Show & Prove: Young M.A
Words: Kathy Iandoli
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Rocking tightly kept braids paired with upper and lower grills, Young M.A delivers an aesthetic that’s just as tough as her bars. Coming off the high of her debut hit single “OOOUUU,” M.A (standing for “Me Always”) admits the genesis of the track came from a boozy studio session. “I was a little calm when I did the record,” she says with a laugh. “I was really shmizzed and I wanted to do that record in that state of mind, so it could feel realistic when people hear it.” For M.A, it’s all about authenticity.

Raised on all corners of Brooklyn, M.A, 24, born Katorah Marrero, lost her brother to gang violence and made it her mission to maintain his memory through her music. “It’s through him, and his life and keeping his name alive that I continue to do what I do,” she says. The results have been rewarding. In 2015, when M.A served up her own skillful take on Nicki Minaj’s “ChiRaq” beat in her “Brooklyn” freestyle, word traveled fast. Her impressive delivery reached Duck Down Records founder, Drew “Dru Ha” Friedman—who through his distribution arm, 3D, joined forces with M.A’s own label RedLyfe. “I think the most important part of M.A is how she galvanized a fan base,” Dru Ha says. “She did a lot of it by catering to her fans that were following her and that had discovered her already and were riding out with her long before radio.”

But it wasn’t an easy road, especially where gender came into play. Being told by an early manager that she’d be forced to wear dresses for marketability, M.A was discouraged for a while, compounded by other issues in her life. “I think it was a point where I was just lost, personally and mentally,” she admits. “I had just lost my brother and I was holding onto this secret of being gay from my family for a long time. It was just a lot of overwhelming stuff that was coming about.”

It took her own wake-up call to change her path and she’s been rocking out ever since. “Once I got to that point and got comfortable with myself, and who I was and didn’t care what people thought of me, that’s when I felt like this was the perfect time to express that in my music.”

Spoken like a true MC.

Check out more from XXL’s Fall 2016 issue including our Gucci Mane cover story interview, Young Thug's cover story interview and more. 

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