hen GloRilla arrives at a Hollywood bowling alley, she’s clearly off the clock, cozy and happy to be among familiar faces. No cameras, no fans — just her team, the two friends she came with, and a handful of security to ensure it stays that way. She’s relieved, at least in this moment, that no one is coming over to speak to her. In two days, it will be exactly one year since the release of her breakout single, “F.N.F. (Let’s Go),” a spirited anthem for being newly s-i-n-g-l-e that divided her life into before “F.N.F.” and after. It’s the song that kick-started her career, the one that has already taken her to the Grammys and Coachella, where she performed on the main stage the two weekends before we meet.
“I hadn’t been nowhere outside of Memphis, Mississippi, Atlanta,” she says. Now, she’s seeing the world, headlining tours, and sitting courtside at NBA games. There is one thing she hasn’t ever gotten around to, though: bowling. Upon hearing this revelation, her companions offer a quick primer on the general technique before she grabs a ball. After five tries — the first few in the traditional one-handed way, before she switches to an easier two-handed grip — she gets the first strike of the day, in Moschino slides to boot.
It’s a convenient distillation of how things have gone so far in the 23-year-old rapper’s life: Set a goal, put in some effort, make a few adjustments, and believe until it pays off — which may happen sooner rather than later. In the first quarter of 2022, before the release of “F.N.F.” that April, she was largely unknown, except perhaps in local circles. By the end of that year, she was up by millions of followers, views, and streams, firmly cementing her in music’s new class of stars. As disorientingly fast as it has seemed, though, GloRilla’s ascent has never been less than a joy to witness. Success seems to come naturally to her, because she has no airs. Who she is on wax is who she is in person: buoyant but cool, matter-of-fact yet playful, and Memphis through and through.
Last July, GloRilla signed a deal with fellow Memphian Yo Gotti’s CMG label, home to a host of her hometown’s biggest young stars, like Moneybagg Yo, Blac Youngsta, and Blocboy JB. In September, she lent her unmistakable drawl to the Memphis Grizzlies for the official hype video that the team used to open its season. Her signature dance — a Memphis staple known as jookin’ — continued to spread everywhere, from TikTok to the NFL. The design for her Coachella set (or “Glochella,” as she called it) included a re-creation of the neighborhood where she grew up, marked by street signs that read “Frayser Boulevard” and “Dawn Road.”
She also used that performance to pay respect to Gangsta Boo, another Memphis artist on whose shoulders she proudly stands, and who sadly passed away on the first day of 2023. “I really haven’t seen anybody give her the recognition that she deserves, and so I feel like it was important,” Glo says. “She was an OG in female rap. She deserves her flowers.”
When Glo was still grinding it out, Gangsta Boo was an early supporter who would text Glo and her friends to let them know she was proud of them and encourage them to keep going. Facing a far less-friendly industry in her time, Boo never got to grace stages like Coachella on her own (though Run the Jewels did bring her out as a guest in 2015 and 2016), but as her 1998 classic “Where Dem Dollas At” blared through the Southern California desert this spring, Glo summoned her mighty legacy, as if to remind people of who she is and where she’s from.
BEFORE THERE WAS GloRilla, there was Gloria Hallelujah Woods, the eighth of 10 kids and the second-youngest of four girls. Her childhood was marked by church and fighting with her siblings, though they always had each others’ backs. “I really do think I was a boy because I hung around my brothers more than my sisters,” she says, which may have everything to do with the tomboyish quality that’s only broadened her allure.
Her youngest siblings were some of her very first fans. “When I first started rapping, I don’t think none of them was taking me so serious,” she recalls. “They were like, ‘OK, she’s just trying something.’ But as time went on, they was supporting me.… My little brother, he was always like, ‘Man, why you ain’t blew up yet?’ I know they believed in me for real.”
Though her rise lends itself well to an overnight-success narrative, she was recording and releasing music for several years before she landed on “F.N.F.” But that song truly did change her life almost immediately. “Literally, less than a week before I blew up, my car got repoed,” she recalls. “I was living with my friend because I had got put out my apartment. I was going through a lot. I have always been the friend that everybody count on and depend on, but I was going through it real bad.” Then came the breakthrough that she compares to winning her own American dream.
She’d long thought there was something special about “F.N.F.,” that maybe it could be a hit. Then again, she’s always felt like all of her songs could be hits — she’s never been short on confidence. But uploading a snippet to the video-sharing app Triller and watching it go viral confirmed her hunch. When she officially dropped the song on the last Friday in April 2022, labels started calling the following morning, ready to fly her out. “I didn’t know it was going to happen so soon,” she says, “but I knew one day it was going to happen.”
There’s a running joke on social media that GloRilla is a gospel rapper, and that her other signature hit, the Cardi B collab “Tomorrow 2,” is a kind of praise-and-worship song. “Everyday the sun won’t shine, but that’s why I love tomorrows” goes one line; the one prior is “Ain’t fucked up ’bout no credit score, I might be rich as fuck tomorrow,” which feels like a whole testimony at this point. Glo says that her time growing up in church laid a spiritual foundation that sustains her today. “I’m big on faith, and I’m big on manifestation. Faith without work is dead,” she says, quoting the book of James. “You have to actually work towards it and believe it.”
Her EP Anyways, Life’s Great…, released in November, was shot through with that unwavering conviction, combined with a hustler’s mentality. The opening track finds her contemplating her purpose and reminding those who may wish her ill that God sees all. The project also served as a primer for her nimble approach. Songs like “PHATNALL” and “Nut Quick” showcased her brash, unbothered posture, while others, like “No More Love” and “Out Loud Thinking,” took a more solemn, introspective tone. All of it is raw and honest, cut with a cheeky sense of humor and an anti-defeatist outlook. That tone is what made “F.N.F.” and “Tomorrow 2” so undeniable to both women and men alike — a rarity for female rappers historically, but a dynamic that’s changing thanks to artists like Glo.
She attributes the appeal, in part, to her singular voice. “I know a lot of dudes, they won’t ride around listening to no girl that sound like a girl, because they going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m being pussy.’ But they hear me,” she says, dropping into her lowest vocal register, “and now [they say], ‘She slick sound like one of us.’” She also feels that her chest-beating attitude slots in easily with her male counterparts. “I say shit that’s for females, but it’s stuff that niggas can say in reverse,” she argues. “I actually like going through shit sometimes, because it makes me perfect my craft.” And lyrics about self-assurance, overcoming obstacles, and indulging in the spoils of success — well, those are as universal as they come.
For her upcoming full-length debut, Glo aims to reveal more of herself and her sensibilities. She was never going to be a one-hit wonder; now, with multiple hits under her belt, she wants people to know she’s no one-trick pony, either. “I don’t want to be labeled as just a ratchet rapper, you know what I’m saying?” she says. “I’m going for different vibes — stuff that everybody can relate to. Of course I’m going to put my ratchet, fun shit out, because that’s what I blew up with. [But] I want to actually talk to people, let them know … I can talk some real shit. I can go gospel. I can do a little R&B.”
The anticipation around her next move has her slightly on edge, she admits. But her faith in herself isn’t about to waver.
“I ain’t going to lie, I’m super nervous. I know people expect so much out of me,” she says. “When they look at me, when they mention my name, they put me up there with the big dogs like Cardi, Nicki, Megan. I’m like, ‘Damn, I got to deliver like them.’ This got to be a Grammy-nominated album. And it’s going to be.”
Hair by Mia Jackson for Harper media creatives and management, Makeup by Sadai Banks for Harper media creatives and management. Styling by Kendrick Carter for harper media creatives and management.
Photography Assistance by Scott Turner, Patrick Molina. Digital Technician: Maria Troncoso Gibbs. Production assistance by Ari Gibbs. Photographed at Issue Photo Studio