Flo Milli is darting around the room, chasing her Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, Sosa. “My dog just pooped on the floor,” she apologizes. “She’s a handful.” Sosa — as in, “these bitches love Sosa,” like the Chief Keef song — evades her long, manicured grasp until the very last second, and Flo turns toward me. “I’m good.”
Dark, plush barrel curls frame her face. She’s known for rocking ultra-long, straight hair, but today, as she Zooms me from her room in Atlanta, there’s a little more flair. Her lashes cast a shadow on her face, and her smile is a pearly-white flash. In the crook of her neck, there’s a triple-seven tattoo that she got last year. “It’s an angel number that I fell in love with,” the 20-year-old artist, born Tamia Carter, explains. “It means you’re ready to come into your spiritual awareness. You’re ready to become the best version of yourself possible. It was around the time I was waking up to my higher self, and I felt like getting [the tattoo] there would remind me to always be motivated and never lose sight of my goal and shit.”
If you haven’t heard of Flo Milli, ask the nearest teen to finish the line “I like cash…” They’ll almost certainly respond with a sing-songy “…and my hair to my ass!” — the indelible opening line from her signature song, “Beef FloMix,” a crowd favorite that’s heavily used in fancams (a name for the compilation videos that stan communities use to pay tribute to their favorite celebrities). Her entire career is a Gen Z dream come true, starting in the fall of 2018, when “Beef FloMix” began to gain traction on Soundcloud and Instagram. Next it made its way onto TikTok, where it blew up nearly overnight, showing up officially in almost 20,000 videos, on top of the countless clips using unofficial snippets of the track; it’s even bigger on Spotify, where it’s been played 53 million times, and YouTube, where its video has 10 million views.
“One day I was at college, and the next day I was in New York at label meetings,” says Flo, who studied business before leaving school and signing with RCA Records. “It was a tough transition, but I grew into it very fast. I just had to change my mindset.”
Her voice is soft-spoken, with a Southern sweetness that suggests her Mobile, Alabama, roots. “It’s not really a big music scene down there,” she says. “It’s just a lot of older people. It’s not much to do.” There’s an irresistible charm to her demeanor as she says this. On Twitter, someone joked that she sounds like Susie Carmichael from Rugrats “with an attitude” when she raps. It’s a fair comparison. When she speaks, her tone has a cool, calm, collected quality that seems to imply wisdom beyond her years; in her music, she adds a juvenile twist, sounding at all times like she’s exasperated with her haters, mildly annoyed that they even bother to try and detract from her shine. It’s useless — she’s unstoppable, and lets you know while batting her lashes.
From a very early age, Flo knew she was meant for something greater than her small-town roots. “The personality I have is made for big cities,” she says. “I’ve always admired stuff that I seen on TV. I never saw myself staying [in Mobile]. But I definitely embrace where I’m from. I would not want to be from anywhere else.”
“Beef FloMix” began as a freestyle over Playboi Carti’s “Beef” — a minor hit from 2015 that sounds weary and washed-out compared to Flo’s vibrant, convincing remake, which she recorded out of boredom at age 18. She thinks of her music as a way of reaching out to kids like the one she once was. “I like to make fun music where girls can be themselves and be free,” she says. “I never really liked high school, so I would depend on music — on the bus, going to school, in class. Music was so important to me. So I just wanted to give that back to girls in high school.”
Flo Milli’s first full-length mixtape, the amusingly titled Ho, Why Is You Here?, is packed with witty retorts and punchy pop-trap beats. Her vibe on every track has a bravado that comes naturally to many in their early twenties, but she also has a certain star power that’s harder to come by. “It’s always important to have somebody that represents you and somebody you can listen to,” she says. “I’m just being myself, but I’m pretty sure it’s girls out there like me that can relate.” The mixtape is a one-woman show, with no guest verses — a calculated move on her part. “I wanted to come out by myself and introduce who I am as an artist, because a lot of times people get caught up in the feature thing,” she says. “I was like, ‘No, I’m just going to make it about me first.”
She raps about the delicious feeling of being newly successful: “They be like, ‘How she 19 with a coupe and the roof gone?’” she muses on “Pockets Bigger,” a brief track that makes the most of her supercilious lilt. On “Not Friendly,” she tantrums against the fake and the hateful, smirking all the way through: “Not finna play with you hoes/I got a fuckboy glow.” Her confident rap voice and the silly-serious strength of her lyrics makes for a stunning debut, and suggests she’s here to stay. It’s obvious that she already has a Drake-level penchant for catchy phrases that work perfectly as Instagram captions (“I ain’t even let ’em hit it, got ’em sprung with just a friendship,” “I could never sweat him like the weave in my head,” “I’m makin’ M’s, I ain’t got no time to make no enemies.”) It’s almost tragic that the project was released during a time where there’s a shortage of parties to get ready for, a lack of club pregames, and fewer congregations of girlfriends than ever. Even so, listening to Ho, Why Is You Here? is an uplifting experience. The mixtape has an undeniably fun, feminine, pinball-machine quality to it that’s hard not to love.
Growing up, Flo was inspired by Nicki Minaj’s music. (For reference, Minaj’s debut album, Pink Friday, was released in 2010, the year Flo turned 10 years old.) “She’s on top, for real,” Flo says. “I have a lot of respect for her because of how long she’s been in the game. She made her mark, regardless of what anybody wants to say. I think it’s important that girls nowadays show homage to her, because can’t nobody say that she didn’t inspire a lot of these rap girls. Nicki was definitely the only one doing it.”
Songwriting has always come easily to Flo, ever since high school. “Sometimes I meditate on it. Sometimes I’m just vibing in the studio and it just comes together,” she says. “My creative process is me by myself. I like to be weird. I’m a very private person when it comes to my music. So that’s what my writing process is. Just lighting a little blunt, and writing for a minute.” You can hear her self-satisfaction when a punchline rolls off her tongue, and in the assured laughter that rings out on almost every track.
Her recent single “Weak,” which samples the 1992 SWV song of the same name, feels like an instant classic. Flo manages to sum up the track’s message in a single scoff of a bar: “I’ve been in my bag/Don’t got time to be in my feelings.” That’s an accurate reflection of her real-life philosophy: She prefers to keep people at an arm’s length while she develops her career. “I don’t think I’m really introverted,” she says. “I pick and choose who I give my energy to. That’s how I would describe it, because you can’t always be accessible to everyone. That’s how you lose your spark. You got to always stay hot.” In a similar fashion to TLC’s “No Scrubs,” “Weak” condemns the thirsty hordes of men who relentlessly pine for her love and attention — chiming with the ever-popular sentiment that “men are trash” in women’s discourse.
Flo says she keeps her guard up especially high when it comes to men. “They always think I don’t know what’s up,” she laughs. “N—-s just be bold sometimes. They don’t even be knowing what they talking about sometimes. But you’ve got to know [that] you’re the prize, you’re the chooser. When it comes to women, especially black women, we should know we’re the choosers. We decide whether we want you or not. It’s not you deciding on us, because nine times out of ten, a lot of these men…” She pauses. “I ain’t going to get on that topic, but you know. You know what it is.”
“Weak” is one of her favorites on the mixtape. She’s also fond of “Send The Addy,” a bouncy standout that swaaangs and squeaks with a simple piano and percussion beat. “When I say, ‘He like when I call him daddy,’” she raps to me, letting the Y sounds fly upwards. “I like that part, because it’s just so instant. I was really in my bag on that part.” She grins.
Today’s rap scene includes more popular women artists than possibly ever, and they’ve been met with the kind of nitpicking that rarely confronts men in the industry. The idea that there’s too much focus on sex and money in the genre is common. Take the controversy that came with the release of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” drawing plenty of critique online — specifically, from men and right-wing pundits. Flo’s answer to these critics is simple: “Fuck them. They’re not putting money in our pockets at the end of the day. They don’t know what the hell female rappers have been through. We already basically don’t get taken serious because we’re females. I think it’s low-key insecurities. I see straight through it, and I feel they’re just fucking mad that we’re doing this shit better than them.”
Flo, who has a lot of love for “WAP,” continues: “Cardi and Megan and all those girls in the video, nobody knows what they’ve been through. Nobody knows the struggles that they went through, to make them the way they are,” she says. “Who the fuck are they to judge? No-fucking-body.”
It’s a weird time to be a rising star, but Flo has been passing quarantine by watching videos on YouTube (“Literally, YouTube is the best thing invented”), posting on TikTok, and focusing on her craft. “I took a little small break, but I’m ready to work again and get back in the studio,” she says. “I don’t want to be not working for too long, because we got a goal here. We can’t just stop.” She’s taking this time to strategize for her next project and interact with her fans more. “I’m coming up with a game plan on how to work around quarantine,” she adds. “I’ll be happy when it’s fucking over, so I can actually be a regular artist again. But for now, I just want to just get more visuals out.”
She’s also excited to collaborate more with other artists, starting with her recent feature on a remix of “Boys Ain’t Shit” by SAYGRACE, another RCA signee. The original track is a TikTok mainstay, so it’s a smart move. “Definitely for the next project I want to be even more versatile, but still keep what my fans love,” she says. “It’s going to be way better.”
I ask if she can picture a world where she didn’t become Flo Milli. She thinks for a moment. “I don’t know,” she says. “I can’t even imagine not becoming her.” She’s always wanted to be famous, and she knew she would be, one way or another. “I would still be in the music industry in some way, or just the [entertainment] industry, period,” she says. She could’ve been an actress, or maybe a dancer or a model — but she was always going to be in the spotlight. “I wanted to be all of it together. I still do. I just always knew at a young age, ‘I’m not supposed to be doing anything regular.’”