On a warm Texas evening, GloRilla is having her lashes installed in her hotel room. She’s lying on the bed, her manicured hands on her belly and her ankles crossed. I talk quietly because I feel as though I’ve walked in on a hallowed process.
As I speak with the rapper, the women present, (her glam team for the night) chime in, answering my questions and erupting in laughter. If there were more pillows and snacks, the vibe in the room could be mistaken for a slumber party. Maybe that’s GloRilla’s magic—freeing everyone in her orbit.
“For a long time I thought I was dreaming.” -GloRilla on “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
Born Gloria Woods in the summer of 1999, the rapper comes from a large Christian family: She is the eighth of ten children. “I love me a Leo,” says tonight’s hairstylist of her client.
GloRilla grew up singing, but turned out to be more Princess Loko than Anita Ward. “I used to know how to sing, but when I got to high school I started smoking and I can’t sing no more,” she tells ESSENCE. Her rapping voice is one of her powers, though, if not the power. Noticeably deeper than her speaking voice, it’s commanding and finite. You never want to be one of the f–k n—-s she’s referring to. It’s a scarlet letter.
Encouraged by one of her cousins, she began rapping in 2018. She had been participating in various music challenges on social media, revealing a raw talent. She didn’t think about rapping as a job at first. “He told me, ‘You should take it serious cause you hard,’” she says. “He was like, ‘Alright, me and you going to go to the studio.’ And sh-t, when we went in, I never stopped going.”
GloRilla’s breakout moment came with the release of “F.N.F. (Let’s Go),” this summer’s headbutt of a hit. If the “we outside” movement ever needed an anthem, this is it.
Black women announcing their relationship status with a mix of glee and snark is nearly its own music genre. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” Trina’s “Single Again” and Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of “Cry Me A River” are hits because we all need sassy lyrics to shout when the coals of a love affair go cold. “Twerking on dem headlights” is as good a chant as any.
Hitkidd, the song’s producer, originally sent the “F.N.F.” beat to Megan Thee Stallion. Unsure of how long it would take her to get to it, he also sent it to GloRilla. “Glo, I need the best version of you,” he told her. She didn’t tackle it immediately because she was running errands—which included getting her lashes done.
“I got there at 7 [at night] and I still didn’t write nothing,” she says. “I pulled up to the studio; I told him, ‘I ain’t going to lie. I ain’t got nothing, but you let me go the car tuh smooooke, then…’” Two hours later, The Song was done.
“She was being real,” says fellow rapper Gloss Up, GloRilla’s closest friend. “For a minute she was going through some things and you know how people make you mad and they bring out the better side of you? What she was going through brought out the better side of her. She just elevated.”
Once the “F.N.F.” video was released, the world wanted a piece of Big Glo. “The next day everybody was calling and talking about, ‘Come to Miami. Come here.’ All the labels were calling me,” she says, her cadence speeding up. The success of the song changed her life.
“I don’t never be Memphis no more. And I ain’t broke no more.”
“I like her lyrics [and] the way that she deliver it. I just like her.” -La Chat
Regardless of her location, the energy of Memphis lives in her. “It’s music that gets you wild,” rap icon La Chat says of crunk, a hype type of music Memphis rappers birthed. “Music that makes you do anything. It pretty much tells you what to do. It might say, ‘Buss they head, buss they head!,’ then that means go bust somebody’s head.”
Memphis’ sometimes violent, sometimes funny lyrics and crackling snare have influenced musicians across the country for decades. Ciara, Usher, A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott are just a few beneficiaries of crunk’s Midas touch. It’s much more than a style of music though—it’s a lifestyle replete with weave slanging, fists rocking, Henny spilling. That’s why people are just as obsessed with GloRilla as they are with her work. Art imitates life.
Last July, GloRilla and a collective of women rappers (Gloss Up, Aleza, Slimeroni and K Carbon, to be precise) opened for La Chat. “Who would’ve known a year later that she would’ve been so big?” the OG says with pride. “I like her energy. She got a great personality. I like her lyrics and the way that she deliver it. I just like her.” A princess has been crowned.
When the time came for GloRilla to decide on a label (yes, “F.N.F.” absolutely started a bidding war) she stuck with her roots.
“Everybody in Memphis trying to get signed by Gotti,” she says. She’s talking about Yo Gotti, one of the city’s many rap lords and the head of the Collective Music Group label. Apparently, he had been trying to tap her for a while, but with her schedule picking up, she didn’t have time. We make space for the things we want though.
“He was like, ‘Man, I guarantee you’ll be better off coming to Miami,’” she says, adding some color to her voice. She went to Miami, casually chopped it up with Gotti on a yacht, and the rest is history.
“I feel like other people, one, they don’t know the culture, like Memphis culture,” GloRilla tells me. “He most definitely was looking past just the “F.N.F.” record. He wanted me for me and my talent. Other people, they wanted the record.”
The day the record deal was announced, a video of her and a group of friends hopping on a private jet went viral. In the clip, she’s seen signing the top page of a stack of papers from Yo Gotti, and receiving some racks with a smile. People believed she was signing her record contract without reading it, which started a not-so-necessary conversation about young artists being taken advantage of.
“Why the f–k would I walk on the jet and sign some sh-t that I don’t know I’m signing?” she says. She’s not angry though, because she knows how the internet, and more importantly, people, can be. “People be dumb as hell. You can’t believe anything.”
“I still got the crunk sound. I got the sound Memphis got. When you hear me rap, you hear Memphis.”
We’re all ready for the rapper’s debut album. That “all” includes her. She confirms it’ll be out before the end of the year, describing it as “hard” and sharing that “the girls” will be on it. For a moment, I wonder if Glo knows that her story—the humble beginnings, the rapid rise—is the stuff of fairy tales. (Tonight’s glass slippers are Versace slides though.) As she hops into a black truck, smiles for the camera and heads off into the night, I become certain she’s aware. She’s making her mark, all while keeping it crunk.