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Up Next: Meet MyVerse, The Latina Battle Rapper Dominating The Wild N’ Out Stage

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

MyVerse is bringing back battle rap.

Intrigued by underground cyphers she saw growing up in Orlando, Fla., the Puerto Rican-Panamanian poet started to use her gift of wordplay in a more competitive setting, participating in freestyle battles throughout the city. 

“What people really don’t know is Orlando has a big freestyle rapping scene. It’s embedded in our hip-hop culture. We pride ourselves in freestyling,” MyVerse, born Natalia Pitti, told FIERCE. “I used to watch them spit at the top of their head and I just thought, how is this possible? I wanted more. So I went on the Internet looking up freestyle battles, and I came across Lady Luck vs. Remy Ma, and that changed my life. I was just like, wow, this is fire. This is so cool.”

Nearly a decade later, it’s her own rhymes that are stirring the interwebs. MyVerse’s bars are so tough that they caught the attention of Nick Cannon, who asked the young talent, who’s also a member of the historic breaking and hip-hop group the Rock Steady Crew, to audition for Wild ‘N Out, joining the cast officially in 2019 for season 13.

We chatted with the southern-based Latina emcee about the art of battle rap, spitting on the Wild ‘N Out stage, joining the Rock Steady Crew, her upcoming projects and more. 

FIERCE: You grew up in Orlando, Fla. — my ‘hood, 407, Eastside, ayyy — so I know it’s not exactly the first city that comes to mind when we think of hip-hop. When and how did your love for rapping begin?

MyVerse: My first love that got me into rap was doing poetry. I started off as a poet in the scene out here, and I was just really fascinated with wordplay and with the structure of bars. I was really fascinated with multi-syllabics, when you can get a big word and find three words that rhyme with it. I started doing poetry at 12 years old. My mom didn’t let me listen to the radio, because she was super Christian, so I couldn’t listen to hip-hop artists. So my discovery of hip-hop was on my own. It was wanting to learn the culture. I realized I was a fan of lyricism when I heard Eminem, and then that opened me up to Pun and Biggie, and I just loved it.

FIERCE: You were raised in a Puerto Rican-Panamanian home on the Eastside, which boasts of Latinx and Caribbean culture. How do you think the music around you, from what was heard at home to what folk were playing on the block, informed your style today?

MyVerse: A lot of my friends were form New York, and a lot of them were listening to Pun and putting me on to music. Like I said, my mom didn’t let me listen to rap, so my friends were my outlet. I can’t say there’s like a definitive album that did it for me, because this was the era of burning CDs, so my friends would burn CDs with Mobb Deep, Nas, Cormega. Not the most righteous way, but that’s how I learned. This was also the mixtape era. My first hip-hop CD I bought was a mixtape, which was Street Wars by P Cutta, and, in a way, it opened up the door for battle rap for me, because that was a CD that had strictly beef, street wars.

FIERCE: I know that you studied journalism after high school. At what point did music become something that you wanted to pursue more seriously and professionally?

MyVerse: I went to school for like a year, and I realized I couldn’t afford the books. I couldn’t afford any of it. That shit becomes expensive, and I wasn’t about to take out student loans. So I went back into the poetry scene. I started doing poetry on beats. At first, it sounded so bad, like so bad! There’s a science to writing bars, to writing flows, and I think that fascination with multi-syllabics can hinder you because you’re now so focused on rhyming versus getting your message and flow. And, if I’m being real, this is something I’m still learning. But at this time, a well-known local artist named Madd Illz asked to manage me and do an EP together. Unfortunately, we were going in two different directions, so I decided to part ways, but this is what helped me start taking this seriously. I started doing the math, and I started thinking, if I can sell a CD at $5, and sell 10 a day, that’s $50 a day. I can do that and multiply. And I kept going from there.

FIERCE: I’ve interviewed various Spanish-language and English-language rappers for this series, but what’s different about you is that you specialize in battle rap. Why?

MyVerse: I just fell in love with battle rap. When I was young, my mom didn’t let me do shit. Everyone was at the skating rink or at house parties bumping and grinding, and I wasn’t allowed at any of it. But on Wednesdays, a big church called Faith Assembly, I know you know the one, would hold youth night, and everyone would come out, every one. 

FIERCE: Oh, I know! I would be out there, too. Goldenrod, my block haha.

MyVerse: Right! It was the spot to be at. Afterwards, rappers would circle up and battle each other. What people really don’t know is Orlando has a big freestyle rapping scene. It’s embedded in our hip-hop culture. We pride ourselves in freestyling. I used to watch them spit at the top of their head and I just thought, how is this possible? I wanted more. So I went on the Internet looking up freestyle battles, and I came across Lady Luck vs. Remy Ma, and that changed my life. I was just like, wow, this is fire. This is so cool.

FIERCE: Yes, the good ol’ days. I definitely remember. So you then become inspired to rap, and your skills land you a spot on Wild ‘N Out this season, though I know you’ve also been on the show in the past. How did this pop off for you?

MyVerse: From battle rap. After two mixtapes into my career, I started battle rapping, and I guess Nick Cannon or his producers caught wind of it and had emailed me to audition for the show. MTV had originally wanted to work with me on a show they were working on called Rap Report, where you’re doing the news through rapping. That ended up not happening, but I guess I was still on their radar, so when the opportunity to audition for Wild ‘N Out came, they hit me up. It was crazy! But it was also a wild time in my life, a time of transition. I had just moved to Atlanta. But I ended up making it work and went to New York for this audition. There, I meet Jess Hilarious, B.Simone, Pretty Vee, they were all trying out with me. We had to do some games, and, really, I was just so-so on that. But then a producer asked me to battle Nick, and they really, really liked it, so I got a callback. I was in the finals to be a cast member, but I believe if God say it’s your time, it’s yours, but if it’s not, it’s just not. Everything went wrong that day. There was a tropical storm, so my flight was delayed. I was supposed to go on national TV at 9 p.m., and I ended up arriving at the studio at like 8: 30 p.m. I was a mess, and I definitely didn’t perform to my best abilities and didn’t make the show. That was season 9. The producers told me to take improv classes and audition again, and I did. I moved back to Orlando and I signed up for classes. Then they hit me up for season 13, asked me to audition, I did, and now I’m on the show. Being on the Wild ‘N Out stage is very different from battle rap. As a performer, you have to be like a standup comedian. You have to believe in your joke and stay committed to it.

FIERCE: Watching the show, it looks like it’s just such a hilarious and fun space to be in. What has been your wildest, in a good way, experience on the show thus far?

MyVerse: I think the wildest experience, to me, is being able to go toe-to-toe with people I look up to in the battle rap scene. Charlie Clips, Hitman Holla, Conceited, these are cats that I have so much respect for, so to be able to go toe-to-toe with them bar for bar is an honor and it bigs me up. I get to be there with these great lyricists, so that’s wild. I just can’t believe it all came form battle rap.

FIERCE: You’re also a part of the Rock Steady Crew. That’s major! What does it feel like to be a member of such a historic group for both hip-hop and Boricuas?

MyVerse: Nena, I don’t know. I believe it’s God’s divine appointment. I’m such a spiritual person and believe things work out the way they are supposed to. In 2010, I was emceeing this party, not rapping, and Crazy Legs was there. In the last 10 minutes of the event, I was like, let me just rap real quick, so I did, and he looked at me like, “Oh, you nice.” So we exchanged information, collaborated a bit on his podcast, but then he asked if I was interested in being a part of the crew. I obviously said yeah, but he made it clear that it wasn’t going to be easy because it was something everyone in the crew had to agree to. Rock Steady is a family thing. We’re a family. This is us building with each other. And so I started hanging out with them a lot, for like years. In 2013, three years later, I was like, “what’s good? Am I ever going to be a part of Rock Steady or what?” So they were like, “all right, let’s get this rollin’.” January 1, 2014 is when I became an official member of the Rock Steady Crew, and it was just like another day with the family. Just coolin’. It was natural.

FIERCE: I know that you also work closely with Crazy Legs and have been a part of the rebuilding efforts the group has led on the island. Your “100% RMX,” for instance, talks a bit about the struggle and resilience you saw on the island. Tell me, as someone who self-identifies as a humanitarian, what role do you think your music can play in resistance and social justice efforts?

MyVerse: Man, I feel like music is such a powerful entity. I think it’s like the fifth element. We got water, fire, earth and air, and then there is music. It’s a universal language. It’s something we feel within that moves us. It can change your life. It saves your life. It opens up a way of thinking you would have never thought before. How amazing hip-hop is for so many people, underprivileged people, helping them make something of nothing. Music brings us together. We speak to each other in code and are able to send our message and really wake people up. It paints a picture. It provides imagery. That’s what Curtis Blow did for New York through hip-hop.

FIERCE: Absolutely! This year has already been an exciting one for you. Can you tell us what else is in store for you in 2019?

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MyVerse: Well, most immediately, I’m dropping a mixtape, and it’s called Natalia Did That. I’m also dropping an album called the Social Experiment, and the campaign for it is ill because it’s like a bunch of social experiments. It’s me experimenting in social settings and seeing how people will react to certain things and what people will do if certain scenarios happen. That’s the campaign around it. So I’ll be releasing singles between all of that, but it’s going to be cool.

FIERCE: You’re still early in your career. What would you like people to say about MyVerse in 10 to 15 years?

MyVerse: I would want them to say that, man, MyVerse is the greatest rapper of all time, haha! That’s what I want them to say. She’s a great rapper and she did it with integrity. 

Read: Up Next: Ecuadorian Singer-Songwriter Daniela Is Making Pop Jams With Meaning

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

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Up Next: Meet Katalina, The Colombian Funny Girl-Turned-Pop Singer You Need To Know

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

Katalina is used to the spotlight. For years, the colombiana has cultivated an audience of millions on Instagram with her hilarious short videos about relationships and womanhood. But now, the social media influencer-turned-singer is using her mic to explore these themes.

Debuting her first song, “Sacude,” a carefree pop-urban dance jam, last November, the Miami-living entertainer followed up this month with the heartbreaking ballad “Adios” featuring Cuban-American singer JenCarlos Canela, showing her musical versatility.

“With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about,” Katalina, 27, told FIERCE. “I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.”

We chatted with the rising star about her lifelong love of singing, transitioning from social media influencer to music artist, saying goodbye to loved ones and what to expect from the beauty in the months that follow.

FIERCE: Most people who are familiar with Katalina know you as a social media influencer with hilarious videos, but last year you took the leap into music. Why?

Katalina: I have always liked to sing. I come from a very musical and talented family, but we always practiced it as a hobby. A year ago, I gave myself the opportunity to develop it professionally with my manager, Kito Sunshine, and I am totally grateful and in love with this. Music is what I love the most — it frees me.

FIERCE: Was this shift from social media influencer to singer strategic? Did you know you always wanted to sing and saw social media as an avenue to build your popularity and get you there or was this an unexpected but welcomed outcome?

Katalina: Since I was a little girl, I have known that I liked to sing and play the piano. From 9 to 11 years old, I sang in the choir of a church when I lived in Colombia, and for me it was something magical, so I’ve always known it. As far as social media, I entered by accident, but from the first day, I enjoyed the opportunity to reach so many people and show them my musical side as well. It was not a strategy. I did not upload many videos singing, but people motivated me more and more to try to develop music professionally, so I gave myself the opportunity, and, well, here we are.

FIERCE: But you’re not just a pretty girl with a following who is trying to use her fame to dabble in something she has no business doing. You are talented! Still, several social media influencers have attempted to break into music, some like Cardi B and Jenn Morel finding success, but others not so much, oftentimes not because they lack talent but rather because they’re not taken as seriously. What has this transition been like for you?

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Katalina: It is a bit difficult for people to see social influencers in another facet that they are not used to, but, in my case, I always showed them that musical side, so it was not totally a surprise. The same people asked me and the reception was very special. I hope to reach many people with my music.

FIERCE: As you stated, you have been passionate about singing and playing the piano since you were a child. What sort of music did you grow up listening to and how do you think it’s influenced your Latin pop sound today?

Katalina: I grew up listening to a lot of pop and ballads. My mom always listened to this music, so she did influence me a lot. I remember locking myself in my room and practicing these songs all the time. I still do this.

FIERCE: Colombian music is having a major global moment right now. What do you think you bring to the game that’s different and helps you stand out among the rest?

Katalina: Together with my work team we are creating our own seal. Our sounds are different and the vocal arrangements are unique to what we want to project. We are focused on the urban wave but keeping my romantic side.

FIERCE: I can see that for sure! You recently released “Adios,” a ballad featuring Cuban-American artist Jencarlos Canela about saying goodbye to an ex-love with the hope of returning to each other again in the end. This is very relatable because a lot of times during breakups there’s this hope that time away will bring you two back together. Sometimes it’s because the couple really is good for each other, but other times it’s just a matter of costumbre. How do you, Katalina, decipher between the two?

Katalina: Saying goodbye is always going to be difficult, either out of love or habit. I think that if you are with someone just out of habit and not because you love him, it is better to say goodbye definitely. “Adios,” to me, has another meaning. Beyond the circumstances for which you have had to say goodbye to your ex-partner, it is the goodbye that makes your heart hurt. It’s the memories of the shared moments that make you miss a person and want to have them again, that’s “Adios.”.

FIERCE: In the music video, the song took on new meaning. It wasn’t just about an ex but about losing someone you love to death and never being able to be with them again. Why did you all want to dedicate this song and video to those who lost their partners?

Katalina: These are very common situations in all of our lives. The message also has to do with those who have lost a loved one, not just their partner. In my case, I recently lost my grandmother suddenly, who was a mother to me, and, for this reason, I, and many others, can identify with this video.

FIERCE: I’m so sorry to hear that! And I think you’re right. The video really extends to loss outside of romantic relationships. We are in an era of collaborations, especially for Latin music, and in this song, your and Jencarlos’ voices blend very beautifully. Tell me, who are some of your other dream collaborations?

Katalina: I’ve always believed you find strength in unity, so working in a team, to me, is a very wise decision. I have a long list, but I’d want to start with artists like Natti Natasha, Karol G, Becky G, Ivy Queen, Cardi B — these are strong women and great examples of what it means to be an empowering woman. Also, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee and others. They are artists with careers worthy of admiration.

FIERCE: I know you’ve been working on a lot of music for this year. What can you tell us is in store for Katalina in 2019?

Katalina: There are incredible songs written by international composers. I will also have my debut as a songwriter in a song that I think people will really identify with.

FIERCE: Can we expect more ballads like “Adios” or more dance songs like “Sacude” or a mix of genres?

Katalina: With me, there will definitely be both. This is something I think I have been very clear about. I feel that music is more free now and you do not have to limit yourself to only one genre. I like challenges and I dislike routine, so you can always expect a mix.

FIERCE: You are so young, at the start of your career, what do you hope people can say about Katalina in 10 to 15 years?

Katalina: My dream is to become an icon in music worldwide. I would love for people to say that I inspired them to fulfill their dreams, that I helped empower other women, that my life has been a great example of triumph. In 10 to 15 years, with the help of God, I will leave my mark throughout the planet.

Watch Katalina’s latest single, “Adios,” below:

Read: Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

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Up Next: Meet Victoria La Mala, The Mexican Badass Empowering Women With Urban-Banda Jams

Up Next is a FIERCE series highlighting rising Latina and Latin American women artists you might not know about but definitely should.

You know what Paquita la del Barrio is to your grandmother or perhaps what Jenni Rivera was to your tía? Well, that’s what Victoria La Mala is for our generation: a singer whose inner power is the only thing more forceful than the strong vocal pipes she uses to remind you that you are that bitch.

Born Victoria Ortiz in Mexico City, the singer-songwriter jumped into the music scene in 2015, bringing a refreshing sound and style to regional Mexican music with all the same girl power of her barrier-breaking female predecessors. Describing herself as the musical offspring of Tupac and Selena, the now Los Angeles-based singer places her soulful vox over traditional banda and ranchera rhythms to deliver treats for your ears and soul. Her songs, like last year’s chart-making “Merezco Mucho Más,” call out male fuckery and empower girls to know their strength, worth and beauty and leave toxic romances behind.

On the block, Victoria, who’s also the first Mexican artist to be signed to Roc Nation Latin, continues to be inspirational. On Monday, the 30-year-old launched her fifth annual #TeamMalaPromGiveaway, a campaign providing low-income teenage girls in Los Angeles with dresses, accessories and makeup and hair tutorials. This year, she will help 50 girls, who must submit their applications before March 29, become the prom princesses she knows they already are.

We chatted with Victoria all about the giveaway, making banda bops for millennials, her anticipated new, and sonically different, music, as well as why she wants to empower women and girls in everything she does, among so much more.

FIERCE: You were born and raised in Mexico but also spent much of your time growing up taking extended trips with relatives in Los Angeles. What genres of music were you listening to here and there, and how do you think this has influenced your pop-urbano-banda style today?

Victoria La Mala: I used to listen to a lot of regional Mexican music in Mexico because of my parents. They love banda and mariachi. I spent a lot of summers in LA, and I had some aunts who listened to hip-hop, ‘90s R&B, and I loved soul. I think all of those styles of music influenced me, and I think you can hear them in me.

FIERCE: Absolutely. While you sing mostly regional Mexican genres, you have a very soulful voice. Talking about your voice, it’s very strong and powerful. No one can deny your vocal talent. When did you realize you could sing and that music was something you wanted to pursue?

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Victoria La Mala: I literally cannot remember a time in my life without singing. When I look back on my childhood, I was that one little girl always singing. I loved music. I sang in class and school. But when I was 15, I started getting a little more confidence in myself. I’d be out at parties and people would say, “sing for us.” That’s when I realized this is something I love and have a big passion for. I started singing in a couple bands. I sang at family functions and school functions. So I think when I was around 15 is the time I was like, I love this and I think this is what I want to do.

FIERCE: Why banda? This isn’t exactly a genre that’s expected from young millennial women?

Victoria La Mala: For me, it was always important to represent my culture and tell my story as a woman. Some of the first memories I had listening to live music was banda. My first album in 2013 was full banda. It was just important for me to represent. My dad had passed away a few years before then, and he loved banda. When I moved to the States from Mexico, I wanted to represent from the beginning, and from there I started evolving as an artist as well. I tried different regional sounds and more fusions, because it’s all a part of my story and who I am. I was exposed to more types of music. Being a girl raised in Mexico City, I listened to everything in the streets, Spanish rock, cumbia, so I think it’s important to represent my culture and my story.

FIERCE: I love that and definitely see that. While artists like Paquita la del Barrio and Jenni Rivera made waves for women in traditional Mexican music, these genres continue to be male-dominated. Honestly, most Latin genres do. How has your experience been trying to navigate this industry as a woman, and as one who is very vocal about her opinions on men and proud of her identity.

Victoria La Mala: You know, they always say, “Victoria hates men.” But I don’t, just a couple that have been bad, but some are great. But it’s definitely difficult being a woman, not just in music, in a world that has been male-dominated. The roles of women have slowly been changing: women started working, started going to school and now they’re doing basically anything that we want. But because it hasn’t been many years to do these things, it’s still a struggle. And in music, it’s reflected. Music, I think, reflects what’s happening in society. Now girls are starting to take power in music. Girls want to listen to other girls. They want to feel identified and want our stories told. It’s definitely still difficult. It’s definitely still a struggle, especially on the industry side. There’s this idea that girls dont like girls, girls don’t like to listen to girls. This is also an idea that has been changing, though. I grew up listening to women I love, playing my CDs and singing along to them. I think women nowadays are the same: we want to hear our stories.

FIERCE: I think you’re right. Not only are many of the rising acts in Latin music women, but they are sharing their stories through their music.

Victoria La Mala: Right, exactly. Thank you.

FIERCE: Making a space for yourself where others might be uncomfortable, though, isn’t something you seem to ever shy away from. Another example: you’re the first Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation. How has this been for you?


Victoria La Mala: It has been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to learn so much from people in the industry who have been doing this for years. I’ve met legends, people I looked up to as a little girl, people I still look up to.

FIERCE: Like who?

Victoria La Mala: Like Beyoncé and Rihanna. I got to sing with Paquita la del Barrio. Olga Tañón invited me to sing with her at Premio Lo Nuestro. It’s been an incredible couple of years, learning and growing so much. It’s been really amazing for me. This is part of what I always wanted to do: represent my culture and what I come from as Latinos and Mexicans in a more general-market kind of way. People never really listen to Mexican music, so for them to say, “let me see this Mexican artist signed to Roc Nation,” that’s an amazing experience. As you mentioned before, part of me always feels like I have to fight for what I want. I grew up seeing that. I grew up around strong women that will make a way.

FIERCE: And that’s clear in your music. As I stated earlier, your songs are very bold and empowering. They often validate women’s experiences in relationships and remind them of their own strength, beauty and power. Why?

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Victoria La Mala: It’s so important for me because I think music literally is the soundtrack to our lives. We have songs we play when we are feeling so sad and want to cry. We have songs we want to play that cause us to feel strong, like you could do whatever you want to do.  I grew up listening to strong women that made me feel powerful, and it’s important for me to give that back to other girls. Sometimes, I play my own songs when I’m going through it, like, “yes, girl!”

FIERCE: Haha! I love that. I can honestly say that “Si Va A Doler Que Duela” was one of the songs that helped get me through my last breakup, so I completely get it.

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Victoria La Mala: Thank you. I really appreciate that.

FIERCE: You’re also inspiring outside of your music, though. I know you have a prom dress giveaway each year, where you provide dresses, makeup and accessories to underserved teens so they can attend prom and feel like a princess for an evening. Talk to me about this. Why do this?


Victoria La Mala: To me, this is one of my favorite times of the year. I love being able to connect with young girls. When I was in high school, my dad wasn’t there anymore, and my mom, by herself, had to make sacrifices for my siblings and myself. For my high school graduation, I had to figure out dresses, which was so expensive, and I thought, maybe I should come up with a giveaway for girls doing their prom and can’t afford it. There are so many circumstances as to why they might need help. I started this five years ago. I had people, whoever I knew, give me dresses. I said, “anyone who wants to donate, I will give you a CD.” That’s all I had. People donated dresses, and I think we dressed 10 girls that year. I did it all on my own. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was an amazing experience to see girls have the dress they wanted. I knew I needed to do it again. Here we are now in our fifth year. Last year, we  dressed more than 60 girls. This year, I’m hoping that doubles. Now we also have sponsors.

FIERCE: What do you think is your overall goal with this giveaway?

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Victoria La Mala: My goal is for girls to enjoy their prom. I want them to feel like all their efforts were worth this moment, that all their hard work does pay off. I just want them to be happy that day. I’m also really hoping every year we can double the amount of dresses we give. I also hope that we can take it out of LA. This is my home and community, so this is where I’ve been doing it, but I hope to take it to other cities and one day everywhere.

FIERCE: Love that! I want to get back into music. You haven’t released a new song in a little while, and there’s a lot of anticipation around Victoria La Mala and demand for new music. What do you have in store for this year that you can tell us about?

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Victoria La Mala: Well, last year, I put out only two songs. One did amazing and was on the charts, “Merezco Mucho Más,” and the other I put out during the end of the summer, “Corazón valiente,” which was for immigrants. But after that, I had a couple changes within my team. I took time for me to get in the studio, work on music, write my stuff, get involved in everything, from production and sound to writing new songs. We are almost there. It’s just been a process. I’ve just been waiting and writing and making sure everything sounds and is how I creatively see it. Again, we’re almost there. I think it’s going to be something new and different from what I put out in the past and reflects who I am, a mix of Mexican culture and me living in New York, LA, Mexico City, more of the urban side. So it’ll be something new and something I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, so I’m excited.

FIERCE: You’re 30 years old, at the earlier stages of your career, what do you hope people can say about Victoria La Mala in 10 to 15 years?

I hope people can say that I’ve helped them feel empowered, that my music has been a big part of their life. I dont think a lot about this. I think about things I want to accomplish more than things people say about me. I hope my music can empower them and be a part of their life and touch them the way other artists have inspired me.

Read: Up Next: Rombai Is Ushering In The Return Of Latin Pop Bands

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