At 25, the Brooklyn-born MC (born Katorah Marrero) is an example of the genre’s tentative move toward inclusivity, as NAS, 50 Cent, and Jadakiss have all given her their approval. Television took notice, too: The character of androgynous rapper Freda Gatz on Empire was based on Young M.A., who was actually offered the part herself. (She turned it down, saying she’d rather introduce herself to the public as herself rather than a fictional character.)
While she’s certainly not the first queer woman in hip-hop, Young M.A. is one of first to achieve this level of mainstream recognition. Her newest turn is on T-Pain’s “F.B.G.M.,” in which they share their affinity for women who “fuck bitches, get money,” just like them.
M.A.’s lyrics are more like most male rappers’ than they are Lil’ Kim or Remy Ma’s—they reflect the kind of misogynistic undertone that’s plagued hip-hop for decades. They could also be why she has so much crossover appeal.
“I hear from all different people, not just people like me, or lesbians,” she told The Fader. “It be straight people, it be grown men, it be grown women, people that have been sick or depressed that say, ‘Oh, you made me want to go do what I want to do for myself and chase my dreams.’ That’s my purpose.”
Young M.A. is a talented artist proving that a female rapper can play the game without acting like some man’s plaything. But there’s no avoiding her lyrics’ misogynistic and homophobic themes: “Baby gave me head, that’s a low blow/And she make me weak when she deep throat/I need a rich bitch not a cheap ho,” she raps on “Ooouuu.” “I don’t open doors for a ho (not at all!)/I just want the neck, nothin’ more/Shawty make it clap, make it applause/ When you tired of your man, give me call.”
When Azealia Banks dabbles in anti-gay lyrics, she gets roasted. When M.A. sang “Ooouuu” at L.A. Pride, the crowd cheerfully sang along.
In the same song, M.A. calls other lesbians “dyke bitches,” but on “Eat,” she talks about being called one herself:
“Damn, I must really put fear in these n*ggas
Because they call me a dyke, a faggot, a gay bitch
I ain’t shit, that hate shit, that hatred, goddamn
That just make them look less of a man, fam
And to sit on y’all is part of the damn plan
They just mad cause I beat the pussy like bam bam
Because I’m making these bitches twerk on a handstand.”
Hip hop has become marginally more inclusive of lesbians and bi women, but mainly by hypersexualizing them—as male rappers muse about threesomes or even “turning” them. Young M.A. contributes to that canon, even as she offers a new perspective: A woman rapping about her experiences and relationships with other women, even about turning straight women gay.
“That’s your bitch but she a fan too,” she raps on Body Bag. “I asked her ’where your man at?,’ She said ’my man who?’/I do shit that you can’t do, cause n*gga I’m the damn truth.”)
Young M.A. isn’t doing anything that her straight male counterparts aren’t, and she’s just delivering it from a different point of view—one rarely heard from in mainstream music. (Even on Empire, Freda Gatz isn’t spitting bars about sapphic sexuality.) In interviews, M.A.’s straightforward discussion of who she is and what she loves about women is moving the needle forward for LGBT people in the rap game.
Hip hop has a huge place in American culture, so her influence will hopefully go beyond lyrical fodder. Ultimately, her stories are shaped by where she came from and the way she experiences the world. And despite there being some eyeroll-worthy lyrics, her music says a lot about how the world continues to treat black, queer, masc-presenting women. And women in general.
So we can still celebrate Young M.A. for her butch swagger and style, and her frankness about loving women, while also acknowledging that hip hop—and society at large—has a lot more work to do when it comes to gender, and sexuality.
Young M.A. shouldn’t be the scapegoat, but she also doesn’t get a free pass.