NME Radar: Breakout

Glorilla: boundary-pushing rap star with a best friend in Cardi B

Having been snapped up by Memphis' legendary CMG label, the 23-year-old is putting herself in the same league as rap’s greats

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

It’s safe to say that Glorilla is one of the most hotly-tipped rappers around. The artist – born Gloria Hallelujah Wood – currently has only a handful of singles to her name, but she’s already rubbing shoulders with the big dogs: she teamed up with Atlanta’s Latto for the lively ‘FNF (Remix)’ and, more recently, superstar Cardi B on ‘Tomorrow 2’. The latter is a bouncy, high-octane remix of Glorilla’s track of the same name, and earlier this month, it skyrocketed to the Top 10 of the Billboard 100 chart in the US, making it a real breakthrough moment for this fast-rising star.

Growing up in Memphis, Glorilla comes from a place of rich hip-hop history; it’s where she met her mentor, the multi-platinum selling rapper Yo Gotti, whose ‘Cocaine Muzik’ mixtape is widely-renowned in the southern states of the US. But throughout Glorilla’s early life, there was tension between the church community she was raised in, and the attitude of the “neck of the ‘hood’’ area in which she lived, she explains to NME today.

As a teenager, she would listen to both gospel music and Chief Keef, the artist that pioneered drill music in Chicago streets in the early 2010s. The latter’s gruff, yet dexterous flow would go on to inspire Glorilla to start penning her own bars after school, which gave her the confidence to follow her dynamic and playful rap vision.

Freshly signed to the prolific Memphis record label CMG — home to big, scene-leading names like Blac Youngsta and Moneybagg Yo – Glorilla is set to release her debut EP, ‘Anyways, Life’s Great’ on November 11. As we talk in her central London hotel room, she remains tight-lipped about the release, but teases that the project is “emotive, as well as hyper”, and that it includes her “strongest tracks yet”.

With new music on the way and ‘Tomorrow 2’ still comfortably perched near the top of the charts, it’s safe to say that the church girl has made it. “If I say something is possible, then it’s possible,” she says.

You’ve become close with Cardi B over the past year. What was it like working with her on ‘Tomorrow 2’?

“I ain’t got a lot of friends, and I’m just easy to deal with. Cardi is my cousin. I was so happy and excited during the whole creative process. Cardi is a really sweet soul and has such a genuine heart, and we come from a similar background, so it was easy to connect. And it was crazy when [‘Tomorrow 2’] hit the charts. I was like, ‘Ah! Ain’t nobody know about me a couple months ago!”

Cardi DM’d you when ‘FNF’ first started blowing up online. How did you react?

“I was like, ‘Oh my god!’ I had just got off the plane in New York, and I had been at the baggage claim and she texted me, almost as though she saw that I had landed in the city. I had been sending Cardi music since I first started rapping, and I tried for so long to get her to look at my music. But then she ended up listening, and liked my music, to the point where she was like, ‘I’ve already done my verse for ‘Tomorrow 2’, before I heard anything else from her. I love Cardi.”

“Chief Keef truly influenced me. He’s young, turnt and gangsta’ – and that’s what my music is like”

What does your relationship with Yo Gotti and CMG Records mean to you?

“[Yo Gotti and I], we come from the same place in Memphis, so our connection is really like a culture thing. I had gone to a couple of [major] label meetings, but they weren’t getting me. I was listening to them but none of them were making me go, ‘Oh! I wanna do this’. But when I linked with Gotti, he made sure I understood him.

“When I first met Gotti, I met him on a yacht in Miami. He was saying to me that he believed in me past [the viral success of] ‘FNF’. Everybody else I was going to, they just wanted to sign me after one song. But Gotti liked my story and the rest of my music. There was something special there, I felt it.”

Your upcoming EP, ‘Anyway, Life’s Great’ will be released via the label. What does this new project represent to you?

“I think that people are going to love it. I got some catchy songs on there, but I also talk to my people there. There’s songs about… pain — well, I ain’t going to say pain because the only difference between the past me and who I am now is that I’ve got money now. I feel like I’m the same person, but [musically] I have found my sound. When I’m in the car with my manager and they start playing my old music, I’ll be like, ‘Turn it off!’.”

gorilla rapper
Credit: Derek Blank

You grew up listening to drill pioneer Chief Keef. What do you continue to find so inspiring about him?

“Chief Keef is the person that truly influenced me. He’s young, turnt and gangsta – and that’s kinda what my music is like. I feel like I’m a female version of Chief Keef. I got faith. I got into Chief Keef in high school. In 2012, [when Chief Keef blew up], I was staying with my mom and she didn’t let us listen to [music] like that. The first song I heard of his was in ninth grade, and we had a project where we had to recreate skits, and these dudes had reenacted the video for [2013 hit] ‘Now It’s Over’. They played it and I was like, ‘I love this song!’, and then I looked up all of his songs.

“Chief Keef came out around the time I started to go to school, because before that, I was home-schooled, so all I knew was church music. I was in church, but at the same time, I was from a real ratchet area. We’d go to church, but when we’d go outside afterwards, all the bad kids got together. By the sixth grade, I was just badly behaved because I didn’t know how to act. My environment was split between going to church, and then going to the extremely hood schools.”

Do you feel like you’ve found your voice as an artist now?

“I’ve instilled in my head that anything I can do, I can do. I want to be the Beyoncé of my era — not just of rap music, but music in general. I don’t know anybody better than Beyoncé, just ‘cause I love her so much. I know people are sick of me talking about Beyoncé because they’ve heard me talk about her a million times. But, she had a big impact on my music, and I want to follow her.”

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