A Whole Lotta Chutzpah, by Sonia Akther
Mariah Carey in her music video for ‘Honey’ was an iconic moment for feminism. Her energy on board Diddy’s yacht epitomising a confident, priceless freedom. She had just divorced her husband (and manager) and was finally free to make the music she wanted. No more pigtails and plaid shirts for Mariah.
Controlling contracts and the list of female artists whose creative journeys are curtailed, manufactured, marketed, and they themselves financially exploited by pieces of paper, goes on, and on, and on. From Liza Minnelli to Tina Tuner, to Taylor Swift fighting for her own music catalogue, to even Rihanna, who was apparently offered a pen (to sign) or the window (to jump from) in that meeting room with Jay Z. Time and time again, women are told they can’t say no. Especially for music and especially to money.
Not so, for Miss Mulatto. Raw with Southern edge and raised to be confident as a matter of fact, she began rapping aged 10. Aged 16, she entered and won series 1 of the The Rap Game, a reality show on Lifetime, produced by Queen Latifah and Jermaine Dupri.
What happens next deserves more than a side note; it summarises Mulatto down to a tee, and raises hopes of ushering in a glorious new chapter to the story of women in music, and women as a whole. Atlanta through and through, Mulatto said no. She said no to a recording contract with So So Def Records, to pursue a career she was clearly talented at and had given up drag racing for too. She said no because of her gut instinct and instead, allowed her creativity to flourish, unedited.
Mulatto, her stage name itself a fierce political statement, wrote and released a song called ‘F**k Rice Street’ in May 2019, following her own encounter with police brutality and racial profiling.
Southern Rap, renowned for it’s edginess also embodies a melodic flow, best comparable to Southern manners and charm? At 21, Mulatto raps with precision, emotional intelligence, a raw-flow and chutzpah. Even if things had gone differently and she’d signed that recording deal, it’s hard to imagine it would have altered her eventual course or silenced her in any way. Strong women with strong voices always find the right pitch.
All most of us want are more honest stories, to show all the different shapes, sizes, hues and opinions that truth truly comes in! Miss Mulatto is paving a way. We at PAUSE Her had the pleasure of 20 minutes on the phone with her, and she is all the awesomeness you have just imagined, and more.
Hey Mulatto! How are you?
Pretty good… pretty good…
I love all the confidence coupled with zero arrogance your lyrics have—what inspires your songwriting?
I just give that big confident energy and that big independent energy. I feel like I am confident and independent in real life so it just reflects in the music. I write my own music, so however I am, it’s going to reflect in my songwriting because I’m writing it, so if I am confident in real life, it’s going to show through the music.
Mulatto, how do you compete in The Rap Game, go onto win the show, and then turn down the contract because it wasn’t right for you? That is so gangster! How old were you?
Hahaha! Well, I was 16 when we filmed the show and by the time the show aired and I was presented the contract, I was 17— so I wasn’t even an adult yet! You have to be super confident in yourself, you have to believe in yourself and I knew it wasn’t right yet. I felt it in my heart that it wasn’t confident yet, and I trusted the process, and I knew that if I stayed down and worked hard and grinded, I knew in a couple of years from now I could get an even bigger offer and an even bigger contract or whatever. I just believed in myself and was like “thank you, but, no thank you.”
The music industry has a long history of stifling talented female artists with constricting contracts, did this motivate you?
I definitely knew that if I signed something at 16 or 17 that I was definitely signing something where I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into. I made a lifelong decision that I don’t want to sign my life away like that, because these contracts have you locked down for years.
To make a choice like that, you need to understand the whole situation from top to bottom, know the ins and outs of the contract, and I didn’t feel confident in a decision like that at 16 years old.
Congratulations! I think many of us have gut feelings about wrong situations but struggle for the courage to do the right thing..
Thank you! I think money and fame when it’s presented to you right there and then, like that, that can be very enticing. But if you really believe in yourself and trust the process and wait it out, there can be better times. I waited it out and now am in the ideal situation with my label.
Could you tell us about your moniker ‘That Bitch from the South’?
Where I’m from plays a strong role in the artist that I am or just the person that I am. I feel like the culture, how I grew up in Atlanta or just the South, period, definitely reflects in my music; I’m paying homage to where I’m from because I feel like it’s responsible for the person that I am and the rapper that I am and the artist that I am.
I love everything that comes out of Awful Records, there is definitely an energy that feels unique and Southern…
There definitely is an energy; raw, uncut and unapologetic energy. There’s a “we’re just going to give it to you and you can take it or leave it”. Definitely raw, definitely, definitely raw, has an edge to it, and super uncut.
What artists were you listening to growing up and was there anyone in particular who really inspired you?
I love Nicky Minaj! One of my favourite artists growing up was Nicky Minaj! Nicky came out when I was like 10 years old when she came out, jumping out the gate!
I loved Nicky but I grew up on Gucci Mane, T.I, G-Eazy… I grew up on a lotta Southern, Atlanta rap and I feel like you can hear that in my music and my flow.
Could you tell us about growing up and drag racing in Atlanta?
Yeah, that’s a super Southern sport and a lotta people don’t even know what it is! Haha! It’s super Southern! I was drag racing from like 8 but it was overlapping with my music till I finally gave it up and went into full time rap. But I was drag racing for about 2 years. The men in my family drag race, being from the South, it’s just a part of the culture. But I drag raced before I even rapped, so yeah.
Does the racing culture influence the music?
Oh yeah! It’s like it’s just another ‘on the edge’ thing that I did, that fast lifestyle; it definitely led into the music.
I really love the witty way you rap about sex, what is the message you’d like to get out there?
Thank you! Really, thank you. I’m definitely working to give the power back to women. We gotta be confident and we gotta take the power back. I feel like when you listen to my music, the message is about being confident in you, your body, your sexuality, just owning yourself and people can take it or leave it, but give big, big confidence out.
I was a daddy’s girl and I think a lot of it comes from my parents who taught me at a young age how you don’t have to rely on no man, you bring everything to the table. They raised me to be confident and to be secure. My dad always told me “you are the full package”, so I definitely credit my parents for my ego.
Could we have a sort of song diary for your song ‘F**k Rice St’?
That was crazy because I went through a situation where I was racially profiled and incarcerated, so as soon as I got out I wrote that song about it and just let off all the emotions and the anger; not just from my situation, but for black people as a whole and I put it in that song. It was a real life situation which really opened my eyes to the bigger picture. I was like “wow, if this can happen to me, it can happen to anybody and it is happening to a lot of black people”. It was just a matter of me putting that experience in my own way and making a song about it.
Do you see things as changing, getting worse or is it impossible to say?
I’m just one person and I can’t change the world but what I can do is bring awareness to the situation and let people know that nobody is excluded from it… you hear stories but you never really think it can happen to you, but it can happen you… it happened to me. And no amount of money or fame, or how nice you are or pretty people might think you are, will make a difference — nobody is excluded from it.
This has been going on forever so I don’t know if you can say if it’s getting better or worse, it’s just now we have things like social media and television to expose the problems and speak on them, but it’s always been a problem. The good things is that we do have a platform, like I can go make a song about it and tell my story at least. But it has always been a problem.
Miss Mulatto, your stage name itself is very political…
It’s me owning who I am and it’s flipping that negative background of the word and making it a positive. It’s who I am and me being ‘mulatto’ had an influence on my life and how I grew up. I was a little confused as a kid having one side of the family that looks like this and one side of the family that looks like that. Each side look different, talk different, live different, everything is just different; so as a kid I was a little confused and I never really felt like I fit in so that’s why now, to this day, I took that and I flipped it into a positive. I am who I am and I’m happy with it.
Any style notes to share?
I am actually in the process of trying to find a stylist at the moment, but even then, I’m always hands on because it has to be my style and it has to match me as a person. I want my style to give the same vibe. I’ll work with a stylist but it’s still me at the end of the day.
I wouldn’t say I’m into a specific brand or designer either, it’s just whatever I feel let’s me express myself in it, then I’m with it, no matter how much it costs, or the label, or the name on it, if it’s me, it’s me.
What is ‘No Hook’ about?
That was just a little bit of my story, me letting the people in a little more and being a bit more vulnerable with my fans and the listeners, and letting them know, no matter how famous you are, you will still have struggles.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you will still have struggles. It will look like glitz and glamour from the outside but really, we’re still human and we’ve got struggles of our own, so I wanna just tell my story and let people resonate to it.
How have you found the experience of quarantine and lockdown?
I feel like I’m such a hands on person, I always have to be in control and I just always have to know what’s going on, everything has to be planned out— but this was so sudden, and it’s out of our control, so it definitely was a shift for me to where I had to take the passengers seat instead of being in the drivers seat, which is where I always wanna be.
I’ve been regrouping and going back to the drawing board and playing with different ideas, new ways to execute things without being outside. It’s also giving me the time to home in on my craft and be creative.
What are you looking forward to going back to the most?
I’ve been taking advantage of this time to create content and to create music, so I’m just excited to be outside and do shows again and just share what I’ve been doing with the people.
I am dropping a new song called ‘He Say She Say’!