Jerrika Karlae Isn’t Just Someone’s Girlfriend

Jerrika Karlae Isn’t Just Someone’s Girlfriend

Jerrika Karlae is an entrepreneur, model, influencer and, most recently, a musician. Despite the fact that she fell into music as a kind of joke, Karlae now provides the soundtrack for confident, fierce, self-asserting women all across the world.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Georgia, the 26-year-old was (and is) heavily influenced by Atlanta’s thriving rap scene in all facets of her life, from her sound to her drip. While dating Young Thug (they’re actually engaged) has its perks, she’s all about getting it on her own. 

When Karlae joined Instagram in 2014, she quickly became a favorite in the beauty and fashion realm, captivating audiences with her unique, coveted style and undeniable taste. That summer, she created her own swimwear line titled Karlae Swimwear, featuring affordable swimsuits that proved her worth as a businesswoman.

Despite her predilection for fashion, Karlae grew up surrounded by music. With her mom, Nekia Hauser, working in artist management for a decade, she spent her teenage years assisting her on photoshoots, recording sessions, and at concerts in the A. In fact, she met Thug through her mother, who was managing Young Scooter at the time.

She also had a knack for words as a kid; poetry was actually her go-to childhood pastime. Any time she was emotional (whether it was good or bad), she’d go to her phone and form those thoughts into rhymes.

Having grown up in a family who worked in the industry — her uncle was a singer-songwriter as well — it was an organic shift to turn those rhymes into studio sessions. What started as a joke (recording a female version to Thug and Future’s “Relationships”) soon turned into a full-fledged career.

Of course, being surrounded by an influx of talent in Atlanta only inspired and motivated her to have that same work ethic when it came to perfecting her craft. Having spent ample amounts of days and nights in the studio, it was only a matter of time before she hopped in the booth and dropped bangers herself.

Having nabbed the throne as first lady of Young Stoner Life Records, the Queen of Slime keeps her foot on the gas pedal. Currently, Karlae serves as direct support for Lil Keed and Lil Gotit’s tour, two of the newest members to the Slime family (also Thugger’s protégés).

TIDAL caught up with 26-year-old to discuss her music career.

How would you describe Jerrika Karlae?

Jerrika Karlae is young, free-spirited gamble taker. With me being with such a great musician [Thug] for so many years, it was a gamble to start doing music.

I have so many people expecting it to be one way, because he’s a fucking GOAT [greatest of all time] at what he does. I’m a go-for-anything type of female. I’m all about good vibes, going after whatever comes to your mind and your heart honestly.

Especially as I get older and get more into a creative space, everything now is about doing what you love and being happy in anything you do.

Talk about the moment you started recording music yourself.

I started recording in Atlanta, of course, which is the wave spot. It’s such a wave. I started recording as a joke. My mom and my dad actually were in the studio; it’s so crazy. Both of my parents were there at the perfect time. My dad’s like, ‘OK I’ma get you studio time,’ and he actually got me the A room.

That’s a big deal!

Yes, he got me the A room at 11th Street Studios in Atlanta. It’s so crazy because people were like, ‘This is a joke.’ I could tell when I walked in, they never heard of me having a session. I kind of felt weird. This was a year and a half, two years ago.

That night, I went in and made a girl version of ‘Relationships’ by Thug and Future.

With Millie Go Lightly? 

Yes, with Millie! It was a joke. I was really in there trying to sing; it was hilarious. Afterwards, I sent it to her like, ‘Listen to this.’ She’s like, ‘Hell yeah, I’ma fuck it up. Let’s do it!’

After that, I got a lot of good responses on YouTube. I’m like, ‘OK, might as well keep going.’

It made me feel so liberated. I fell in love with the feeling; I kept going.

I loved hearing you on Young Thug’s ‘U Ain’t Slime Enough.’ Can you bring us back to that studio session?

I just heard the beginning of the beat; I’m just like, ‘Outside looking in, there is no comparison.’ I did it; it came out hard. Toward the end, I’m like, ‘It’s so dull; we need something else.’

I thought it was boring; that’s when I l took a shot and started screaming, ‘You bitches ain’t slime enough!’ My uncle Fedi was in there, he does music too. He’s like, ‘Gangbang, gangbang.’ I’m like, ‘Gangbang what?’ He’s like, ‘Not literally, but act like a gangbanger and scream.’

I sent it to Thug, he’s like, ‘Karlae, that shit is crazy.’ That was another notch under my belt, made me want to keep going.

Let’s talk about your new single ‘Shut Up and Listen.’

So ‘Shut Up and Listen’ is not my new single, it’s just something for my fans. Right now, I’m really into creating content for the people who want to hear me, for everybody basically.

Not my single, but it is one of my babies. I did it in the studio with Duke. Actually 21 Savage was coming to work with Thug.

Kid Hazel! What was that experience like?

Yes Kid Hazel! He’s so cool; I didn’t even think I could get a beat from him. He stopped in like, ‘What you working on?’ He listened, he’s like, ‘That’s dope.’ Him, Tip, all of them.

He gave me a beat, I’m like, ‘Duke help me with this. It’s a different vibe.’ Duke’s like, ‘Bitch, shut up and listen!’ That’s all he said; I’m like, ‘All of these bitches be playing the victim.’ We just kept going, it was hard as fuck.

Did someone or something piss you off? 

Don’t get me wrong, I have a bad girl in me. But when I’m recording, I do have steps to make me get lit. Before I came here, I played my five song playlist. But it’s songs that get me crazy.

What songs are they? 

‘Tina Montana’ [Megan Thee Stallion], ‘Big Tipper’ by Thug and Lil Keed. I have this song called ‘Sophisticated Means,’ where it was my first time freestyling. Being on the mic without a pen and a pad, I just poured my heart out.

I got like a setlist of songs. It literally brings me to tears almost, just made me feel like, ‘Bro, you are really doing what you put your mind. It’s not a joke.’

It gives me that ‘fuck you’ attitude, like, ‘Bro this is your moment to address anybody who you’re just mad at.’ That’s what I did and we came up with ‘Shut up and Listen.’

Speaking of Lil Keed, how’s touring been with him and Lil Gotit?

Right, it’s dope. I learned so much from Keed in the music world. I was locked in the studio with Keed for two weeks and he showed me how to rap. Showed me what to do.

He’s like, ‘Karlae if you don’t know a cadence, sometimes hum in your head then fill it in.’ He gave me his formula so I’ma keep saying I’m thankful. We locked in, so me and Keed literally have a tape done.

What’s been the best memory on tour? 

I had a show in New York; it was my first night of tour. I honestly felt scared, but I vibed out with my crew. I got up there and got to address all the things that were the elephant in the room.

I went through some shit on social media and just gave the fans some good old inspo. I’m like, ‘Cut the music! I’ma let ya’ll know, you can do whatever the fuck you want to do in life. I don’t give a fuck how many people tell you you can’t.’

They told me I wouldn’t be here right now. I’m like, ‘When life knocks you down nine times, get up 10. Swing your bat, hit that bitch!’

Everybody’s screaming my name: ‘Karlae!’ I was able to see, wow, this is the start of me coming in and touching people.

Talk about linking with City Girls and Trina; that’s a bad bitch anthem already. 

Yes, it’s coming out! It really is, just want to have fun with it. I was working with this producer, Flawless; he came to my session. With me just starting off doing music, I was a little nervous.

But he’s like, ‘Man you hard. I got this beat, it’s some I don’t give a fuck-type vibe.’ So he helped me with the hook, was just giving me inspo like, ‘Think about this.’

That’s why I love being in the studio with him because he’s like, ‘Get in yo bag Karlae!” The song felt like Miami energy for me. My mom’s like, ‘Rika, Trina. You can put Trina on here, I’m telling you.’ I’m like, ‘Trina would never.’

My mom’s like, ‘See, you being negative, just try it.’ She knew one of Trina’s close long-time friends, somebody who works on her team. They sent it to them and it went from there.

She hit me up like, ‘Bro the song is hard. Whatever you do, don’t stop. I wouldn’t be saying this if I didn’t feel like you couldn’t do it, don’t stop.’ She’s like, ‘Walk with your head up.’

(Photo credit: Tamara May)

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