her team, we had only met each other backstage a couple of times, I opened up for her before. And I didn't think that she would just do it, I don't know, but she did it. They told me, and that was another one of those moments where I'm screaming like, "Oh shit. Oh shit." And I did that while I was still independent, I wasn't even signed to RCA yet. So that just goes to show you, she really saw my vision and believed in me as an artist to co-sign me before any of this.
I just enjoy seeing women rappers just collaborate. To me, that's the greatest thing because there's room for everybody to shine. It doesn't have to be an individual thing. So I really think that with that remix, to me, that really proved that you all can join forces.
I definitely agree with that. It's just the industry, the commentators, so it's like, everybody just always puts us against each other. But without all that, we would be so supportive. But right now, this wave right here, for the most part, it's so positive, we are collaborating and supporting each other on Instagram, on songs, everything. It’s a beautiful thing.
I love that. And so what are you thinking right now about seeing all of these female rappers dominating?
I love it. I've been rapping since I was 10 years old, so I've waited a long time for my turn. But it just goes to show you everything happened for a reason because I wouldn't have chosen any other time to be taking off because being a part of this moment, it's going down in history.
This moment right here for female rap, I would say 2019, 2020, this shit started taking off. And I wouldn't have chosen any other time to be taking off. I'm so happy to be a part of the movement. And it's deeper than just music. Girls have so many female artists, female rappers to look up to. We're all from different areas, have different backgrounds, wear our hair different, different skin tones. It's so beautiful because it's breaking down all the barriers and just stigmas of the industry right now.
What do you want fans to leave with after they listened to a Mulatto mixtape?
It's really just a reintroduction of my more mature self. This is my first project that I'm dropping with RCA. So it's just a reintroduction of the established Mulatto on an industry level. Queen of Da Souf is a statement. And I feel like I got the product to back up a statement like that. This project itself is pretty much self-titled and it proves I'm here to stay.