Katorah Marrero, better known as the witty Brooklyn-born wordsmith Young M.A, is a gifted rapper. Over the past four years, the slick, rewind-worthy artist has gained a devoted audience who is always hungry for “bars.”
A respected lyricist, the 27-year-old wordsmith can pen a contagious hit full of quote-worthy lines. In 2016, the young newcomer scored an inescapable viral record with “OOOUUU.”
Unlike the YouTube freestyles that prompted her notoriety online, the triple-Platinum “OOOUUU” was an original—one that used a conversational flow to present some of the year's most repeated lyrics.
The attention brought along by “OOOUUU” placed Young M.A on a pedestal as a lethal pen-wielding talent with star-power. Underneath the spotlight, she took her time. Instead of rushing her debut album, aptly titled, Herstory in the Making, M.A chose to be the tortoise, not the hare. Through feature verses, singles, and freestyles, the excitement surrounding her name never wavered, but a hit as big as “OOOUUU” comes but once in a career.
Now, three years after her breakout single, Young M.A’s long-awaited Herstory In The Making is finally upon us. Will it live up to her breakout debut?
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “No Mercy (Intro)”
With a title like “No Mercy,” I’m expecting annihilation. The piano keys have a lighthearted bounce to them. M.A’s voice is sitting perfectly. “She thought the sky was falling when I dropped the ceiling on em.” The energy is increasing. Her voice mimics the intensity of the keys bursting. It’s like a solar flare. The drums slide in without a big thump. Still, I like how this built itself up. “This about to be the greatest story never told.” “I wasn’t welcome I imposed, nigga.” A short intro, not a complete annihilation, but she set the pace. I’ll revisit. “No Mercy (Intro)” feels like a good way to start.
2. “Da Come Up”
She said she feels like Martin Luther King, lol. That’s some comparison. The beat doesn’t have the punch of a trap banger, but it’s not completely underwhelming. M.A’s flow is strong here. It’s so fluid. “No off days on the calendar” is an Instagram caption. Chuckled at the Wild ’n Out bar. “Da Come Up” needs a production face-lift, though. A bigger beat would benefit what she’s doing lyrically. Hmm, not sure how I feel about pitching the vocals at the end. Her performance is the best part.
A slow build-up. Zombie on the Track drop. Love these twinkling keys and the heaviness of the 808s. M.A’s flow is unbothered. The conversational style works for her. It’s so seamless. “Hellcat sounds like Mufasa when I start her up.” “Homie tuck your chain it don’t spark enough,” sheesh, that’s rude. “I fucked her during tax season, perfect timing.” She’s hilarious. A “Hi Kehlani,” bar. YG is going to say “Hi” back. “Big” is a good. This stream-of-braggadociosness is her trademark. I’ll come back.
4. “Kold World”
Zaytoven tag. He doesn’t stop working. I like the melody here. M.A’s voice has a nice texture. The drums aren’t bombastic enough; I want an eruption. The subtlety works with her voice. Young M.A will pay your rent, lol. There’s this effortlessness to how she flows. “Lost some friends along the way and found some foes.” A more money, more problem line. We expect that of a debut album. The mix here could’ve been sharper. The beat and her vocals sound good together, but the synergy is missing. M.A is eating, though. Looking forward to more storytelling.
Yeah, this is the one. The tone of her voice, the beat, the delivery, all the pieces are sewn together like a vibrant quilt. M.A is all tricks. She knows how to lay up these bars against the glass like a point guard. She has that caption quality to her lyricism that Drake is known for. This one has been out for a while, but I’ll revisit.
6. “The Lyfestyle”
Young M.A is by far one of the cooler rappers to emerge in the past half-decade. She could have easily conquered the lifestyle rap arena that Curren$y thrives in. The production here doesn’t speak to me, but she is a captivating boxer in the ring. How she bobs and weaves over beats—it’s hard not to be drawn in. “I’m a queen, nigga, crown me up.” M.A decided humbleness is out. “I hate paying bills.” I FELT THAT. “I can’t change my ways.” “The Lyfestyle” is good.
7. “Smoove Kriminal”
The beat is a strong contender for favorite thus far. It’s simple, but perfect for what she’s pulling off here. Man, this is so smooth. Young M.A hasn’t broken a sweat yet. I would love a mixtape with her and Mustard. He could lace her. “Smoove Kriminal” has a single feel to it. All the tricks are landing. This has that Cam’ron on Rap City bounce to it. That Bobby Shmurda losing his hat in the clouds bounce. “Moonwalking on a hater” is a caption I would’ve used in 2017. Still, “Smoove Kriminal” is a keeper.
8. “Stubborn Ass”
I believe this is the first record that’s three minutes long. A slower build-up. M.A is speaking to a woman. Production-wise, this feels like a Drake record. It has that under water, R&B-for-mermaids texture that 40 loves. M.A sounds good. “Trust me it’s easy, like eating a popsicle.” Yeah, she’s killing this one. She’s probably a hard person to debate with. The wordplay covers all the bases of relationship quarrels. Down to the details of not washing the dishes. Production switches up. The drums suddenly became firecrackers. I like this record a lot.
The burp, lol. “Fuck it, keep that.” Drunk M.A in the booth is my favorite M.A. “She with you, but she still stalks me on some creep shit” lol, okay. Pure stunt bars. This album is like running on a treadmill—in motion, but not going anywhere. Not in love with this one. It’s filler.
10. “She Like I’m Like”
Oh, a flute. The wind instrument is a nice change of pace. Let’s see how these drums drop. Update: they aren’t too bad. I can’t help but think of “Mask Off” but “She Like I’m Like” isn’t exactly a replica. She’s sliding across the beat. The delivery is smooth as silk. I can’t get over how dated the beat feels, though. A year or two late. I wish M.A would’ve built a better canvas for this painting. The dine-and-dash line got a chuckle out of me. She’s good as a rapper, but the production is holding a lot of these songs back. “She Like I’m Like” would have been better over “Mask Off.”
There’s more emotion in the production. It’s heavier than the prior songs. Let’s see if Young M.A opens up here. Getting breakup song vibes from this one. I wish Lil Wayne would’ve had a verse. It’s good. She’s doing a bit more with the melodic vocals. Not a bad song, but I’m not emotionally invested in this story. M.A is good with conveying, the hook is strong, but the vocals don’t have the same weight. On the fence about whether I’ll revisit.
A sample? Not sure where it’s from. The transition, musically, is one of the best of the album thus far. Great sequencing from “Numb” into “Bipolar.” It would be better if the two songs paired together. “Bipolar” is more gripping. She’s opening up about a relationship; a turbulent one. This one is short but solid.
A change of pace. The confident, larger-than-life Young M.A is back. The bars are sharp. “I rather be in some pussy than do this interview,” hahahahaha. That’s a quote. Love the energy. The production doesn’t transform “Bleed” into the banger it should be, but she’s making up for the blandness. M.A is a personality that can electrify. “It was either get rich or die and I had to choose.” The brashness is infectious. This is good, but like several records before it, would have benefited by a better beat.
14. “No Love”
I need Puffy to executive produce the next Young M.A album. He would get her right. Wait. There’s something nice happening here. I love the way she’s conversing with the sample. Oh, yes, this is it. She’s getting candid about her brother’s murder. She needed this beat. There’s so much passion in her voice. The words are spilling out like a puncture wound. I can feel the mic melting. Ah, the hook with the Auto-Tune was unnecessary. She sounds like A Boogie without da Hoodie. Still, despite that Auto-Tune hook, the best song thus far. Keeper.
15. “Car Confessions”
Give Young M.A all the sample beats. I need her to do an entire album with The Heatmakerz. She’s skating over this chop of Heather Headley’s “In My Mind.” “Things went from moving fast to slow motion.” When she’s in this bag, full of imagery and realism, she’s in a world of her own. The flow and her voice make every line candy to the ears. “I know it’s been a drought but to my fans don’t go dry on me.” “I’m here to inspire.” Feels like an outro. Young M.A is acknowledging a lot of haters on this album. Outside of that incident with Kodak Black, I haven’t seen anyone say a bad word about her. Whoever is hating, she isn’t taking her foot off their neck. Someone call Just Blaze.
Okay, now this is a banger. There’s a freshness here that’s been lacking in a few of the previous records. The drums are slapping harder than Princess Peach in Super Smash Bros. Melee. A lot of brags. I imagine this one sounds better when your car is a foreign whip. The flow switch in verse two is the best part. Three verses are one too many, but under the right intoxication, “Foreign” is probably just right. Not mad at it. I’ll keep it.
17. “NNAN” ft. Relle Bey & Max YB
So many records. Oh, this sounds like a Mustard beat. M.A is levitating. Man, I hope the features keep this energy. She sounds too in the zone to share this space with anyone. Eh, already I don’t like this hook. My man is not the one. I like the idea, I do, but it just switched the momentum of M.A’s verse. Who is this on the second verse? Why is his voice so high? It’s like all the helium in the studio decided to kick a few bars. M.A is back and killing. “NNAN” is the record I wanted, but there are too many cooks in the kitchen.
18. “My Hitta”
I like this skit. Between her and the girlfriend. “You not going to be my hitta?” It’s cute. Yes, the build-up here is great. There’s a certain presence that M.A can bring a record. It’s cool and suave, playful and charming; reminds me of so many Lil Wayne songs in the best way. “She don’t follow other rappers, that’s that loyal shit.” Cute. Everything here works. Not mad. Not sure if I’ll keep it, but I wouldn’t skip. This beat sounds familiar, though. I can’t place what it reminds me of, maybe a Wayne song. Maybe.
19. “Sober Thoughts” ft. Max YB
I have high hopes for this one. Has the vibe of a Drake song that would have “AM” or “PM” in the title. Introspective M.A. The Picasso bar might be my favorite thus far. Arguably the best rapping on the project. She’s going for the gusto here. I’m not a fan of Max YB. I respect the feature, and I see what he’s aiming for, but it doesn’t work. Lyrically, this is good. As a song, there’s room for improvement.
20. “Crime Poetry (Outro)”
Let’s see how Young M.A closes this one out. A solid beat. She is full of confidence. She’s taking off. Another line about being an artist and not a rapper, even though rapping is her art form. M.A is a rocket soaring to the sun. The energy is perfect for opening or closing an album. “I’m here, I’m sticking around.” Young M.A plants her flag. She’s going full mixtape Wayne. I hear so much Wayne in these new artists. Hip-Hop’s All-Father.
21. “Pettywap 2 (Bonus)”
One more for the road. “Accidentally, I got famous but got rich on purpose.” Bars on bars. Yeah, this is a smoker. Every line is a quote. “Pettywap 2 (Bonus)” is how you leave a lasting impression. “I got a chopper the size of her toddler.” I wish the entire album had this lyrical zeal and the production dynamics. One of my favorites.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Young M.A's Herstory in the Making
Young M.A’s Herstory in the Making is a tale told two years too late. Not in terms of relevance, but sonics. The album sounds like seeing a home decorated in Christmas lights in May.
Lyrically, M.A is the rapper we expect her to be. If Herstory in the Making were a Gangsta Grillz mixtape—a series of freestyles over commercial instrumentals—then it would be an excellent addition to the mixtape lexicon. But that’s not the case here.
Yes, she’s rapping with a sophisticated cool that lesser rappers wish they could mimic. And, yes, it’s charming and infectious. But that alone isn’t enough to turn good songs into great records. As a long-awaited debut from one of the most exciting newcomers out of Brooklyn, Herstory in the Making doesn’t add a single new page to the Book of M.A.
By Yoh, aka Yohistory, aka @Yoh31