Young M.A isn’t letting her time spent inside go to waste. While most of us are browsing Netflix or discovering new hobbies, the Brooklyn rapper has spent much of her time in quarantine working on new music. And after several months of putting in work, she’s releasing a seven-track EP called Red Flu on Friday.
She began writing songs for the project in April, and the whole process wrapped up in a matter of days. “I was up all night working until 4 a.m., getting right back up at 10 o’clock in the morning to finish recording,” she recalls. “We actually knocked out the EP in a weekend.”
While her 2019 debut album, Herstory in the Making received praise for its honest and vulnerable subject matter, M.A reveals she’s taking her music in a different direction on Red Flu—one her longtime fans might recognize. She says she’s “bringing the old M.A out on this one,” explaining that she focused on tapping into the frustrated energy people are feeling in the midst of a pandemic right now.
She’s keeping things simple on this one. This is all Young M.A, with no guest features. She says she’s saving guest spots for her sophomore album, which she intends to drop later this year. M.A is not quite ready to give up a date yet, but she promises it will arrive sometime before 2021.
In addition to working on Red Flu, Young M.A has also given some thought to the debate around the King of New York. While she declares Jay-Z the King, she says no one can claim her title as the “Kween of New York.”
Complex caught up with Young M.A for a conversation about how she pulled together an EP together during the pandemic, the King and Kween of New York conversation, and what we should know about her forthcoming sophomore album. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
When did you start working on Red Flu?
I actually did this in no time. I started in April and finished in a matter of two or three weeks. It’s been a really quick turnaround. There’s been a lot of frustration with this quarantine. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I was able to focus on writing music, listening to beats, and having time to myself. It’s just something to give to my fans. They need it.
Since this project was created during the pandemic, what was the atmosphere like when you were making it?
It's definitely a different turn in your career when you go from moving so much to literally staying still. But I made a positive out of a negative. I just thought it was the perfect time to drop a project, so I got into tunnel vision. I grabbed anything that I may have been going through or feeling at the moment and jotted it down. I went through the beats and the instruments, just listening, and had someone come to my house and record the whole EP with me. I was up all night working until 4 a.m., getting right back up at 10 o’clock in the morning to finish recording. We actually knocked out the EP in a weekend. I was originally supposed to only do five songs on the EP, but something in my head wanted to write more. Then the next few days, I went and did the other two songs, mixed it, and made sure I liked it to my standards. That was pretty much the process.
You tackled a lot of deep subjects with your debut album last year. This EP sounds more fun and light-hearted. Was that intentional?
I’m on my savage shit on this EP. I had to bring the old M.A out on this one. I felt like my album was moreso a journey of what I was going through. With this EP, it was like a short frustration of things that I put into seven songs. It was the savage in me. Certain things I wanted to bring to the table because my fans know me for speaking my mind and not giving a fuck. I didn’t really want to get too sentimental on this project because I didn’t feel like it was the time. Everybody’s frustrated right now. Nobody’s in the sentimental mode. Everybody wants to rip their hair out, so they want to hear some shit that they can be like, “Oh, yeah, I can relate to this. This is dope.”
“I’m on my savage shit on this EP. I had to bring the old M.A out on this one.”
There are some summer anthems on here.
Yeah! “Bad Bitch Anthem,” as a matter of fact, was started a few months ago, but not fully written. I just knew I had to put this on the EP because it’s one of those types of songs for a lot of women who are stuck in the house and can't get their hair done, but still know they really are a bad bitch. It was the perfect song for them to listen to in the house. This uplifts them. It gives them motivation again.
A lot of women probably feel insecure right now because they ain’t able to get their hair done like they want or their nails done and stuff like that. I wanted to touch on that directly. It started off a different way. Then I got motivated to finish it, understanding what women go through. I’m a woman. I don’t do the same things that these women do, but I can relate because I feel women spiritually. I understand them more than a man probably would. That’s why it was so easy for me to create this record for them because I understand it. I got my moms. I got sisters. I got grandmas. I have plenty of girlfriends. I was thinking, “I’m going to throw this on the EP because they’ll love this. This is something I can share on TikTok.”
You worked a lot with Mike Zombie on the project. What was that dynamic like?
That’s my guy. I met him in 2018 in L.A. I knew of him because he did the Drake record “Started From the Bottom.” He also did the DJ Khaled record with Jay-Z. So he got a resumé. When I met him, he was dope, and he knew my sound. He knew what beats to put on. We’ve been connected ever since.
We barely see each other—I've probably only seen him once or twice. [But] people would think that we always been rocking because he knows my sound. That’s why on this project I have so many songs by him. Five out of seven songs are by him. I felt like when we did the “BIG” record, it was like Batman and Robin. It was perfect. So every time people hear “Zombie on the track,” they know it’s going to be a banger. That’s why “Bad Bitch Anthem” is going to be another hit, too.
Did you want any features on this project?
No. Not on the EP. This wasn’t nothing planned. My actual album will have features, but there’s no features on this. This was a spontaneous thing. I’ve been home in quarantine. And of course, I don’t ever need features because I got such a strong fan base that rocks with me.
Even though this was a spontaneous project, did you have any goals before creating it?
I knew the cover art was going to catch people's attention because of the whole quarantine thing that’s going on. It was a way of relating to these moments in real time. I wanted people to understand that it’s based off of this pandemic, but I didn’t want it to be where I’m actually talking about the virus. There’s a lot of artists with masks on their faces on the front of their albums because people are going to look to it because of this pandemic right now. It’s the most talked-about thing.
I knew as an artist I had to put out something during this time. It just makes sense. Everybody’s in the house. Everybody’s listening to a bunch of music. Everybody got free time on their hands. On the actual project, it’s my point of view on what I’ve been going through. It’s frustrations in life, like maybe something I felt last year and today I'm thinking about it because I’m in the house and I have nothing else better to do. I also was thinking that on my album, I gave them a lot of vulnerability. I spoke on more sensitive matters. I have a fan base that knows the raw Young M.A., so I wanted to bring that to the table, too.
What’s your favorite song on the EP?
That is so hard. I ain’t going to lie, I love this project from front to back. Every song is my favorite. I don’t even know which song I played more, because I’ve played each song the same amount. But I would say my favorite one would probably be “Bad Bitch Anthem,” only because it stands out from every song on the album, and I know it’s going to catch a lot of women’s attention, and I love women. It was fun making that record. It felt so cool to record and then listen to it after. It makes you feel like a bad bitch. “Angels vs Demons” is my second go-to. That’s one of the realest records.
You took a while to drop your debut album, but waited only seven months between Herstory in the Making and Red Flu. Do you plan to drop projects more frequently in the future?
Yeah, man. I got to, because I waited so long to drop my first album. It was just a messed up thing that I was going through at that time. I waited a good two and a half to three years. It was me learning the business, learning myself, learning to adapt to a whole new type of life. It slowed me down a little bit. Now that I have this attention back on me, I have to take advantage of it. So it's steady, constant music, constant projects now. I'm not playing. I owe them that much, just because they’ve been so loyal.
So can we expect your sophomore album this fall?
Yeah, definitely this year. I got to drop an album this year. I can't give you a specific date. I can’t even give you a title because I don’t even know what I’m going to name it. But I’m definitely working on music for it. And you’re going to see features on it this time.
How have you been adjusting to the pandemic as an independent artist?
It kind of fucked me up a little bit because I was on tour when it happened, and it was my first headlining tour. We were literally going to be on tour for two months. Going into the fourth city, we got told that everything is canceled.
I did an overseas tour right before, where COVID was already being talked about. We was wearing masks and stuff. So coming into the States, I’m not thinking it was going to get this bad, and then it wound up getting that bad. I went from moving to staying still and quarantining. It was definitely a struggle for the first couple weeks. On top of that, I couldn’t do nothing for my birthday [on April 3]. It was frustrating. It was like being on punishment as a kid. Then you get to that mind state where you have to make a positive out of a negative. So the best thing to do right now, being that we can’t be outside, is make music. That’s where the motivation came from.
I was going on [Instagram] Live a lot during the “PettyWap Twerk-a-Thon” thing. That went cool, but slowed down because Instagram started doing some weird stuff where they wasn’t allowing people on my Live. It was so lit for the first three days ,though. Then Tory Lanez’s “Quarantine Radio” blew up. I was like, “I ain’t fucking with this. He got it.”
There’s been up and down moments, but I’ve definitely been safe. I’ve been very into ginger and green tea. I do that every morning. And I work out. I get on my treadmill in the morning just to build up my immune system each day. And I keep a mask and keep sanitizing with Lysol. I haven’t been sick. I’m just grateful for that.
There’s always a debate when it comes to New York rap, especially recently. Who would you say is the King of New York right now?
Jay-Z is the king. See, people don’t understand that word is a valid word. That’s a strong word. To me, the King of New York is Jay-Z, and will always be, because of his hustle. He always brought that to the fullest. When you hear Jay-Z, you know Jay-Z came from Brooklyn. I’m going to always consider Jay-Z the King of New York City, period. I don’t know who can argue with that.
“Rest in peace Pop Smoke. We was supposed to get up. We had conversations, text messages. Stuff was supposed to happen.”
I respect that, but being from the city, you must feel like you deserve to be in the conversation.
Yeah. I’m a Kween though—Kween with a “K.” That’s established. That King thing, that’s what they're running around with. I’m already set in my K-W-E-E-N. My peoples already tell me I’m the Kween—meaning, I’m the King and Queen of this shit. Nobody can be in that position like me. Nobody. I’m going to always be the Kween with a “K” of New York City. That’s it. Nobody else can use that name and say that. So I don’t care what nobody else is talking about, I’m the King and Queen. Ain't going to take that away from me.
What are your thoughts on Brooklyn rap right now? Do you think it’s in a good place?
Absolutely. I love what the city has done. Unfortunately, we lost somebody that was on fire, rest in peace Pop Smoke. We was supposed to get up. We had conversations, text messages. Stuff was supposed to happen. Unfortunately, his life got taken short. It messed up the city a little bit. He definitely had it on the roll, man. And I do consider him a king as well, because he was out to make something happen. He had a whole different style, a different sound, something that the city needed. And unfortunately, somebody took that way.
It was just fucked up. To this day, it shakes me up. He was so young. I got to speak with him. I understood him. When I found out about the news, it was fucked up because I lost my brother at the same age. Pop was 20, and my brother 20, like him, when he got killed. So it just brought back memories. You’re out here trying to change your life and be successful and somebody takes it away from you. It’s just fucked up and being from my city was even worse. It hurts.
But I love what New York and what Brooklyn is doing right now with the young guys that’s moving. This is something we need. I actually speak to Fivio, too. We text every now and then. We actually got [a song]. I ain’t going to say what the name of it is, but we definitely got one in the chamber. Brooklyn is looking very good right now. I just wish Brooklyn would stop beefing so much. That’s the only issue. Brooklyn got a lot of beef with Brooklyn. Everybody should just be out here trying to get money. All that beef is unnecessary.
You were on Eminem’s Music to Be Murdered By at the beginning of the year. What did you learn from working with him?
What I learned from working with Eminem is: don’t ever send your verse before his. I literally send my verse, then he came back with his verse. I said, “What the fuck, bro?” If I knew this is what he was doing, I would have probably went a little harder. Don’t get me wrong, I talked my shit, but goddamn, Em.
But you know, at the end of the day, that’s Eminem. I respect it. I just appreciate being on the album. I wouldn’t have ever thought of him wanting to reach out and speak on the phone. And for him to say he’s a fan, it’s just surreal. This is one of the rappers that’s in my top five. I always thought he was one of the dopest rappers of all time. So to be able to be on his album and rock with him is an experience. I appreciate the moment.
Now that you’ve checked Em off your box, is there another dream artist that you're gunning for next?
Jay-Z. That’s one of my top picks. To have him featured on an album with me, even if he just says six or eight bars, I don’t even care—just giving me a shout out on the album is cool. That’s one of my biggest inspirations right there. And 50 Cent was one, too, but he actually did the “Ooouuu Remix” with me, so I checked that off my list. He was one of the rappers that made me want to rap. He’s still one of my favorite rappers, but when I was a kid, he literally was my favorite rapper. So that was a dope experience to be able to have him on the remix of my biggest records.
What are your goals for the rest of this year?
I’m not really a goal setter, but it’s working on the next album. With this pandemic, I don't even know. But I'm the type of person that won't let anybody stop me from my hustle. I'm happy that I prepared for this time, where I didn’t do nothing stupid where I would have been fucked up right now. We’re going to be even smarter than we was, and make even better decisions and getting into more things that can profit for these situations that may happen out of the blue.
I got PettyWap Part 3, which I throw on Fourth of July every year since 2018. The first year, I threw it at my house in Jersey. The second year, I threw it in Atlanta. And this year, I think I'm going to throw it in Atlanta again because Atlanta’s a little more open. The PettyWap pool party is something I do every year with mostly women. It’s like 90% women, 10% guys. We don’t play those types of games. And it’s invite only, so it’s not cluttered up with a bunch of anonymous people. They got to be baddies with the fatties.
And we got more videos, and I’m getting into acting. Hopefully, the industry opens back up this year. Music is always going to be there, but I’ve been an executive producer and I got two other artists as well.
What’s the most important thing you want people to know about you right now?
Shit, I don’t even know what they don’t know. They know more about me than I know about me. But I want them to know I’m going to be more consistent. And I apologize for not being consistent as much as I should have been.