Growing up in Atlanta, then moving to New York City as a St. John’s University biology student, 23-year-old R&B singer Mariah the Scientist has always followed her heart. After making a few songs as a Valentine’s Day gift for her then-boyfriend in 2017, Mariah realized her calling as a singer, and dropped out of school the following year, after releasing her debut EP, To Die For. She signed to RCA Records in early 2019, dropped her solo album, Master, and never looked back. Fresh off the release of her sophomore LP, Ry Ry World, Mariah caught up with XXL and shared her love for her hometown hip-hop, working with rappers, developing her sound and more.

XXL: What rappers did you like growing up?

Mariah the Scientist: I’m still to this day, like, a huge fan of OutKast. If I ever get the chance to meet André 3000 and Big Boi, I’m probably gonna kill myself at that point. I’m literally like, a die-hard fan for them still.

Do you feel like rap inspired your actual creative process?

At some point early on in my career, different people who wanted to represent me would ask, what did I want people to view me as. I told them, I think you should just play it like I’m a rapper. I dunno if I have to wear a huge chain around my neck. We should just push the narrative of what it’s like for me, in my real life.

What do you feel you’ve learned since Master came out, up to now, while you have Ry Ry World out?

When I was putting Master out, the biggest lesson I learned is that the music industry is extremely political. When I made Master, it was just a lot of stuff going on in my personal life. Musically, once I figured out how things are supposed to sound and structuring things the right way, I think things have gone better.

How did you come up with “Always n Forever” featuring Lil Baby?

I have this friend EarlOnDaBeat, and he did “Act Up” for City Girls. I go over there, he makes this loop, he bounces it out, I go to the studio later that night. I make it, but the beat just sounded like Lil Baby would get on it. I told my label and management at the time that I wanted Lil Baby on it. I had not built any of those relationships, but I was so adamant on having him. I’ll just go hunt him down myself, which is quite literally what I did. Lil Baby gon’ get his money, and he gon’ do his job. And he definitely did that, and I really appreciate that.

What’s the story of getting Young Thug on “Walked In”?

I get all my beats off YouTube. When I heard this one, I was thinking of all the people I could have asked; Young Thug was at the top of my list. He had said he would do it, but you know how rappers are. Some of ’em, you gotta put a gun to a rapper head to get a song out of him. I hunted Young Thug down for that shit and I was dead serious, like, “I need you to get on this song. My life will be incomplete if you don’t do it!” So, he FaceTimes me, and he’s playing it in the background. I’m like Oh my god. This nigga really did it.

Are there any rappers that you’re listening to nowadays?

I been listening to a lot of Young Nudy. He’s also from Atlanta. He has this one song, it’s older, but it’s called “Zone 6,” and it’s my favorite song. When I saw him at Rolling Loud, I told him, “I’m telling you, this is my theme song." I don’t care where I go. If I have a show and we finna sing about heartbreak and we finna cry, I’m literally walking in to ‘Zone 6.’ That’s my shit.

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