NME Radar: Breakout

Latto: “For female rappers, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Period”

After overcoming controversy with a new moniker, the record-breaking Atlanta rap star is ready to accelerate towards a brighter future

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

“New money, new crib, new whip, new name, I’m still that bitch,” raps Latto in recent single, ‘The Biggest’. Blowing up after her appearance in season one of Netflix reality series The Rap Game, Latto – then putting out music under the name Mulatto – faced criticism from audiences, who called for her to change her name due to its offensive origins as a term referring to people of mixed ancestry.

The heat around her previous moniker meant that the 22-year-old didn’t have the easiest start to her career. But now, Latto is determined to not let her turbulent early days in the industry taint her future: “I think the new name’s going to be manifesting positive energy and just good vibes. I feel like it’s gonna be a new chapter, and a healthy chapter,” she tells NME over Zoom from Atlanta.

Being crowned the first ever winner of The Rap Game just confirmed what she already knew about herself. While at school Latto’s love of words began to bloom, so much so that her future success became almost undeniable in the eyes of her parents. “I always loved poetry and language was always my favourite subject. I was in love with metaphors and similes and alliteration, just the play on the words. I was fascinated with that concept,” she says. “We would have these writing competitions in school, and I would enter them and win them.”

Latto’s winning streak hasn’t stopped: in addition to the millions of streams on tracks like ‘Bitch From Da Souf (Remix)’, Latto features on Fast & Furious 9’s soundtrack with ‘Fast Lane’ alongside Don Toliver and Lil Durk. She’s the first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go gold and then platinum; making history… twice.

NME sat down with Latto to find out more about what’s ahead for the rapper, her record-breaking moment, and her eagerness to be nothing but who she is – unapologetically.

Does the new name mean a new chapter for your music as well? 

“Yes, I’m so, so, so excited for the new music. I feel like historically, the negative definition of Mulatto might have been holding me back. And this new name, Latto, short for ‘lottery’, can be forthcoming of good fortune; financially, spiritually, emotionally. I feel like this is gonna be turning over a new leaf.”

Other than the name change, how else have you developed as an artist over recent years? 

“I develop every day. As an artist I’m not the same person as I was yesterday and it might have a lot to do with me being so young, I’m still only 22, so I feel like as a woman I’m growing everyday so in turn it’s gonna reflect in the music. Every day I have a new idea or new outlook for my music, a new goal for my music and it’s because I’m growing as a woman, as a human being as well. At the same time as I’m growing as an artist in the industry, I’m growing as a human.”

What’s your journey been like since appearing on The Rap Game?

“I think it’s been pretty smooth, I’m not gonna lie. I’m just a determined person. I’m a very goal driven success monster, so I feel like when I accomplish something new it makes me want to go harder every time. I want more plaques. I got my first plaque and now I need to be in the studio more ‘cause I need to make more hits to get more plaques.”

Latto rapper 2021
Credit: Press

What’s it been like to work on ‘Fast Lane’ for the Fast & Furious soundtrack? 

“Fucking crazy! Why the hell did they choose me? That was crazy and then to be this early in my career doing stuff like that… it feels crazy. I don’t even know how to explain it other than crazy.”

What is your barometer for success beyond selling records?

“I just want to inspire other people to be themselves unapologetically. I’m me and I have no remorse for being me; I’m gonna say what I wanna say, it’s gonna be raw, it’s gonna be uncut and I don’t care if you gonna judge me, that’s on you. That proof is in the pudding that you don’t have to be rich or related to somebody famous in order to make it; I put in the work and built this from the ground up. I feel like I just want my message to tell people to ‘just be you unapologetically and keep determined and it’ll work out.’”

What impact has Gucci Mane – who you’ve collaborated with before – had on you?

“I feel like Gucci is the OG, but at the same time super youthful. He’s still cool and he got swag, he definitely isn’t an OG that’s washed up. He taught me to just be me. Like Gucci is himself, unapologetically. And I took that from him.”

What can we expect from the music under your new name? 

“I’m actually in album mode right now, so the first project I’m about to drop is gonna be a plethora of flows, different BPMs. I’m from the South so I tend to choose slower BPMs that’s very Southern or whatever. But I’m choosing different beats, working with different people, producers, artists; everything is just gonna be an elevation.

“Being from the South is what identifies me as an artist. Where you’re from is gonna show in your flow, in the way you dress, in the way you talk. I feel like the South is responsible for my success – I started out doing talent shows and open mics where I’m from and I’m gonna represent where I’m from forever.”

Where do you see yourself fitting into the musical landscape?

“I’m in my own lane. I literally made history with my song ‘Bitch From The South’ as the first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go gold. Then I was the first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go platinum. There’s a lot of artists from Atlanta but there hasn’t really been a female face for Atlanta, so I feel like I’m that Southern laid-back aesthetic: unapologetic, raw, uncut pussy power – that’s me.”

Are there any other records you’d like to set?  

“Hell yeah. I didn’t even know that I made history with that song. When my label told me that, I was like, ‘no way, nu’uh’. And I had to Google it and I was like ‘damn, that’s crazy’. It just goes to show you, you think everything’s been done because music has been going on forever, so you’d think everything’s already been done but there’s always something new that you can set. And this is gonna be stuff for our kids’ kids’ kids’ kids to be proud of. Like ‘my great great grandma was Latto!’”

Cardi B recently said that ‘female rappers are the most disrespected despite making great music’. Do you agree?

“I definitely agree with that. If you don’t agree with that, you’re ignorant; it’s flat out in our face every day. Females have to have dancers, we just have to do the whole nine just to be on the same playing field as a male rapper who gets up there and talks about whatever he wants to, in his white tee and his little two same moves he’s doing on stage. And he’s straight but we just over analyse and over critique. It makes us appreciate our success more because for female rappers this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Period.”

Latto’s new single ‘The Biggest’ is out now
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