The coolest and most exegetic picture of the Flo Milli experience comes from a March Vevo Ctrl session, when the Mobile, Alabama, rapper performed one of her several viral hits, “In the Party.” She’s wearing a fox-fur jacket and a short bodycon dress, sneering into a mic hanging from the ceiling—her weight shifted, with apparent disapproval, onto one of her knee-high white snakeskin boots. It’s an absolutely gigantic fit, a mission statement, a warning, and an invitation all at once. The song itself goes, “Yeah bitch I gotcha ma-a-an, since you bad ho, come catch him if you ca-a-an.” And it begins—it actually does begin—with an amazing, window-shattering observation: “Dicks up when I step in the party.”
Most, if not all of Flo Milli’s music, which gained prominence largely through the channels of TikTok and Instagram, meets at this intersection of uncanny and emphatically self-assured. The 20-year-old morphs treacly lovesick ballads into forceful anthems about ain’t-shit men—SWV’s “Weak” is sung through the nose, while Flo Milli’s “Weak” comes from deep down in her weary soul. She wears hair rollers outside and makes them look semi-formal. She holds the camera’s gaze knowingly, as if she has the world’s biggest megaphone. What’s more, she titled her debut album Ho, Why Is You Here?
The album, out last Friday, is a 12-song read. There are no features, and the album’s sound is defined mostly by its low end and negative space; when I listen to songs like “Pussycat Doll” or “Pockets Bigger,” I can picture fights breaking out at house parties, bowling alleys, roller rinks, and other high school powder kegs of raging hormones and id. Though Ho, Why Is You Here? clocks in at 30 minutes, it is worth at least two hours of your time.
Since 2018’s “Beef FloMix,” when she took a 2014 SoundCloud loosie from producer Ethereal and Playboi Carti and made it completely her own, it’s been difficult to pinpoint what previous musical acts Flo Milli calls to mind, or exactly who she groups her triplets like. Hearing “Beef” again in the context of the album as I walked around East Hollywood in the midday sun this past weekend, I still couldn’t figure it out. She both floats and stings, often at the same time. She may smooth out a vowel but she never shortens a word. She raps passages like “Fuck that I don’t wanna choose / Lose one bounce back with two / I can’t love you, baby, you a fool” on “Not Friendly” with such sharp diction that it’s easy to imagine a little red ball bouncing across the closed captioning. There’s something playful and implacable about her delivery. It’s not quite like anything else.
Like Carti, who has more in common with video game NPCs and rare species of birds than with the preceding decade of hip-hop history, it might be more useful to think about “Flo Milli”—a persona that seems carefully constructed—in relation to, say, Miranda from As Told By Ginger or one of the Ashleys from Recess. In the half-hour teen comedy, Flo Milli is the Unfriendly Black Hottie, distantly popular by dint of casual cruelty and financially unattainable beauty. The archetype is a kind of evolutionary marker for the American cartoon form: Animated Black women on the small screen were first flattened into racist caricatures and held out of frame, but even as they were allowed to be smart and complex, they often still needed to be cute and friendly. “Nice” can be a matter of self-preservation for Black women, especially in predominantly white or male spaces, which is all of them. Career and social advancement can often rest on the things they choose not to say, or on how small they can make themselves. They can’t be too sexy or too crass or too dominant lest they have doors closed on them or worse. What might their lives look like if they didn’t have to be careful?
What I’m getting at is, when Flo Milli raps “Better watch where you steppin’, this Gucci is pricey / Like a snake on the loose, they gon’ bite me / Put it on him, now he’s callin’ me wifey / He tryna cuff but it’s hard to indict me” (“Send the Addy”), it’s not only cool but sort of radical. It’s not just that she’s a young Black woman that exploded the strictures of “nice” to create a brash, magnetic alter ego, but that she’s done so, and so consummately, at 20. Everything about Flo Milli is the sort of stuff engineered to make YouTube commenters cry “spirit animal.” Ho, Why Is You Here? is more of a disposition than a question—they’re fighting words, like snow off of the bluff before an avalanche. On the album cover she’s crouched down with a fixed mouth and index finger, a position that should be familiar to you if you’ve ever been gunned on. You can’t tell what she’s saying, obviously, because it’s a picture. But I’m willing to bet it stung.