What do Latto, Flo Milli, City Girls, and Gloss Up have in common? They all are featured on songs with 21-year-old rapper Lakeyah. The Atlanta-based, Milwaukee-bred lyricist says she is the “ultimate girls’ girl” and she has the track record to back it up. In an industry that is dominated by men and often pits women against each other, Lakeyah has prioritised working with other female rappers early in her career. In the span of five years, she’s gone from performing at high school poetry slams and rapping over beats on YouTube to signing to Quality Control (the label behind City Girls and Migos), being named to XXL’s freshman class, and racking up features with all of your favorite rappers.
Lakeyah’s midwest roots add a certain bravado to her music that makes you feel like “that girl” when you’re listening to it. And according to Lakyeah, that’s on purpose. She wants all women to feel just as confident as she is when we turn on her records. At just 21-years-old, Lakeyah is gearing up for her first solo tour and sat down with Unbothered to chat about her sound, the state of female rap, and how she gets ready to hit the stage.
Unbothered: Last year you were the first rapper from Milwaukee to be a part of XXL’s freshman class. How does the Midwest influence your sound?
Lakeyah: I rap really braggadocious. If you listen to the Detroit sound and even if you listen to people from Chicago, they talk about things they want to get, even if they don’t already have it. I was rapping about Audemars and stuff before I even knew what it was. I was rapping about the money I wanted and where I saw myself being. So I was very like, "Bitch, I'm that girl." That's how the Midwest influenced me for sure. We get dressed and we like to show off everything from jewellery to long inches to clothes. So it's a big influence on who I am.
You recently moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, right? Has Atlanta influenced your sound at all?
L: Definitely. I say I'm bi-cultural because I love the production that they have out here with their sound. If you hear songs like “Mind Yo Business” and “Poppin” with Gucci, you can tell they are influenced by the Atlanta sound. I love it down here too. It's a vibe. I don't even know how to explain that. I think if you hear the Atlanta sound you're going to know it.
I'm grateful as hell to be a part of this generation of female rappers because it's so collaborative.... Female rappers are collabing more than competing. I feel like we're changing the whole game.
Exactly, the mix of the midwest braggadocious style with the Atlanta production is undeniable. You are also a part of the new class of female rappers who are bringing a new sound and vibe to rap. What’s your favorite part about that?
L: I'm grateful as hell to be a part of this generation of female rappers because it's so collaborative. Everybody's supporting somebody else and there's no weird energy. Everybody's opening a lane for themselves and really just riding it out. I just love it. Every type of woman has somebody to represent them right now because there's so many different female rappers.
One of the things people love about your music is that you aren't afraid to collaborate with or show love to other female rappers. What's it like being able to work with women in an industry that's so male dominated?
L: I'm glad you asked that. I'm a girls’ girl. If I didn't have to work with any men, I wouldn't. At the top of this year, one of my main goals was to work with more female artists than I did the previous year. Because when I first came in I was collabing with my favourites and people that were hot at the moment and they were all men because it's such a male dominated field. And I said, "I'm going to collab with so many more females" and I just started knocking them down.
So I really want to get as many as I can because [there's] just something about people seeing that female rappers are collabing more than competing. I feel like we're changing the whole game.
Do you have any dream collabs with women?
L: Of course, I mean everybody wants to work with Nicki and Cardi. And another one of my dream collabs would be Summer Walker. I'm manifesting that in the air. I feel like [they’re] an undeniable talent.
UB: Lakeyah plus Summer Walker would be so smooth, we’re definitely going to manifest that!
L: Thank you so much.
Let’s chat about your upcoming tour, congrats on that! What are you most excited about?
L: I'm excited to see my fans and the supporters I have in each city, that always just makes me feel good. Just seeing how many and the type of fans that I have in general. But I think I'm most excited about performing in Detroit. I missed my Detroit performances two times and I'm excited. I have a nice fan base there.
Are you doing anything special to prepare for this tour?
L: I'm training really, really hard. And also something that I will say is I'm bringing out a lot of special guests for most of the cities. So that should be exciting, and hopefully more females than ever.
I can’t wait to see who you bring out. Do you have any rituals before you hit the stage?
L: So I just started praying heavily before I hit the stage because I be stressing myself out sometimes. But before I used to just take my shot and I was out there because my favourite part about being an artist is performing. People always ask me, "Are you nervous?" And I say, "No, I'm ready to get out there." I love seeing people being excited to see me. I think that's what it is. So I get out there and I give it all I got.
I looked at the playlist you use to get ready before going on stage and I love that you included so many female artists in it. Can you talk about the songs you choose and how they get you ready to hit the stage?
L: Starting with “Tomorrow 2,” the song is just so street and gangster, I love it. I love to see GloRilla just really prospering just from being herself, very authentic, not changing her swag, not changing anything about herself. So that just motivates me to keep going because you don't have to be anybody but yourself to make it. That gets played every day.
Obviously it's part of my ritual to play my music like “Real Bitch” ft. Gloss Up. I'm my biggest fan. I like to listen to all the hits, but that's really what it is for me. I love good songs. I love good music.
I love that. What's next for you, music-wise after you finish touring?
L: So I really have been back to the drawing board with my music because “Mind Yo Business” has been a moment for me and people are paying attention to me now and I want everything afterwards to be just as good as that. I dropped No Pressure Pt. 1, and No Pressure Pt. 2 to keep my fans fed. I always got to keep them fed.
I'm probably one of the most consistent female artists out right now, so I try to keep them with new music, but I'm back to the drawing board and I really want my next situation to be really nice. So just know I'm always locked in.