Every year, there are a few artists who appear to define the year, lighting up social media and cementing the biggest cultural trends. There was of course Steve Lacy, whose TikTok breakthrough ‘Bad Habit’ made good on years of underappreciated art making. There was ‘Ginseng Strip’ by Yung Lean, soundtracking over 10.5 million posts, and of course, Central Cee with ‘Doja’, haunting TikTok, Instagram and even Twitter with debate over its now-immortal opening line (“How can I be homophobic/my bitch is gay”). If you’re into TikTok dances, there’s another rapper making waves. Her name is GloRilla, and if you don’t know her yet, there is no better time to get acquainted — in 2023, this woman is set to go fully worldwide.
Born Gloria Hallelujah Wood in 1999 as one of ten children, GloRilla first started rapping at 16. Growing up between the church and the “real ratchet area” that she is from in Memphis, she cites Chief Keef as one of her main inspirations, her blueprint for a gruff, staccato flow that is rooted firmly in the lineage of crunk and drill. Adding her own blend of discordant flow and youthful observation, her music suits the atmosphere of post-pandemic life, acting out and turning up because life is too short not to. With a steady stream of self-released output under her belt, her talent secured her a 2022 deal on legendary Memphis artist Yo Gotti’s label in collaboration with Interscope, positioning her as a fresh new star in the making.
In just a few short months, GloRilla has made her presence well known. In April, she released ‘F.N.F (Let’s Go)’ with HitKidd, which earned her the ultimate contemporary accolade of a TikTok dance challenge trend. Remixes featuring Latto and Saweetie followed, as did a music video that sees GloRilla “hanging out the window with my ratchet-ass friends”, ignoring the male gaze in favour of her own amusement. Even if the choppy, crunk style it’s not your usual vibe, there’s something infectious about the fun they’re having, the childlike joy in the ‘let’s go!’ phrase that underpins the track. Clearly, we’re not the only ones to think so; with over 52 million YouTube views and social media ‘sound of the summer’ status, it has also earned her a nomination at the 65th GRAMMYs for best rap performance, a massive achievement for a debut single.
In September, GloRilla went even harder with ‘Tomorrow 2’. Featuring a fierce verse from Cardi B, it would be easy to feel overshadowed, to baulk in the company of such an established elder. But ‘Big Glo’ more than holds her own, making no bones about her future-forward attitude. “Can’t say yo’ name up in my songs, might not fuck wit’ you tomorrow/Can get my feelings hurt today, I won’t give a fuck tomorrow/Ain’t fucked up ’bout no credit score, I might be rich as fuck tomorrow/Every day the sun won’t shine, but that’s why I love tomorrows.” It set her up perfectly for her November debut EP ‘Anyways, Life’s Great…’, a collection of rabble-rousing rap songs with a sincere heart.
It’s early days for the young rapper, but having already racked up awards nominations, big event performances and a massive, ever-growing US audience, there’s already plenty about GloRilla to like. With her husky-molasses voice and enviably well-laid edges, she wears her southernness proudly, seeming at once very much her age and also somehow wiser. Always optimistic even when she digs into tough topical moments — abortion, poverty, domestic abuse, incarceration — she is taking to her new success like a pro, seemingly intent on enjoying every moment. Whether she’s sharing witticisms on social media about never falling in love at the club, tearing up the stage at the 2022 American Music Awards or donating 25,000 dollars to her old high school, that toothy smile is always wide on her face, looking out for the next generation.
This inclusive energy is perhaps her greatest strength. In an industry that is still learning how not to pit women against each other, GloRilla is part of a new generation that recognises the power of inviting others directly into your circle. This early in her career, her collabs, shoutouts and overall presentation prioritises women, zoning in on self-confidence and personal autonomy even when she does rap about sex and relationships. With Cardi B especially – who she affectionately refers to as her cousin — she appears to be cultivating a particularly special relationship, two women holding their own with a bolshy, gritty approach to rap that may have once been labelled ‘unladylike’. Other women seem to love her too – both Megan Thee Stallion and Kim Kardashian have been spotted dancing to her music, recognising the carefree vibe that she is riding.
As we move into 2023, the only way for GloRilla to go is surely up. She has already proved an impressive work ethic; just this week, she’s released a new feature via Latto’s ‘FTCU’, and appeared on the huge Youtube channel COLORS show, bound to help raise her stature here in Europe. At her current rate, an album or full-length mixtape must surely be beckoning, not to mention a host of fresh collabs that suit her community spirit and viral potential.
There’s also that small matter of the Grammy nomination. With stiff competition in her category from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Doja Cat and Future, it’s a tough one to win, but even being invited into that lineage is a sure sign of talent worth watching, a name that can outlast any fleeting trends. Win or lose, can you even imagine the red-carpet energy she will bring with her girls? This GloRilla has been welcomed into the jungle, and she surely won’t rest until she’s sitting pretty at the top of the troop.