Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.
As trap en español’s leading fellas rap about buying their sexual pursuits Gucci and Fendi bags, the Latin Urban music scene’s next leading lady Mariah is reminding them that it takes much more than dough and designer fabrics to attract a female boss.
“Y siempre pago mi cuenta (siempre). Yo sola pago mi renta, solita. No necesito a nadie que me ponga al día. Y mucho menos quiero de tu compañía,” Mariah, 19, sings in her honey-sweet alto on her summer banger “Blah,” a musical wake-up call to men who think new age women are impressed by played-out game.
“Blah,” she tells me, is for women bosses, the independent money-makers who aren’t dazzled by gold because their jewelry boxes are already overflowing with self-bought gems, the self-assured ladies who make jokes of men with shallow one-liners, the autonomous mamis who have control over their bodies and their destiny — women much like Mariah.
At 16 years old, the Miami-raised, San Juan-residing singer-rapper put everything on the line to chase her dreams. Trading in her parents’ plans of a secure, professional career in medicine for the only future she envisioned for herself, music, Mariah at times found herself homeless, sleeping on recording studio couches. But her drive, and talent, came through. Introduced to Nely “El Arma Secreta,” the heavy-weight reggaeton producer behind the explosive Mas Flow 2, which featured veterans like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Wisin y Yandel, Zion y Lennox and more, the Boricua-Cubana started making music that attracted the attention of Universal Music Latin Entertainment, which signed the young artist at the start of the year.
We chatted with Mariah about her inspiring hustle and determination, her lifelong love for the icon she was named after, Queen Mimi, her empowering message for young women, the weakest game she’s heard from men and upcoming music and collaborations.
You were born and raised in Miami — I’m an Orlando gal myself, ayy! — what music did you grow up listening to and how do you think it’s influenced your style today?
I always grew up listening to R&B, old-school hip-hop and Spanish music, from reggaeton to Marc Anthony. At first, I started doing trap music. I was 15, in the studio, making trap. But when I figured out I could sing, I would sing all the R&B songs. Once I met Nely, and his brother Misael De La Cruz, he opened my interest to another language, Spanish. I never sang in Spanish, but we decided to take that route. I have Spanish roots, Puerto Rican roots, so we wanted to take over both markets at the same time.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
It would have to be Mariah Carey, and not because my name is Mariah. My mom named me Mariah because she was one of her favorite singers, so I grew up listening to Mariah Carey and Marc Anthony, and Wisin y Yandel and Don Omar. But Mariah Carey was one of my biggest inspirations. It’s so ironic, because my mom didn’t know I was going to be able to sing. I think she planned it all out magically, somehow.
When did you realize singing was more than a hobby and decide you wanted to take it seriously?
Once I was like nine or 10, that’s when I started to sing and noticed my voice was a little good. I was like, “that’s it!” I woke up every morning before school and watched Justin Bieber and Chris Brown, they are also big inspirations for me, and I wanted to be just like them. Once I started singing and noticed I could somewhat sing, I made up my mind. I wasn’t going to be a doctor or lawyer but a singer. I knew since I was nine. My family would laugh at me, but at 13, people noticed my voice was good and said, “Wait a minute. We need to do something.” They wanted me to get on American Idol, but I was too shy, so when I was 15, that’s when I started going to the studio and making music.
You were signed to Universal Music Latin Entertainment earlier this year. What was that like for you and how has your life changed since then?
I feel honored and blessed to be part of the UMLE/GTS family. My dream was to get signed and bring a new sound to the industry. Together, with Universal/GTS, we will make a big impact on the industry. Since meeting Nely, he is like one of the best producers of all time, my goal has been to branch out to more than what I was used to. We wanted to find something different. We have really good chemistry. We both know what we want, and he’s having me work with some of the best people in the industry: Luny Tunes, Jhay Cortez, Myke Towers, Casper Magico, Ñengo Flow. He taught me a lot. He taught me how to do beats; I’m making beats myself. I feel like I’m at the level that I deserve to be being next to him. I feel like I’m in the position I should’ve always been in.
You dropped your first single, “Blah,” which I’ve had on repeat all summer, in late June. It’s a dope song about independent women who are tired of men with wack game who can’t do anything for us that we aren’t already doing for ourselves. That’s pretty empowering for girls and, hopefully, an eye-opener for the fellas. How do you hope women feel when they hear this track?
I want them to feel like they don’t need a man to make it in life, and that they shouldn’t get led on by what guys tell them or the dreams they sell them with purses or material things. Not everything is material. What’s on the inside is what matters. I want them to know that we are bosses. Women are bosses. We don’t need men to be happy.
The song is so relatable because just about all of us have heard our fair share of bullshit from guys, right? What are some of the wildest and most unimpressive lines you’ve heard from men who were talking a lot of blah, blah, blah?
Oh my God, so many. I hear, “I can change your life,” “let me maintain you,” “I can maintain you.” They try to impress you with a rental car, but I’m like, “oh yeah, nothing new.” That stuff doesn’t impress me. I can get that on my own. Show me something more and deeper than that, something real.
From “Blah” to your social media posts, you stress the importance of money over boyfriends. Why do you think it’s necessary for women to have that financial independence, to be able to pay their bills and take care of their own?
Most women will settle for a man so they can have that stuff, who can take care of them, but I want them to get out of that comfort and work for themselves, so when a guy finds you, they’re intimidated, you already have what he has or more than him.
With the success of “Blah,” we are all excited to hear what you have coming up. Can you tell us what you’re working on — I know there are some exciting collabs — and when we can expect to hear it?
Right now, we just recorded a new video with Myke Towers, so we are in the process of dropping that song, “Desaparecemos,” by next month. We’re also working on the remix of “Blah,” with Brytiago, and there might be others on the remix. We are ready to drop music continuously, but it’s a process. Everything is a process. I’m also working on the next single, called “Malo.”
“Malo” — what can you tell us about that one?
It’s about a guy, a bad guy, and she loves him, even though she knows he’s a bad guy who’s going to break her heart. But he makes her laugh. So it’s about a girl who wants a bad guy.
Who hasn’t been there?
You’re bilingual. Can we expect to hear some songs in English or maybe collabs with U.S. artists?
Of course! “Malo” is in English and Spanish; it’s Spanglish. And I feel like that’s going to bring a new sound into the industry. I know there are songs that are Spanglish, but the way I do it is different, and I want to create my own sound for music in the market. As far as collabs, some of my dream collabs would be Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Drake and P. Diddy’s son, Christian Combs — he’s like another P. Diddy.
You’ve been called “the next Latin urban female artist of the upcoming generation.” What does it feel like to hear that about yourself, you, a Bori-cubanita from the 305?
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Woooooh! It’s amazing. I feel amazing and honored to be a part of this, to be labeled as that. This is everything I worked for. This is why I ran away at 16 from my house and went against my mom’s will, because I had a dream and didn’t let anyone stop me. I want people to look up to me, not just as an artist, but as a person, someone who didn’t stop following her dream for anything.
You ran away to pursue music?
My mom always knew I wanted to be a singer, but she wanted me to study to be a doctor and have a plan B, but my plan B is to make plan A happen; there’s no other option in my mind. My mom was very overprotective. She didn’t like me going to the studio. She supported me, but she thought I was going just to hang out. She didn’t understand how this worked. I had to make relationships, connect and network, and this was holding me back, so I got tired of it. I ran away one day and stayed with an owner of a studio in Little Havana who was helping me out, and through them, I met another dude who introduced me to Nely. I was sleeping on couches in studios and staying with people I barely knew because I knew one day I’d meet the right person, and I did. I met Nely, an angel. He was an angel who saved me from where I could have been and took me under his wings. He helped me become the artist I am.
And what does your mother think about your career now?
She was always supportive, but she was just mad that I ran away. She thought she lost her baby, but once she found out I was working with Nely, she knew I was good. She saw how famous he was, and she saw that Mariah had a purpose behind all the mess she made. We have a great relationship. She never turned her back on me. She and my dad always pushed me.
You’re 19 years old, at the start of your career. In a few years, what do you hope the people can say about Mariah?
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Saliendo del estudio ahora!!! Recuerdo cuando estaba durmiendo en la sofa de un estudio haces 3 años atrás.. se siente como ayer. Nunca pare de creer en mi, nunca pare de hacer música. Nada me detuvo de mis sueños???????? Mi mente ya está en otro nivel y voy a lograr todo lo que me dijeron que no podía hacer. #BEASTMODE
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I hope people can say that I inspired young women to follow their dreams and that I made an impact, a huge impact, in the music industry, and that I’m a legend and that I’m the best. I just want to be the best — at everything.