By now, 25-year-old Katorah Marrero, also known as Young M.A, should be accustomed to industry accolades. In the whirlwind year that's followed the release of her 2016 banger "OOOUUU," the wins have been nonstop: a double-platinum plaque, a headline tour, label offers, multiple Beyoncé cosigns. But she says she's still adjusting to all the attention.
"I didn't know how to react, because I honestly didn't expect that," she tells me on the phone, reflecting on her first VMA nomination this summer. "I just finished being nominated for the BET Awards, and I thought that was it after that."
It seems likely that Young M.A will eventually take home one of these trophies – and if she does, she'll become the first openly gay female rapper to do so. But for now, the Brooklyn native is happy enough just taking everything in: the new lifestyle ("I'm trying to adapt to going places and always being seen"); the constant travel ("I've never heard of some of these places"); the unlikely fans ("I didn't even know what to expect out of [Denmark]; they just went crazy").
If there was ever a time to sit back and enjoy the spoils of her hustle, it's the moment M.A occupies currently, with two acclaimed mixtapes already behind her. Of course, she's doing the exact opposite. "I don't want to just settle," she says. "I didn't do nothing yet in my eyes, and I want to keep it like that 'cause it keeps it constant." Her latest EP, Herstory, mirrors this stance: "M.A (Intro)" opens on a much-deserved victor's chant, but "JOOTD" – sampling Monica's iconic introvert anthem – finds M.A retreating from fame's onslaught: "You know I'm stuck in my ways, why you seem so amazed?/Let me be in my zone, let me be on my own."
That independent streak translates to her business model too. Without the support of a label, "OOOUUU" nabbed the Number Three spot on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart (and went to Number 19 on the Hot 100).
"I got wiser since I've been in this business; I've definitely learned a lot," she adds. "I mean, I knew how to handle it and not just jump at anything, but it's definitely changed me mentally. I don't really have nobody who mentors me. I get advice from different people, but my big inspiration is [my supporters]. Every time I write a song – anything I do – I think about them first."
Young M.A's fans will have much to look forward to in the near future, including a new single and possibly even a movie role or two. She enjoys the kind of freedom that lets her schedule and drop what she wants, when she wants – and she's not ready to give that up.
don't plan to be independent forever; you never know what could happen," she says. "I still
want to be able to move in the same way. I don't want to feel like I'm
obligated to fit [into] a box to be successful. I'm just adapting because this
is forever now. I want to do this forever."