Rushing from elementary school with handwritten raps in her pocket, 10-year-old Alyssa Michelle Stephens would hop in her father’s “old-school cars with [24-inch] rims” and head straight to the recording studio — first in his friends’ homes, but soon enough, in professional spaces. “When we started paying for sessions, he’d say, ‘You ain’t gon’ be in here all day,’ ” the artist now known as Latto recalls. “ ‘You better have that song ready, top to bottom, one take, in and out!’ ” Even then, the Atlanta-raised aspiring MC — today a chart-topping, Grammy-nominated rapper with more than 1 billion on-demand streams in the United States, according to Luminate — was preparing for her destiny, winning high school writing competitions as a fifth grader.
Nurtured by her accountant mother and “hustler” father — both of whom she recalls living off ramen noodles during her early years — the self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl” stayed ahead of the curve, accompanying him to video shoots where rising acts like Dem Franchize Boyz and Ciara used his cars. “I just remember being so mesmerized by the whole process,” she says. “I loved the fast-paced hustle and bustle.” At 16, Latto competed on (and won) the first season of Lifetime’s hip-hop reality show, The Rap Game, under the moniker Miss Mulatto. Already, she had the foresight to recognize a bad career move when she saw one and, citing a less-than-adequate payout, turned down the show’s grand prize — a record deal with Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Recordings — and remained independent until she signed to RCA Records in 2020, following the success of her breakthrough single, “B–ch From Da Souf.”
Read Latto’s Billboard Women in Music profile here.
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