Brooklyn native Katorah Kasanova Marrero, better known by her stage name Young M.A, has made her own way as an openly-gay, half-Boricua, half-Jamaican rapper by embracing everything about herself that she brings to the table as a force of creativity, identity, and fire. The M.A in her stage name stands for “Me Always,” affirming her commitment to realness in an era when it’s easy to get caught up in the glitz, glam, and pressures of the entertainment industry.
She was only 24 when her breakout hit “OOOUUU” became the only song by a solo female rapper to reach the Billboard top 10 R&B/Hip Hop chart in all of 2016, buoyed all the way up to number 5 after her stint as the opening act for Beyoncé that fall before putting head back down to produce more work. Her Herstory EP, named as a nod to feminism, came out the following spring with “OOOUUU” as a bonus track. “You just keep on grinding on ya hungry shit,” she raps, sharing the guidance that someone had passed on to her. “Ignore the hating, ignore the faking, ignore the funny shit.”
Aligned with her album drop, Fader featured Young M.A as one of three cover stories for their Sex Issue in 2017. She shared with the publication that her new place in the spotlight had poised her to be the next big thing in the biz, with record labels and TV shows reaching out to her in order to get a piece. She declined to amplify herself through those channels, opting instead to continue working as an independent artist. “I’m definitely grateful for the attention, but it is weird,” she told the magazine. “I still put myself in a position to be humble, to be normal. I don’t live in a big house, I’m not real extravagant or anything. I just like to be regular. I don’t want to lose myself.”
Having close ties to strong, supportive women in her family allowed her to find herself. For years, Young M.A just thought she was a tomboy — at one point she even was the first girl to play on her school’s football team in Virginia — but when she finally realized that she was attracted to women, feared rejection from her loved ones. Her mother Latasha, though, was proactive in supporting her even before she came out. Latasha told Fader, “I used to throw little clues for her to just say it because I knew once she would have said it to me, she would feel comfortable and she would be able to live her life the way she wanted to.”
Young M.A has since grown into her sexuality, amplifying it through her lyrics and art. Last year, she directed a lesbian adult film “The Gift” for Pornhub’s push for more diversity and representation in the porn industry. In her low-key music videos for “Pettywap,” “Stubborn Ass,” and “Thotiana,” Young M.A is the lady protagonist who, like her male peers, has an unapologetic attraction to the beautiful music video babes around her.
Young M.A isn’t one to shy away from her vulnerability as an openly gay rapper who exists in a mainstream rap culture that peddles in toxic masculinity and homophobia. Last month, she matter-of-factly hit back against homophobic lyrics in Kodak Black’s track “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy.” On the track, Kodak employs a lesbian slur to express offensive and homophobic acts against the male “dumb bitches” that surround him, specifically referencing how he was going to go “Young M.A” on them. Kodak continues to express entitlement and rape culture by rapping, “I’m f*ckin’ Young M.A, long as she got a coochie.” In response, Young M.A. acknowledged on Instagram Live that Kodak Black obviously has issues, but coolly reminded him and his fans that “I know I’m a female… But at the end of the day, n*gga, that’s not my preference.”
Catch Young M.A at her next live performance on Friday, May 10th at Rolling Loud in Miami.