Memphis rapper GloRilla brings a female voice to the city’s hip-hop renaissance

Memphis rapper GloRilla brings a female voice to the city’s hip-hop renaissance
Bob Mehr
Memphis Commercial Appeal

GloRilla — the 23-year-old Memphis rapper born Gloria Woods — has quickly become the female leader of the Bluff City’s current hip-hop renaissance.

GloRilla’s viral hits “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” and “Blessed” launched her into national consciousness earlier this spring. Since then she’s scored a Top 10 Billboard record with “Tomorrow 2,” a remix collaboration with hip-hop queen Cardi B. In addition to that track, she’s also worked with fellow Memphian Duke Deuce and on various projects with producer HitKidd. In September, GloRilla earned a surprise win at the BET Hip Hop Awards, taking home the Best Breakthrough Artist award.

This week GloRilla caps her transformative 2022, with the release of her debut major label EP, “Anyways, Life Is Great,” via Yo Gotti’s CMG label. GloRilla signed with CMG during a ceremony in July, at which time Gotti noted that the rapper was “a natural born star — she has a different sound and approach that’s needed in hip-hop right now.”

Gotti added that GloRilla’s had one of “quickest rises that I’ve seen in my career. Glo is hungry for success and determined to win. We look forward to watching her grow as an artist and reach her full potential.”

Since becoming part of Gotti’s label, GloRilla’s career — which was already moving at a rapid pace — has accelerated even further. “Since then I’ve been traveling, doing a lot of shows, doing promotion and recording — I just been working like crazy,” says GloRilla.

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How GloRilla got started in music
Raised in Frayser, she and her nine siblings were homeschooled until fifth grade. GloRilla’s earliest musical rooting came in church, where she was a member of the choir. “I pretty much grew up in church, I used to sing there,” she says. “So I was listening to church music as well as hip-hop growing up.”

GloRilla was particularly inspired by Chicago rapper Chief Keef. “When Chief Keef came out, he had his own style that I really liked. I thought, ‘I can do that too,’” says GloRilla, who began posting freestyle videos and doing rap challenges online as teenager.

It wasn’t until her final year of high school at Melrose that GloRilla began to see hip-hop as a viable career. “I wasn’t taking it serious until I got to be 18,” says GloRilla, whose cousin urged her to take her talents into a real studio. “I got serious with it the first time I recorded in a professional studio. I really liked doing it, but I was still learning as I was going.”

In late 2018, she put out her first video, “146 Freestyle,” and followed with a pair of indie EPs, “Most Likely Up Next” in 2019 and “P Status” in 2020. “People in Memphis started tuning in to what I was doing,” she says. “I started getting booked for shows in 2020, but then COVID came and it stopped for a while.”

Eventually, in spring 2021, she caught the attention of top Memphis producer HitKidd who teamed GloRilla up with a group other emerging female rappers in Gloss Up, K Carbon, Slimeroni and Aleza, for an EP called “Set the Tone.”

With HitKidd providing beats, GloRilla embarked on the next stage of her solo career in 2022. By the time she released “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” in April — the track was quickly on its to 15 million plays on Spotify, 30 million video views on YouTube and a spot in the Billboard Top 50 — the music industry had already identified GloRilla’s potential and she was being courted by various labels.

“A lot of labels was calling. I was going to different label meetings, but when I met with [Yo] Gotti it just felt right,” says GloRilla of her decision to sign to CMG. “Soon as I met Gotti, I played him a few more of my songs than what he’d heard and he was into it. He talked a lot about the future. Something more than one or two hits. He was said, ‘We’re gonna make history.’”

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What’s next for GloRilla?
GloRilla knows she’s arriving at a particularly opportune moment for Memphis rap, as the city has been experiencing a new golden age with the success of Gotti’s CMG label and chart-topping artists like Moneybagg Yo. “I feel like Memphis is on fire right now,” she says. “There’s a lot of exposure, or more exposure, on the city the last couple years. It feels like people really taking what Memphis rappers do seriously.”

As proof of that, in September, GloRilla beat out a crew of contenders — that included Saucy Santana, Fivio Foreign, Baby Keem, Doechii, Blxst and Nardo Wick — at the BET Awards for the Breakthrough Artist honor. Accepting the award from Tyrese, an emotional GloRilla was accompanied by her CMG label head Gotti.

“I don’t want to cry my makeup off… Y’all, I’m crying,” GloRilla said during the ceremony. “I want to thank God. I want to thank my team, my mama, Yo Gotti, the biggest CEO. My manager, my family, everybody that supported me… I don’t know what to say.”

“I was super nervous,” admits GloRilla now. “I was praying and I had faith I was going to win, but when they actually called my name, it was extremely crazy.”

If GloRilla can sustain the momentum of her first big year in music, it’s a likely bet she’ll be collecting more industry honors and accolades. The next 12 months will hold the key. She has been recording new tracks in Los Angeles and Atlanta, with an eye toward releasing more music in 2023.

As for her own predictions for next year, GloRilla notes simply: “More heat, you know what I‘m saying? More heat, more work. But I’m going to let it happen it though,” she says. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing the way I’ve been doing it, ‘cause it’s working so far.”

“This was originally published on commercial appeal.com

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