Finding a Flo Milli song where the rapper isn’t expressing her unyielding confidence is a rarity. Her taunting, witty rhymes about effortlessly taking anyone’s man while ensuring she doesn’t even need one are more inspiring than they are insulting. It’s a craft that the Mobile, Alabama native aced on her glorious debut mixtape Ho, Why Is You Here? Her follow-up, You Still Here, Ho?, released July 20, furthers that narrative arc while exploring different tones and exposing her vulnerability. Flo Milli knows that she’s still that girl. And, with the help of affirmations, she’s always known that she would be since deciding to rap at the age of 10.
Following the success of her viral hit “Beef FloMix” in 2019, the rapper, born Tamia Carter, was signed to RCA later that year. Ho, Why Is You Here?, released in 2020, garnered similar fanfare. Although Flo Milli is shocked by the attention she’s received thus far, she really isn’t. “As a kid, I’ve always spoken things into existence, so I always knew it would happen, but to actually see it happen was crazy.”
Throughout You Still Here, Ho?, the 22-year-old mainly raps with the fervor of someone who’s always had to defend themselves. That’s probably because she was often teased in high school, though when we speak over the phone, she clarifies, “I was never bullied. I just didn’t want to be tried.” “Come Outside,” the album’s opener, finds the artist daring an enemy to threaten her (“Yeah, you was doin’ all that shit talkin’, bitch, what’s up? / Come outside, ho,” she warns on the outro). That anger reaches a peak on “Bed Time,” a searing single where Flo Milli promises to fight anyone who has the audacity to tempt her. She calms down on the OG Parker-produced “Pretty Girls,” a mellow, rock-tinged track about deserving the finer things in life.
“Tilted Halo” is the lone song on the 17-track album that reveals the rapper’s softer side. (“You say I’m the one you pray for / But I ain’t nobody’s angel / I ain’t perfect, I’m just searchin’”). But the brief moment of introspection doesn’t dim Flo Milli’s unflagging ability to exalt herself. The cheeky rollout for her debut album proves it: Promo videos featured Flo Milli recreating memorable scenes from Black reality television shows like Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta, Basketball Wives, Flavor of Love, I Love New York where she plays Black women with larger-than-life personas, just like herself. To promote her track “Conceited,” Flo Milli re-enacts a Tiffany “New York” Pollard moment from I Love New York: “Call me conceited, but I know these bitches would like to look more like Ms. Flo Milli,” she proclaims in the skit. Flo Milli’s shit-talking attitude and fun personality would easily make her a fan favorite if cast on any reality show.
Watching those shows (she coyly admits during our interview that she’s a current fan of the Zeus Network), listening to female neo-soul artists, like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu—who sang about prioritizing their sexual and romantic desires, and growing up in a home with a mom and sister who consistently nurtured her taught Flo Milli to always value herself. It’s something that she always wants to promote for others, even when being in an industry that is often harmful to dark-skinned Black women like her. She knows that her opinion of herself is all that matters.
“I feel like a lot of people expect dark-skinned women to automatically be insecure because of the way society accepts them or doesn’t accept them,” the rapper says. “I feel like people think every dark-skinned woman feels that way. We all don’t feel that way.”
ELLE.com talked to Flo Milli about the importance of self-love, growing up in the golden age of reality television, and her debut album, You Still Here, Ho?
When did you know that you were, as your song states, “Pretty Black Cute”? Where does that confidence stem from?
It comes from the things I dealt with as a kid. It really started in high school because I grew up very confident. I grew up in a house full of women. With me being the youngest, I, of course, had cousins and stuff and they try to pick on you, so I had to have tough skin. When I got older, it was a lot of girls that didn’t like me in school. For what reason? I don’t know. I used to come as a bad bitch, and I was just that girl. A lot of girls did not like me for certain reasons. You just deal with cattiness a lot in school, so it kind of came from there—me being a straight A and B student, I was in honor society. I really just had my head on straight. I really couldn’t tell you why girls didn’t like me, but I had a lot to lose, so I would just put it in the music instead of fighting. That aggression and anger had to go somewhere.
What did you have to lose?
To me, it was a lot to lose because I was in honor society, I made a 3.8 GPA, so stuff like that can get you kicked out. I actually did get kicked out of honor society in the 12th grade for getting into fights, but, I mean, it had to happen. I had to defend myself.
That’s interesting because your music definitely sounds like something you’d hear during a fight. It’s very menacing.
At the time, it was just unnecessary issues with girls. I remember going into a stall and fixing my hair. There was this one girl. I still don’t know her name to this day, and she would say little slick stuff about me. My goddad used to spoil me, and he used to buy me 30 inches of bundles, like the best hair, so I came to school looking really nice. I guess it was all of that put together, and I had a nice body. It was just a lot. I was just giving that girl, and they didn’t like that.
I was just giving that girl, and they didn’t like that.
What is the origin of the name Flo Milli?
I used to be in a girl group when I was in middle school up until high school, and my name was always Rose Milli. After we had broken up, I started doing Instagram videos and I would put them out. I remember [Ethereal’s 2015 single] “Beef.” I did a freestyle to that and everyone was like, you should make this a song. At first, my name was Clap for Mia, and then after that I thought that if I’m going to make this a song, I need a rap name, so I actually came up with Flo Milli quick as fuck. I always had Milli in my name, and I came up with Flo because everyone would say my flow is so hard.
You grew up in Mobile, Alabama. What was your experience like growing up in the city and how does it influence your music?
It was very challenging because it’s not much there for a music scene and doing what I wanted to do. I can only remember there being one studio that was like an actual professional studio in my city. Everything else was kind of in the hood or in somebody’s house. I was always trying to take my career seriously even before I was signed. I made sure to go to the best studio. I was working three jobs at the time, and I was saving my check to go to the studio whenever I had the money to.
The way I promoted myself was I would make a video, like a 30-second video on Instagram, and then I would go and record a song. Then I would promote it and get an IG influencer to repost my video. I’d pay them like $50 out of my check, and I would take the rest of my money to go to the studio and put the song out after it got a little exposure. That’s kind of how I built my fanbase.
Your lines are very clever. Can you explain your writing process?
In school, I remember being in history class and we didn’t really have windows in our school, so we had walls full of posters and just a bunch of inspirational things, and I would kind of use what I had. I was always taught, “Use what God gave you.” I took that advice to the max, what my grandma told me. It would be times when I’d be in the classroom and I would see numbers and words that would poke out to me. Sometimes, it’s the best. Sometimes, it’s just how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling a certain type of way about something, I’ll make a song about it.
What was going through your mind when thinking about your next project, which would be You Still Here, Ho? Was there pressure to replicate the same success you had with the debut mixtape?
No, because my whole intention behind it was to do something different than Ho, Why Is You Here? My fans don’t realize I pay attention to the feedback, what’s being said, what they want. Of course, if I’m hearing, “Oh, she’s not versatile,” for me, it was like proving that [wrong] but not just to them but to myself. I made it my mission to make it a different project because I wanted to kind of take my fans on a rollercoaster and show them different sides of my personality. I feel like with Ho, Why Is You Here?, they only got one side, and this is just another side.
The rollout is inspired by Black reality television. What made you want to do that?
My manager and I were thinking and brainstorming things that would amplify who I already was. We wanted to stay true to who I was. We thought about what is something about me that’s raw and real that we can implement into this album. She noticed that I liked reality TV, and when I was doing TikToks, I’d remake reality TV moments, so we took that idea from that. I picked all the shows I grew up watching. Most of those moments, I kind of knew off the back of my head, so it was easy creating them.
Even the reality TV back in the day—like Flavor of Love—that type of reality TV is golden. We’re never going to get that again. It’s kind of like music in a way. There’s certain music that came out in the ‘90s that people say we’ll never get again. That’s how I feel about that. The more time goes by, things change. Reality TV isn’t the same as it was before. That’s why I kind of honed in on older shows.
Tiffany “New York” Pollard is featured on the album. What was that like after already making a parody of her iconic scenes?
It was a full-circle moment for me. I can remember almost getting my ass beat by my dad because I was watching Flavor of Love at five and six years old. My dad had told my mom to stop letting me watch it, but of course she let me do it anyway. I remember running down the hallway to tell my mom that Flavor of Love is about to come on, and when my dad would come back home, he was like, “I thought I just said stop letting her watch that.” I was telling Tiffany that “I had got whoopings for watching you.”
It was really dope getting her on everything though. She was so supportive and very involved. It was great working with her.
“Tilted Halo” is another highlight on the album because of how vulnerable you are throughout it. Can you tell me about the creative process in writing and recording that song?
I was really emotional that day. I wanted to show a vulnerable side because I think relatability is powerful. People don’t want to feel like they’re supporting a robot. I think people really gravitated toward me because they found my music relatable, and I wanted to keep that going. That was something that people could kind of relate to and resonate with. I’m not scared to tap into that even though people are so used to me being hostile or vulgar. I just wanted to show that it’s not always one-sided with me.
What do you do when you’re not feeling as confident?
I actually have a wall of postcards of affirmations. It’s the same thing I’ve been doing as a kid. Just speaking things into existence. Words are spells and that’s why it’s called spelling because you speak things over your life. To pick myself back up, I would just speak things I would wanna feel—I am beautiful, I am happy, I am joyful. Of course, I can’t leave God out because I’m a very God-fearing person, and I pray before anything, but after that, I would say I do affirmations, I meditate, and try to get my energy back into a good place.
How do you think you fit in or stand out in today’s landscape of female rappers and how does it feel to be included in a renaissance of female rappers?
I feel like I stand out because my voice is very distinct and noticeable. I think I’m very unique in my style in just the way that I dress and all that type of stuff. I feel like every female MC is bringing something different to the game right now, so I feel like what I’m bringing is of course confident energy, owning who you are, being unapologetically you and having fun while doing that.
It feels very liberating to be a part of something like this. It’s fun. I saw it coming. I’ve always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I saw the whole transition. I was very involved when it came to knowing who’s next and on the scene, so it’s so great to know that I’m a part of it. I remember just thinking how we’re dominating at the same time, and it’s a good thing because I think it’s making other women who may have thought that they couldn’t do it be more confident.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
DeAsia Paige is freelance music and culture writer whose work has been featured in Pitchfork, NPR Music, Teen Vogue, and more. Her writing primarily focuses on the intersection of race, culture and music. She’s a firm believer that there is a Real Housewives of Atlanta moment for everything. DeAsia is based in St. Louis, MO.