September 24, 2023

Lakeyah is steadily building on her own terms.

Earlier this month, the 21-year-old kicked off a two-part mini-tour celebrating her No Pressure mixtape series. As her first solo trek, the Quality Control signee is prepared to enlarge her territory with talent and tenacity. While she’s working hard to grow her artistry, Lakeyah is also enjoying the moment.

“We’re having so much fun, just because it’s my first time headlining, even though it’s six cities, it’s super lit,” she shared over Zoom. “We just got off tour with Toosii last year, so me being on my own is dope. I’m with some of the same people. Really we’re just celebrating, having fun with it. We always create a good show.” 

To date, the Milwaukee-bred rapper continues to stay true to her power. In the first few years of her career, Lakeyah has already reached levels of success beyond any rapper from her city. She recognizes the pressure, stands in her own confidence, and finds support across the Midwest, a region that champions her when others are apprehensive. 

“I feel like it was very hard for people to be like, ‘Damn, a 19-year-old female, this the first one [from Milaukee] that got signed?’ It’s just so many hard-working people that have been doing it for years. I definitely feel like it was hard for people to see that, but I don’t know, I have crazy support where I’m from, from Milwaukee, Ohio to Detroit. I feel like that outweighs anything.” 

For Lakeyah, being a woman in Hip-Hop means supporting women on and off wax. As she navigates the industry, the “Mind Yo Business” rapper purposely prioritizes collaboration and celebration. Still, Lakeyah has proven herself capable of hanging with the big dogs; She’s bagged and bodied collaborations with Peezy, Tee Grizzley, 42 Dugg, Gucci Mane, Icewear Vezzo, and more. 

At the close of a successful year for the “Big FlexHer,” Lakeyah’s future is on the ascent. VIBE caught up with the rising star to discuss her tour, working with other women in rap, her creative process, and more. 

VIBE: What are some of your favorite songs to perform on tour and how do you prepare to take the stage?

Lakeyah: “Female Goat,” for sure. “Mind Yo Business” and “Too Much” because not only are those songs that people love and know, but it’s songs that I really love. After glam, girl l I take my shots of Casamigos, and then I do a prayer with my team—specifically me, my stylist, and my dancers—and we hit the stage. We go out there and kill it. Performing is my favorite part about being an artist. I really just be giving it everything when I get on.  

Before the stage, how did you get started as a musician? 

I got into music through poetry. I was in high school, and I joined a poetry slam team when I was a freshman, and they were like, “Girl, you sound like a rapper.” I just remember it being so many freestyle challenges, like “So Gone,” it was a lot of challenges going on, and I started going viral, and I just kept growing like that. Growing up I listened to a lot of girls around my age, besides music that my mom plays. So Latto—she was really big coming up—and people like Young Lyric and Tink and Ann Marie. Being that I’m from the Midwest, I listened to them a lot.

I’m from the Midwest, too. Are there any specific Midwestern artists… I know you mentioned your mom would play music, did any of that impact you creatively?

I mean, we listen to everybody from Chief Keef to Twista and Tink. People don’t know about Twista, he got hits. But a lot of people like Tink, Ann Marie, and I was up on Dreezy since I was a kid. So I listened to a lot of people that were in the area that I was from. Milwaukee is very close to Chicago and very similar to Detroit in sound, so everybody knows I love Detroit artists. Tee Grizzley is one of my favorites.

How do you decide how much of yourself and how much of your personal life to include in your music? Are there things that you are not going to rap about, or is there a process that you have to go through before you’re ready to write something through? 

That’s a great question, and being completely 100% honest, when I came in the industry, there were things that I wanted to close off because I didn’t want some things that I cared about to be ruined. Stuff like my relationship, or even relationships that I have and hold dear to me as far as family. Now I’ve begun to notice the more vulnerable you are within your music, the more supporters you gain, because it’s like, “This person is normal, she’s just like me.” So, I’m pretty much an open book now. Everything goes into the music, I feel like I can put it all out there.

You are the first rapper from Milwaukee to be on XXL’s freshman cover. Milwaukee is not yet really recognized nationally for Hip-Hop. Do you feel any pressure to be a representative of where you’re from? And if so, how do you go about managing that?

I definitely feel a lot of pressure because I want people to not only look at our city and be like, “Oh, it is a lot of talent there,” but I also want my people to support me and just know that we can change the whole dynamic of how people look at where we’re from. Because it can come off as… when you’re from a small city, only one person can make it, and it’s a crab-bucket mentality. But I feel like if everybody’s supportive, it is more than enough money, and I feel like everybody can fit through the door. It’s a lot of pressure, but Milwaukee is in me, not on me.  I’m just being myself, and I’m just letting people know where I’m from.

Do you think that being a woman and being a rapper, somebody who’s really good at it, are there any unexpected hindrances that you have faced since you’ve been in the industry? If so, how are you navigating those tight ropes?

I literally had a conversation with my girl, and she was just telling me, “You’d be surprised?” Because I just be venting like, “Damn, it’s crazy how they pin women rappers against each other, or they tell you how you should sound or tell you how you should look.” And it’s just like, are you surprised? Because this isn’t the first year that it’s been happening, it’s been happening forever. It’s such a male-dominated industry, and that’s why I’m just glad to be a part of this generation, of this flood of female rappers, because nobody would’ve ever saw this coming. I’m navigating it pretty well to be 21 in this sh*t, because it’s crazy, it’s fu**ing crazy.

You vocally support a lot of the other girls. What are some of your favorite songs to listen to specifically from your female peers right now? 

“Mind Yo Business” featuring Latto [and Lakeyah], for one, and “Tomorrow 2” [by GloRilla and Cardi B], amazing. Hold on, because I got a bunch. I love Flo Milli and Monaleo’s track [“We Not Humpin’ Remix”], that was super dope. I just love female collaborations because female rap is way better than anything else right now. Sorry.

You connect a lot with Detroit, and I know you’ve done music with Peezy, Icewear Vezzo, and a few others. How did those collaborations come about, and are there any other Midwest guys that you want to hop on a track with?

Icewear Vezzo is signed to QC now, so that was a pretty easy connection. Plus the fact that we were talking before, he was very supportive of my career, and my sound. And Peezy, I reached out to him, and I’m like, “You a OG, you a goat, they need to give you your respect,” and he’s like, “I’m going to send you something,” and I was like, “No, I got the perfect song for you.” So they’re very supportive of me as much as I’m supportive of them, and I’m just glad everybody is hopping on this Detroit wave and noticing that this is crazy, the lyricism, the flow, everything is all there. I have songs with Tee Grizzley too, so they’re very supportive of me.

You have a really fun one that I like with Lucky Daye, but what are other R&B artists that you would like to collab with?

Summer Walker, Ari Lennox, Jasmine Sullivan. I want a track with Tink really bad. I’m a girl’s girl, so any girl R&B singer, I want that to happen regardless. And Lucky Daye was a person I really, really wanted to work with. I’m glad that that happened. 

What was one of your personal biggest highlights from this year?

From this year, I would definitely say it’s “Mind Yo Business” doing so good. I was nervous about dropping that song. I’m like, “They getting tired of me using samples,” and that’ll never end either, they’ll have to eat it how I serve it. It was different for me, and it was a track that I was nervous about. But it did really good, that’s all I can say. And it’s still going viral, people are still supportive of it, and it put a lot of people’s eyes on me.

Going forward, next year, do you have any goals that you’re ready to check off of your list?

I have a goals list as long as I-don’t-fu**ing-know, okay? It’s as long as Locust Street. That’s a street in Milwaukee, and it goes all day. I’m going to check a lot off. I already checked making sure that my team is as solid as I need it to be, now we’re just moving forward. We’re knocking a lot more goals off. And like I said, I don’t stop, and I’m back to the drawing board with music, so I’m trying to create some bangers.

When people listen to your music, what do you want them to hear? What do you want them to understand about you?

I want people to take from my music that I am confident, and I want people to feel that way, too. It’s just so many days that we feel down, and it’s just so many people that bring us down, and things that bring us down. I want people to listen to me and big they self up. That’s what Lakeyah is doing for the girls. I don’t know what anybody else is doing, but I want to make sure everybody feels like a bad bi**h every day.

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