Show & Prove
Words: Robby Seabrook III
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
There’s someone new buzzing in Memphis, and she’s captivating hip-hop with celebratory lyrics and palpable energy. While hometown predecessors like Three 6 Mafia, Yo Gotti and Pooh Shiesty are great in their own right, none are in the same lane as GloRilla. Her rise came from building with a producer, Hitkidd, who believed in her and a group of local women rappers with the same goals of making it big time.
The 22-year-old rapper has kicked in the door with her hit single, “F.N.F. (Let’s Go).” The track took over both the streets and internet upon its release this past April. Spotify streams sit at over 15 million and the song climbed to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 over the summer. Produced by Memphis beat maestro Hitkidd, the track finds GloRilla released of a trifling boyfriend while dedicating her newfound freedom to chilling with friends. GloRilla’s low tones and southern rasp, plus her frank, festive lyrics commanded Twitter, Instagram and TikTok with just one song. The perfectly catchy refrain of “I’m F-R-E-E, fuck-nigga-free,” and the viral video with YouTube views of over 30 million made her impossible to ignore.
Long before she was Big Glo, Gloria Woods was a church kid from Northside Memphis’ Frayser neighborhood, singing solos in the choir from ages 5 to 12. She also enjoyed hip-hop. “I was raised in church, but we still used to watch 106 & Park and BET,” Glo explains. “I used to love Bow Wow, and Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne.” A self-described quiet kid, she and her nine siblings—six boys, four girls—were homeschooled until GloRilla was in the fifth grade. That’s when child services required her mother to enroll all the school-age kids in public school, where Glo eventually graduated from M-Town’s Melrose High School. “I was so happy though,” the rhymer says during a Zoom call in July, smiling at the memory of attending class.
When her youthful shyness fully gave way to a more confident, self-assured persona, Glo started rapping between 2015 and 2016 when she was about 16 years old. She was motivated to do so by her then-favorite rapper, Chief Keef. “He was my idol,” she says. “I loved his music. I knew every song.” Glo originally kept her rap dreams a secret, only playing her music for her brother and cousin. She then decided to make her first track, a “No Flockin” freestyle she uploaded onto Facebook. “I wasn’t real popular on Facebook, but my friends were sharing that joint,” reminisces Glo, who worked at a Rally’s fast-food restaurant while pursuing her passion.
Two years passed before Glo touched a real studio since she kicked off her career by recording on her phone. Then her cousin suggested the aspiring MC should take music seriously and brought her to a local studio to record. In December of 2018, Glo’s first music video, “146 Freestyle” arrived. The following year in 2019, her independently released debut EP, Most Likely Up Next, was delivered followed by her P Status project in 2020.
It was at a local rap showcase last April where Glo soon met then-buzzing Memphis beatsmith Hitkidd and everything changed. He presented the idea of collaboration to GloRilla and four other female MCs at the showcase—Gloss Up, K Carbon, Slimeroni and Aleza—and they agreed. Hitkidd believed they would work well together as a unit. Glo was already committed to rhyming thanks to the support of her family and friends. When Hitkidd got the ladies together following the showcase, they whipped up Hitkidd’s “Set The Tone,” a song on which all five rappers shine.
The track’s video went viral and GloRilla had a notion. “I was like, ‘What y’all feel about a EP?’” she remembers. “I said that in July [of 2021]. We started working on it [that] August.” Next, the newly formed crew without a group name dropped the Set The Tone EP last September, adding to their local buzz and illustrating that Memphis had an untapped crop of women rappers.
Glo’s recognition rose to the top via her clever rhymes and separate solo efforts. This past February, she locked in studio time with fellow Memphis rapper Duke Deuce and they recorded “Just Say That,” which saw an official release on Duke’s Crunkstar album. In April, Glo and Hitkidd worked together again to record for the producer’s still-unreleased new album. She made one song that would eventually become “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” during a two-hour recording session. “The next day I dropped the trailer, danced to it,” she reflects on posting the Triller clip featuring her getting down to a snippet of the song. The track’s official video, recorded in one day, debuted a week later. GloRilla and her friends dance and hold up traffic, displaying a warm chemistry that comes from true friendship.
Glo’s comfort in her own skin attracted several labels following the video’s release, including Yo Gotti’s CMG Records. “Almost any label you could think of, they had reached out,” she brags. Memphis brethren Gotti took interest in Glo several days after “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” dropped and contacted her with a request to meet in Miami, where she played her music for him on a yacht. “I knew I can rap, so, I let him hear my songs,” she recalls of their first meeting. Ultimately, Glo signed with CMG via Interscope Records this summer.
July 4th solidified GloRilla’s signing when she and Gotti simultaneously dropped a social media video announcing the big move. In the clip, Glo and some of her same friends from the “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” video board a plane with Gotti while a new contract, CMG chain and stacks of money await Glo. “She’s someone coming different with a new sound, a new delivery, a new feel and a new movement,” Yo Gotti says. “Her potential is unlimited. She doesn’t rap like any other artists. Whenever you come with an unheard sound, you have an opportunity to stamp it. And you know what happens after that.”
With sky-high potential and a rap mogul’s support, GloRilla is living in the moment and adjusting to her newfound fame. Cardi B called “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” the song of the summer and Latto tweeted in July that GloRilla’s authenticity is needed. “Hella happy for Glorilla we need her authenticity she hard af,” Latto wrote.
Primed for more singles and videos, plus, a debut album that she expects to drop early next year, the hip-hop artist has her hands full. But, as the success of her hit single shows, sleeping on Big Glo is a mistake.
Read GloRilla's full interview in the 25th anniversary issue of XXL, on newsstands now. Check out additional interviews in the magazine, including our cover story with Eminem, Bobby Shmurda, Yung Miami, JID, Yvngxchris, Sleazyworld Go, Styles P, Jim Jones, Symba, Reason, singer Jessie Reyez, actor Trevante Rhodes and music executive Katina Bynum. The issue also includes a deep dive into a narrative piece on the U.S. court systems' battle against rap lyrics, rappers’ longstanding connection to anime, the renewed interest music supervisors have in placing 1990’s hip-hop in today’s lauded TV series and the 254 past covers in XXL history.