Young M.A can do it all, and she knows it. The rapper (whose handle stands for “me always”) has been determinedly gaining momentum since the frenzy of her breakthrough single, “OOOUUU,” rocketed onto numerous year-end lists in 2016 and overtook car speakers across her native New York, inspiring remixes from Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma, and her idol, 50 Cent. In the aftermath of its release, Young M.A put out a steady, if slow, stream of singles and features, working up to the long-awaited arrival of her debut album, Herstory in the Making, released earlier this month. A 21-track epic, the album highlights her trademark deft lyricism delivered through a smooth, unhurried bravado. Critics and fans alike, however, should be careful to pigeonhole her as anything less than prodigious, with ambitions that extend beyond any one genre—or medium, for that matter (she can now add an official television credit to her résumé, following some brief appearances on Mr. Robot). As she prepares for a brief, nearly sold-out promotional tour across the U.S., Interview caught up with the rapper to discuss the inspiration behind her work, who’d she love to write a song for, and what advice she’d give to her younger self.
MARK BURGER: What was your favorite part about making this most recent album?
YOUNG M.A: A lot of pros and cons with this album. I think my favorite part is, honestly, I’m going to keep it real, it’s just releasing the damn album. [Laughs.] I’ve been waiting so long for it. But overall, I put my heart, sweat, and tears into this album. So of course creating it was inspirational in itself. I let off a lot of things I needed to get off my chest. It was dope.
BURGER: How long have you been working on it?
YOUNG M.A: I’ve been working on this album almost three years now.
BURGER: Where do you look for inspiration?
YOUNG M.A: A lot of the times my inspiration really comes from listening to my old stuff. Anytime I want to go into that zone again, I listen to my own music. I listened to a lot of old back-in-the-day songs too, like old Jay-Z, 50 Cent, a lot of the old school vibes. Nothing new really inspires me.
BURGER: How do you think your mentality or your artistry has grown or changed since those first days?
YOUNG M.A: I’ve definitely matured. Now that I’m more developed as an artist, and having experienced this whole music business, it’s definitely given me more wisdom. Lyrically, I’ve gotten way better. I have more of an understanding on how to make music now, and adapting to how music is changing. Every freaking season, it’s a new type of music.
BURGER: If you could impart wisdom to yourself back when you were just beginning music, what would you say?
YOUNG M.A: I would say keep up the great work. I don’t think I would change anything. Everything was supposed to go the way it went. I feel like I was very motivated then. I was very hungry, I was eager. I was making freestyles damn-near every week. Going to the studio, I was paying money out of my own pocket. I was literally selling mix tapes out the back of my car—I did all that. So I wouldn’t even tell myself anything different.
BURGER: What’s something that people misunderstand about you?
YOUNG M.A: They misunderstand what I represent, just being a woman that loves women. That’s probably the number one thing, not understanding it. Certain things I say in my music, they question it, like, “How the hell she going to beat the pussy? She ain’t got no this, she ain’t got no that,” not understanding I could really beat the pussy. It’s not really their business. That’s why I don’t care to really speak on it when it does happen, because at the end of the day, as long as my woman is satisfied, then I’m good. I don’t need nobody else’s opinion. Also, a lot of people try to put me in this box of just wanting to spit bars all the time. I just want people to understand that, yes, I think I’m a dope lyricist, but I’m also versatile. I don’t always have to be crazy lyrical. I’m not saying it’s a bad misunderstanding, but I want people to acknowledge the fact that I can go all out with it. I want people to understand that I can really write music for anybody—it doesn’t matter what type. I can make a rock song, I can make it a country song. I can do it all.
BURGER: Who would you love to write a song for?
YOUNG M.A: I would love to write a song for Beyoncé. Or Rihanna. I would like to keep in R&B, and I’ll keep the hip-hop for me. But if it’s like a young female that’s on the come up, and needs help or needs some good verses, I’ll be more than happy to help them.
BURGER: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what kind of job would you think you’d be doing instead?
YOUNG M.A: I think I would have always been in some type of entertainment. Even if I wasn’t doing music, I’d probably be into acting. Or if I wasn’t an entertainer, I’d probably be in the entertainment business some way, somehow, probably managing. I was never that kid in class like, “Oh, I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. Or I want to be this or that.” I didn’t even want to go to college. I knew exactly what I was going to do since I was nine years old. I knew I was going to be in some type of entertainment business, whether it was acting or music, no matter what it was, I was going to be in it.
BURGER: Was there a specific moment you remember where it clicked for you, when you knew music was what you wanted to do?
YOUNG M.A: Music was always around me. My mom payed music all the time in the house. She played music all day.
BURGER: What did she listen to?
YOUNG M.A: It was Mary J. Blige being, it was Biggie, it was 50 Cent. It was a lot of reggae artists. I would say 50 Cent inspired me to be a full-grown rapper.
BURGER: What do you do to unwind?
YOUNG M.A: I ain’t going to lie, I’m almost like a homebody. If I ain’t getting paid, I’m not going outside.
BURGER: That’s a good mentality.
YOUNG M.A: I like to travel, so if I’m not booked and busy, I’ll end up leaving New York City. It’s just overwhelming to be in New York, unless it’s for work. If I’m not working, there’s really no reason to be here unless I’m just spending time with the family. But other than that, I’d be out, man. I get on a flight, I like to go on vacation, I like to have some fun and some sun, some palm trees every now and then.
BURGER: Where is someplace you want to go that you haven’t been yet?
YOUNG M.A: I’ve been seeing places on my Instagram, just these mind-blowing places. Not like, “Oh, I’m about to go to Miami, or Jamaica, or freaking Bora Bora,” I’m talking about these places that are somewhere on a small island. I want to go somewhere unknown. I follow this Instagram page called Discover Earth, and it shows you so many different places that you wouldn’t have even thought of going because you didn’t know it even existed. That’s where I want to go.