“Ladies, ladies, ladies,” Young M.A said with the voice of a seasoned lothario.
Contrary to the mellifluous tone and the responding screams from the crowd that sounded like the calls of fangirls to a boy band, the Brooklyn rapper was talking down a minor scuffle in the crowd early in her show at The New Parish in Oakland.
It was a snippet of the multiple roles the female rapper played — from sweet-talker and peacemaker to motivational speaker and magnetic MC — this past Sunday. “It’s all love,” she said soothingly, pausing the show to address the chaos. “We havin’ fun, baby. Come on, let’s be cool.”
The incident in the crowd, an eclectic mix of young adults, might have been the result of rising tensions built during the rapper’s delayed entrance. After a seemingly endless string of opening acts, M.A took the stage late in the night to a rapturous frenzy. Rocking a Yankees hat, she stood for a moment following her entrance, basking in the hype and the shine of a sea of flashing phones reflecting off her twinkling grills, before opening with “Quiet Storm.”
With an easy confidence, she played maestro to a night that included a lineup of twerking fans she invited on stage while performing her 2018 hit single, “Petty Wap.”
“I need some new twerkers on the stage,” she told the crowd, gleefully inviting a group for a second shift.
But the night’s most striking feature was her charismatic lyrical performance. Most of her songs were intentionally cut off mid-way, as the rapper finished tracks acapella with a captivating command.
“Like me being gay is so f—ing important,” she rapped, with a certain fiery conviction, from her song, “Kween (Freestyle).” “I’m a king and a queen,” M.A., who has been outspoken about her sexuality, told the crowd moments before. “I don’t give a f—k. I’m both.”
As the rap mainstream currently undergoes a long overdue breakthrough moment for a rising generation of female rappers — with new talents beyond Cardi B, from Megan Thee Stallion to Tierra Whack, breaking out — the show was a firm reminder of M.A’s singular, even revolutionary talent since she first made waves in 2016.
After electrifying the rap world with her viral banger “OOOUUU” — leading to co-signs from the likes of Beyoncé and a crop of big-name remixes from 50 Cent to Nicki Minaj — M.A’s steam has steadily cooled. In an age of “Thotiana” and “Old Town Road,” with those like Blueface and Lil Nas X calculating cultural saturation for maximum meme effect, M.A has been more tepid with her releases since her own show-stopping track. “OOOUUU” landed on her 2017 EP “Herstory,” followed by a handful of singles, but the rapper has yet to release her debut album.
Yet it would be disingenuous to even consider M.A a one-hit wonder. In Oakland, she showcased the mixture of brash and assured lyrical prowess that has built and sustained her fanbase in the last couple years. There’s a strain of the started-from-the-bottom, street-weary old school New York rap that she energizes among the mainstream tide of trap.
The kind of hard-edged reality of her music came to the fore near the end of the show, when M.A performed a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle. “I lost my brother at 17,” she told the crowd, referencing her own sibling’s murder, before directing the crowd to raise up their phones in honor of the dead.
Of course, the end of the night had to return on a high-note to the hit that made her. “I’m a little smizz,” she fake-slurred for the opening of “OOOUUU.” The crowd carried the rest of the way, rapping each word alongside her.
The Brooklyn MC lingered on stage at song’s end, filming the packed house on her phone and singing the praises of the West Coast, as she comes up on the tail-end of her recent mini-tour in California. But still, she ended on the obligatory shout-out to New York.
“What part of New York you from?” she asked a crowd member. “From Brooklyn. What part of Brooklyn?”