Coined during slavery, "mulatto" was a racial slur used to describe multiracial children.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word "mulatto" means "the first-generation offspring of a Black person and a white person." They also consider the term "usually offensive" because of its muddy origin. As Latto's popularity increased, her namesake -- which represented her biracial roots -- became a more significant issue for her and her team.
"Mulatto was a negative term that I was trying to make positive," she relayed. "We're gonna start positive, and I feel like that's gonna bring that energy my way. I feel like, in a way, that could've been holding me back, and I don't want to attach that to myself anymore."
According to Latto, her allegiance to her new name runs deeper than rap. The 22-year-old went as far as getting a "777" tattoo in hopes of striking good fortune for the latest chapter in her career.
"Latto is like 'Lotto,' but my little twist on it," she confidently said. "It's good fortune -- I got "777" tatted on me. I live this."
In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Latto talks about her name change and what it means for her career, how she deals with bullying, the importance of Nicki Minaj's Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, her upcoming album, and why she's ready to enter the butterfly stage of her life.
For a second, I thought we were gonna call you Big Latto. Why'd you ultimately go with Latto?
I feel like Big Latto is more like an alter-ego. It's the turned-up version of Latto -- it's not the stage name. My name on stage was Mulatto, and then when I was super turnt, it was Big Latto. Now it's Latto, and when I'm geeked up, it's Big Latto. That's like, seasonal, when you get into that mode. It's not 24/7.
With the fame you’ve acquired with Mulatto, are you going to keep that same blueprint going with Latto?
Yeah, you can't discredit my come-up. It's just detaching the name from the come-up. That's solidified already. Now we just taking a different turn. This new name is going to bring new opportunities and new positivity and good fortune. That's actually what Latto is to me.
Let's talk about "The Biggest." You let the bars out on that one.
If we going into this new era of Latto being the new wave, then I gotta set the tone. You gotta see how Latto coming. I ain't playing.
Do you feel like that track finally solidified you getting that monkey off your back?
Yes! You can have an idea, but when you got labels, management, PR, investors, social media, lawyers, and all this extra stuff involved, it's not like an overnight process. There was definitely a lot of meetings and people getting cussed out. It's definitely not an overnight process. Now, it's a boulder off my shoulders.
In the song, you mentioned feeling bullied by bloggers. Knowing that you dealt with bullying when you were younger and you’re an adult now, how do you handle bullying today versus when you were a kid?
I never been for that bully s--t. In school, I was that kid like, "Who the f--k you playing with?" or "Don't talk to her like that!" I for sure spoke up. I think bullying is for insecure and weak people. I'm ten toes and I don't play with that. That's me at heart, but me being in the industry and getting older, you just learn how to tolerate it.
Social media gave so many people the right to say what they want in their mind. It just makes them be this other person on social media that they not in real life. Damn well knowing I'd never say this in real life, but I can say this on social media. The industry kind of make you tougher. That bullying s--t -- there ain't any type of bullying in the industry.
So do you feel like you’ve developed tougher skin since being in the industry?
Oh, for sure. I came from Rap Game, which is TV show s--t. A million people watching a week and the music gets criticized. Being a rapper, you get extra critiqued, so I feel like there are so many different things that made me numb to this s--t. Y'all ain't bullying me off my s--t.
Let’s talk about Nicki Minaj, because last week she re-released one of your favorite mixtapes, Beam Me Up Scotty.
When it dropped, I [was] just a little girl. I think I was rapping, but not taking it seriously. Now, this is real, and how I provide for my family and how I eat. I can relate to a lot of different songs that probably didn't impact me as much when I was a kid. "Can't Anybody Hear Me" and "Still I Rise," I could relate to so much more -- like it's new.
I'm still waiting on that Nicki and Latto record. I know you once said you wanted to go bar-for-bar with her.
The internet took that the wrong way. Nicki is the queen and she's in my top five, period. If you ain't got her, you need to restructure your list. I ain't going bar-for-bar like that, I meant that I want to talk to each other on the song. You know how every song goes verse-hook-verse? I want to go eight, and she go eight. I want it to be kind of like talking, and interactive. Let's bring a hip-hop element back into it. You gotta have the logistics, but f--k all that. Let's make a good song.
You’ve worked with guys like 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane and Lil Baby, while collaborating with City Girls, Trina and Saweetie on the ladies side. Do you think you collaborate better with men or women?
I'ma come [hard] regardless but I think it's more fun working with the women, because we could be friends in real life. You could relate to each other more like, "Oh girl, he tried you too? He's in yo DMs and he in my DMs!" It be more fun on set. Bars-wise, I ain't dumbing s--t down doing a song with a n---a. I'll eat his ass up on a motherf--ker.
Who are you interested in working with on both sides?
Nicki is the top feature. A couple people I like -- I f--k with Polo G. I think Polo G go crazy. Pooh Shiesty -- we both do this slow southern rap. That s--t would go crazy. I f--k with Coi Leray. I love her style and aesthetic. Just super party music and the music feels good. Her music feels so free and loose. I've been tapping into all type of s--t, and taking myself out of my comfort zone. I'm not mad at a Summer Walker or SZA. It ain't nobody who I don't think I couldn't do a song with or rap on they type of beats.
I remember you said Trina was the first artist that supported you when you entered the game. What is it that you appreciate about her the most as an artist?
Her spirit, you can't describe it. You gotta sit down and talk to her. It's very genuine, and she wants to see you win. A lot of people feel like they gotta embrace you or they'll come off as a hater, and I'm doing what I'm supposed to as the OG. Nah, she genuinely wants to see you win. She’ll be like, "You got a show? I'm gonna come perform with you." When she did the verse for "Bitch From da Souf (Remix),” her mother just passed and she got that in on time. She different, and solid.
I know new music is coming. What are we expecting this time around?
It's coming. I'm recording right now and finishing it up. I just been catching different vibes. I been recording in Atlanta and I been recording in Miami and I'm recording in L.A. right now. This s--t is so crazy. I'm really pushing myself. I'm choosing beats I would've cut off and been like, "I can't do that s--t." I'm really pushing myself and this s--t is really gonna be big. My A&Rs asking me what I want it to sound like, but I want to lane-switch. I don't want no s--t that they expected. I feel like I got this name change and bringing a whole different tone. This music better bring a different feeling.
I thought you said it's gonna be “new name, same b--ch?”
Yeah, for real. Not “new name, same b--ch,” it's still the b--ch. Whatever I'm gonna do, I'm still that b--ch. You gotta elevate and extend. My vision for myself is different. I'm a Capricorn, so I'm thinking about the next project that ain't even dropped yet.
When you look at the last project Queen of Da Souf, what lessons did you take from it and tried to implement to this upcoming album?
I feel like the songs were super solid. The energy was there for sure. I feel like an album is less [about] choosing a bunch of good songs and more what's your vibe for this project. How do you want people to perceive it? What do you want the beats to sound like? Just personalize it versus recording and choosing the best songs on a project. Like, "Okay, she got bangers but it's not cohesive." This project is cohesive. I'm really locked in and focused on this project. I've been in a whole different zone.
Do we have a name?
I think I did the intro last night, and I think I came up with the name last night. I be so scatterbrained and I'm so hands-on with everything. So with the name of the project, I'm gonna finish it with the aesthetic and stuff first.
Could you give me a little breakdown for this intro?
This intro is basically on some y'all know the difference and I'm one of them. I'm here to stay and y'all gonna put some mothaf--kin' respect on my name. That's exactly what it is.
If you could pick a word to title this chapter in your life, what word would that be and why?
Right now, I would say the cocoon because the caterpillar was the Mulatto stage, with me being a kid and having a lot going on at 8 years old. Right now, I'm in the cocoon gearing up and getting suited and booted and I'm gonna fly like a butterfly, purrrrr.
Just make sure you mention me in the credits if you do go with that title.
That is hard though. I'm gonna have to think on that. That's the beauty of this stage in the project -- it's the most free. We're still putting stuff together and anything can change at any moment. It's so much fun.
I can tell you're having so much fun putting this one together.
You got to or the people are gonna hear it if it feels like work and you're overworking yourself. I'm in Los Angeles, so there's days I'll just kick it by myself, go shopping, or go for a swim. You still gotta have fun when you're doing it because if not, it's going to sound super robotic. You know how you gotta cook with love and play some R&B, it's the same ingredients, but just different.