Tamia Monique Carter – known by her stage name Flo Milli – has always believed in her pen game. But it wasn’t until she stumbled upon the beat for Playboi Carti and Etheral’s 2015 collaboration “Beef” on YouTube and put her own rollicking, braggadocious spin on it three years later on “Beef FloMix,” that everyone else started believing in it, too. Its virality migrated from Instagram to SoundCloud to TikTok, inviting a label deal from RCA Records and catapulting her into the kind of stardom a young Flo Milli knew her life would eventually lead to.
Flo, 21, recalls writing her first song about heartbreak when she was only 9 years old and “didn’t know what love is.” “I had made this song called ‘Tell Me Baby,’” she remembers. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue music. I used to write lyrics in my little tablet and sing them around the house.” But the girl who grew up singing in church started finding her flow when she and her older sister would playfully trade bars and battle each other after school.
Raised in Mobile, Alabama, Flo grew up listening to Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Young Thug and Anthony Hamilton while watching Nicki Minaj, Trina and Eve blaze a trail for more female rappers to follow them, including herself. “My mom and dad used to play different music around us, so growing up in that culture, it was natural to rap here and there,” Flo says. “But when I was 11 years old, I met this group of girls, and we made a group together. And that’s how I started rapping.”
The all-girl rap group Pink Mafia (formerly known as Real & Beautiful) begged their high school principal to perform in front of the entire school, which ended up being their last time taking the stage together before the members went their separate ways freshman year. But Flo wasn’t ready to put the mic, or her pen, down. “I didn’t know how to move on my own, so I took a year off from making music,” she reflects on her solo come-up. “But I cannot even think about doing anything else than what I’m doing right now. That’s how bad I want it. Something that my goddad always told me was, ‘If you really want something, you’ll make a way. If you don’t, you’ll make excuses.’ And I was always applying that to my life.”
The rapper heeded his advice and started making a new name for herself. She recycled her moniker from Pink Mafia, Rose Milli, and switched the first name to Flo because “people would always say my cadences were very catchy. I feel like names hold value, so being able to be called Flo Milli, I will always be able to come up with different flows. And even if you want to apply it to going with the flow of life, I’m gonna always be able to do that,” she adds. Flo spent half her paychecks from her multiple jobs during high school, including working at the grocery store and the movie theater, on studio time at Dauphin Street Sound and the other half on promoters boosting her 30-second Instagram rap videos so she could begin building her digital fanbase. She continued scratching down lyrics and hiding them behind cash registers at work in efforts to keep her dream of becoming famous before she started college alive.
“My whole life, I always had a goal,” she says. “Everybody was like, ‘What you going to do? You going to go college?’ I’m like, ‘I’m gonna be famous by then, so I’m not even worried about that.” It wasn’t until the beginning of 2019, after Flo had started college, that the rising rapper realized all eyes and ears were on her, and that songs like “Beef FloMix” and “In The Party” exposed her to a different type of learning curve.
“I don’t feel like anybody’s ever prepared for fame unless you’re planning it,” Flo says. “When I was in college, I really wasn’t an artist – I was just a girl that loved to rap and make music, so I knew I had so much to learn. A lot of things in my life kind of sped up, so I had to match the flow of how things were going.”
One year later, “Beef FloMix” and “In The Party” found a home on Flo Milli’s debut EP Ho, why is you here ?, which was released on July 24, 2020, a pregame- sized collection of what she categorizes as “fun, confident, very sassy” anthems that can get any house party started while simultaneously marking the start of her career. The project peaked at No. 46 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, earned her a best new artist nomination at the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards, and made Flo a freshman once more, that is, a freshman on the 2021 XXL list, which had the most female MCs ever in one class with Rubi Rose, Coi Leray and Lakeyah.
“Getting on BET was a full-circle moment because I grew up watching that,” Flo reflects. “Even stuff like XXL, I take seriously because I know these are the steps in the culture that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do.”
But after putting out a party album during the pandemic, Flo Milli’s highly anticipated debut album (due early next year) will venture into her versatility as an artist and make listeners go through “a roller coaster of emotions.”
“My approach to this album was to just authentically be myself and show sides of myself that I never showed before. With my first mixtape, I feel like everybody got to see a certain side of me, but it’s way more to Flo Milli than most people know,” Flo explains. “My dream is for it to just be so successful and for me to gain more opportunities from it and for me to just show everybody a new version of me. It’s still Flo Milli, but it’s the new-and-improved Flo Milli.”
In the year and a half following the release of Ho, why is you here?, Flo has learned to switch up her workflow in the studio – “Sometimes I freestyle, sometimes I write,” she says – and grow into her role as an artist after being “thrown into” fame by way of her viral singles. It’s not just about the fame she wanted so desperately as a kid anymore; now that she has it, Flo is ready to add more items on her career bucket list to promptly check off, like acting in television and film and modeling on a larger scale.
“Being famous and doing what I’m doing right now is definitely my biggest dream,” she says. “I think my younger self would definitely be proud of me right now because I’ve reached a lot of my goals that I have for myself as a kid.”