A few years ago at a local showcase, Memphis producer Hitkidd stumbled upon a handful of rising female rappers, including GloRilla. The now-22-year-old left a lasting impression, and soon joined a recording session for an EP he was working on at the time.
Fast forward to last April: Hitkidd had started working on a new project, for which he produced a menacing, bass-bumping beat ripe for a hit. He had a specific superstar in mind for it. “I drove around thinking, ‘I’m gonna send this to Megan Thee Stallion,’” recalls the producer, who had previously contributed to her 2021 compilation album, Something for Thee Hotties. “I ended up sending it, but was like, ‘Bruh, this beat too hard to be waiting on her.’”
When he didn’t hear back, Hitkidd wasted little time in reaching out to GloRilla instead — who today nonchalantly says she “was on the toilet and gonna get my lashes done” when he called. “I did tell her, ‘We need a summer anthem, something the girls can chant,’” adds Hitkidd. They soon met at the studio, with GloRilla requesting to step out to smoke some Backwoods — “then I came up with, ‘I’m F-R-E-E, f–k n—a free,’ ” she recalls to Billboard — and within 30 minutes knocked out what became the growing hit “F.N.F. (Let’s Go).”
The rambunctious summer smash spells out Glo’s freedom from f–kboys and celebrates spending time with her girlfriends instead. Hitkidd and GloRilla released “F.N.F.” this April via online distribution company Ditto Music, alongside a raw music video of Glo and her girls dancing together amid traffic, which has since garnered almost 25 million YouTube views and is ranked No. 14 on the platform’s top 100 music videos within the U.S.
At the time of its release, Glo’s team had another single (with an already-filmed video) ready to go, her manager Marcus Ward recalls. But the rapper decided to drop this first, and recorded a since-deleted Triller video of her lighting a Backwood in the bathroom and turning up to “F.N.F.” “Every time I record a song and I really like it, I like giving my audience something to look forward to — if the snippet do good, I release the song,” GloRilla says. “I’ve had a couple of the Triller videos [go] viral, but the songs don’t always. I didn’t know [‘F.N.F.’] was gonna get this big.”
Hitkidd lent pointers on how to increase the song’s exposure, from telling Glo to change her explicit second verse to boost radio play, to making her shoot the music video the same day she recorded the song as to not lose momentum. “I got to the studio by 12:00 and we got done at 1:00. He was like, ‘We’re gonna shoot the video at 4:00 today. Go get all your friends,’” Glo remembers with a chuckle. Hitkidd says he and his friend Ricco, who shot the “F.N.F.” video, finished editing it that same night, and put the song out the next day.
Two days after the song’s release, Blac Noize! Recordings and Big Machine Label Group approached Hitkidd to re-release “F.N.F.” on streaming platforms through their new hip-hop label venture. Within 24 hours of Blac Noize! closing the deal on the track, BMLG re-published the song to streaming services as the official record label.
Soon after, hype for the song migrated from Triller to TikTok, where fellow Memphis artist Brezay kicked off the #FNFChallenge, which highlights Memphis’ jookin street dance with intricate footwork; the hashtag has garnered over nine million views. Glo and Hitkidd credit DJ Duffey, French Montana’s DJ, with helping the song go viral thanks to her own impromptu dance video, while rappers including Erica Banks and Kali started sharing their own freestyles. “Before that, I had a name in Memphis and Arkansas. I was going up just locally,” Glo says gleefully. “But ‘F.N.F.’ took over globally.”
In June, she and Hitkidd earned their first Hot 100-charting hit as lead artists when “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” debuted at No. 91, since reaching a No. 75 peak. The song — which has earned 43.2 million official on-demand U.S. streams through July 7, according to Luminate — has also climbed to new highs of Nos. 8 and 9 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Rap Airplay, respectively, on the charts dated July 16.
The rapid ascension of “F.N.F.” also caught the attention of Yo Gotti, who signed GloRilla to his CMG imprint earlier this month. “It’s one of the quickest rises that I’ve seen in my career, because she only dropped in late April and now she has the hottest cultural records in music,” he told Billboard following the news of her signing. “She has a different sound and approach that’s needed in hip-hop right now.”
Adds Ward: “That’s what we were lacking in Memphis. We got great male artists coming out, but for females, the light was so dim. She’s opened up doors and put a spotlight on a lot of females. It’s opening up opportunities that we’ve been lacking for years, from [Three 6 Mafia’s] La Chat and Gangsta Boo.”
GloRilla intends to carry her signature Memphis sound across the map throughout the rest of the year: she joins her new CMG labelmates on the Gangsta Art compilation album released today (July 15), and will perform at her first music festival, Rolling Loud New York, in September. Plus, she promises that fans will soon be treated to the highly anticipated “F.N.F.” remix with Bay Area MC Saweetie, whom Glo says “was the first big artist to hit us up about the song.
“It’s sometimes still unreal because this is what I always dreamed about and hoped would be happening to me,” adds GloRilla. “And it’s happening right now.”
© 2022 PMC. All rights reserved.