When it comes to rapping, there’s a level of finesse that Young M.A. has mastered. We can’t always put our fingers on it, but sometimes you can identify the “it” factor in someone’s music like we did when Young M.A.’s name first surfaced. Her entry into the rap game back in 2016 was sleek, defined by her triple-platinum single “OOOUUU” just a year after she released her first mixtape. Although she had already resonated with her home crowd in New York City, “OOOUUU” created both a mood and an aux cord must for the rest of the country, pointing all eyes toward its composer. Her viral single became an instant hit that summer, reviving Bobby Smhruda’s shmoney dance into the fall. It was pleasantly shocking to see an artist that new reach such heights with ease and composure, which usually marks the start of their evolution. But Young M.A. is the only rapper whose style is self-described as stagnant in a positive way, refusing to change. Three years after she first broke into the mainstream, she’s been able to captivate fans again with her debut album Herstory in the Making, emitting the same seamless flow and whimsical content she came into the game with. She hasn’t confided to the needs of the radio, referring to herself as a rapper and not an artist. But that’s what makes all 21-tracks are refreshing to hear.
Young M.A. doesn’t do much press unless it’s ripping radio show freestyles, allowing her to take control of her own narrative in her music. On Herstory in the Making, she vulnerably let us in on the next chapter in her memoir, keeping us glued to each track rather than on each page. Clocking in at just over an hour, Herstory in the Making sounds off with “No Mercy (Intro)”, containing a theatrical trap beat by Kofi Black that allowed her to immediately begin letting her feelings loose. From its beginning to its end, Herstory in the Making is filled with bars that are just simple enough to stick with you, yet are complex enough to only make sense to her story. The average person reading this likely doesn’t walk around with a MAC-10, ready to spray at any sign of disrespect. But whether she’s detailing her zero disrespect policy in tracks “Bleed” or asking her partner for assurance that she’ll ride for Young M.A. in tracks like “My Hitta”, Herstory in the Making has the ability to touch everyone with its reflection of life and its number of defining themes.
Throughout the album Young M.A. opens up about her war with reality, adding reason as to why her drops have been so inconsistent these past few years. In her song “No Love” she moonwalks on the beat while revealing her still constant struggle with accepting the death of her brother, who was fatally stabbed ten years ago. Although she’s seemed to transpire past her days of depression and finally get back in the studio to record, she recalls how she was stuck in her trauma, making sense of her impenetrable attitude that molded over, something we admire when she raps. Her struggle eventually led to her committed relationship with brown liquor, but even then the pain doesn’t deter her from speaking clearly in tracks like “Kold World” and “Numb”. She also admits that her heavy mind has made her snappy in tracks like “She Like I’m Like”. But she finds peace in her relationship, completing the holy trinity between her music, her alcohol, and her girl. Staying cuffed up afforded her the feeling of isolation, which was necessary to drop this project with such authenticity.
Her time alone allowed her to clear her mind and really reflect on her journey, which she does cleanly in tracks like “Car Confessions” that has the rawness of a Funkmaster Flex freestyle. She describes how she went from selling five-dollar bags of candy in school to selling drugs for studio time, finding ways to exhaust her energy in her hustle and in her expression. “Hoping to find hope in this hopeless world we live in/ What you give is what you given, gotta make wise decisions/ Gotta stay tunnel vision, gotta avoid collision/ Keep scratching the surface and keep your palms itching,” she rapped. Despite finding a home in rap music, she makes it clear in “Smooth Kriminal” that she started to realize how fake the industry was once she started buzzing. She still remains independent, but was selling out shows before the radio got hip to her. Once she became an official household emerging rapper to look out for, she found herself fighting to trust within everyone and everything from her gang to the overhaul of industry people in her face. However, despite her new level of stardom, she doesn’t confide in making something for the purpose of getting high streaming numbers and plays. Instead, she used her isolation to craft the script of her own movie, further proving how bonafide her songs are. In typical New York fashion, not once do you question the truth in any of them.
You don’t even have to be from New York City to realize how it’s painted all over Herstory in the Making, preferably in red with Young M.A.’s color of preference. From her mention of bubble coats and wig frontals in “The Lifestyle” to the distinct melodic flow in “RNID” that’s currently being carried by new artists like Lil Tjay and Lil Tecca, she pays homage to her city. In that same track, she shouts out Brooklyn-born legend Talib Kweli, admiring how he carved his own lane as she is now. This is not a project that sounds similar to anything else mainstream out of New York City, garnering a mixtape level of real rap that’s placing her in a separate category. She hesitantly approaches each song with sharpness, threading her bars onto the production by herself, Amadeus’ west coast flare, Mike Zombie’s thunderous drum kit, and Zaytoven’s signature keys among many others. The production mixed with her style can hit in any city, but it’s origins bleed the Big Apple in her own distinctive sense, regardless of the beat.
On Herstory in the Making, she carelessly says that she doesn’t feel the need to compete with other rappers, further proven by the fact that this album is her first in a long four years that included the complete rise of Cardi B and the retirement of Nicki Minaj. Once again, her name is already back in rotation as one of the “kweens” of her city. Young M.A.’s bars are packed with protein, filled with meaty topics and tender punchlines that perfectly accompany the grey skies that are starting to hover over New York City. Like the Henny she prefers to drink, each song on Herstory in the Making is like a sip and by the end of the album, you’ll be in a state of mind that took your emotions by storm. As she’s newly back in rotation, Young M.A. is ready to reveal her truths to the cold world , but rather than being defeated by it, she gives the listeners the same advice that she gave herself; get a fur.