a long talk

No One’s Realer Than Flo Milli

The Alabama rapper on her new album, making fans happy, and the last time she got into a fistfight.


You really gotta be careful listening to Flo Milli’s music. Her new album, You Still Here, Ho?, which dropped last month, seeks out its listeners’ hubris no matter how deep under the dirt of crumbling circumstance, nose-diving self-esteem, or piercing impostor syndrome it may be. It pulls from that inner baddie and somehow makes us chemically predisposed to two-piecing a hater dead in a jaw. In her songs, Flo is Alabama’s own pure aggro bad bitch. She big ups herself — most often in response to very specific slights — she does the money dance on tragically broke haters; she threatens to lay hands on froggy folk around the block or in the boardroom. Peep the staccato slick talk on the single, “PBC,” which rehearses a tired microaggression for women of her complexion: “Pretty for what? / Pretty for who?” she starts, and before an answer is drummed up, “I’m really like that / Bitch who are you?” An even more concrete example is the first verse of the Missy Elliott–sampling “Bed Time,” where the 22-year-old artist mentions the “hatin’ ass n- - - -” trying her ego before she remembers exactly how untouchable she is and dismissing him altogether: “Name hold weight like a boat full of kilos, ain’t no need for wastin’ time / When I see you out in public, bitch your ass is mine.” And we tend to believe her. “All of it is real,” she’s prone to saying in interviews.

There are always different expectations on a new release. Luckily, with fresh collaborators and an appearance from reality-TV superstar and anti-hero Tiffany Pollard, You Still Here, Ho? not only fucking slaps, but it puts to rest the notion that Flo only has one register. The music skews toward braggadocios and high-octane fun — and it’s clear she is out for blood. The flow switch-ups (“Hottie”), expansive takes on classic samples (“FNGM,” “Pretty Girls”), and even the vocal runs (“Tilted Halo”) all speak to an artist who heard y’all talking shit. Flo recently chatted with Vulture about the new record, growing up in the church, defying expectations, and memories of her last fistfight — which catapulted her into a sprawling story of a young Flo beating the brakes off a high-school nemesis. (And yeah, I have it on very good authority: It’s all real. Flo owned her ass.)

Well, first of all, congrats on the album. So far it seems like people really love it. How’s it been for you?
Honestly, I used to care so much, but as long as I made myself happy, proud, and content, then that’s automatic. ’Cause I know that a lot of my fan base is people who relate to me. So I always think as long as it feels good to me, I know it’s gonna feel good to them. As long as they still grow with me, I feel good about it.

The first voice on the record we hear is Tiffany “New York” Pollard, an icon in every meaning of the word. Were you able to talk directly to her? 
Yeah. We text all the time. I didn’t get to meet her, but before I asked her to do that, we would talk on the phone because we’re Capricorns. We all about business. I help her. She helped me. Once I started doing the skits, I think around last year, that’s how it started. I was reaching out to her and I told her I used to watch her all the time on Flavor of Love. We just clicked like that.

Did she give you any specific tips for the skits?
Oh, nah. It was just me and my manager. We brainstormed about it, ’cause we was trying to figure out a way to incorporate who I’ve always been into my music instead of doing things like everybody else. It was like, okay, how can we capitalize on this and make it creative? I guess she noticed that I love reality TV. Like, that’s all I watch … Wait, no, it started from TikTok. I did the TikTok of Tiffany Pollard last year. I was bored, I don’t know what made me do it, but I just was like, I bet this is gonna go viral. And it did. And then after that, everybody was like, Oh my God, Tiffany Pollard! I think she commented on that.

It seems like you’re going all across the map with this new album. There’s shit that I’m hearing from New York, Miami, Atlanta. There’s like a whole swath of the South on this. And then on “Hottie,” it feels like this combination of West Coast, but also Miami bass. You even hit white-girl America with the Cyndi Lauper sample on “Pretty Girls.” How’d that blend of regional sounds come together?
I was very intentional with this album. My last one, to me, felt a little rushed. That was my first project ever. I didn’t have that much knowledge about how to go about it. But you know, of course when you do something, you learn from your mistakes and you learn from that. So it was feedback. I got tired of people, like, saying certain stuff, even though people are gonna talk. That ties back into the name. Like, ho, you still here, though? People are saying, “Oh, she’s not versatile, all her songs sound the same, she got the same flow.” So it was like, all right, y’all are judging me based off of 12 songs, 30 minutes. Y’all haven’t even seen the full artist that I am. I intentionally did that. I wanted it to kind of feel like a roller coaster, like get the southern part of me, but also see what I’m capable of doing. Just showing different sides of my personality.

I can tell. On “Tilted Halo,” you’re going in with the vocal run and everything. I’m like, Yo, what’s going on!? I know you listened to a lot of gospel music growing up. 
Yeah. I grew up in a church, that’s where it started. When I was young, they forced me to sing solos in front of my entire church. I was in the choir every weekend. Like, I had to go to choir rehearsal through the week. My whole childhood was dedicated to church. I knew I wanted to be a rapper at the age of 10. I grew up singing and I wanted to be a singer before a rapper, but nobody knows that. It looks like, Oh, she just started singing.

You gonna get back into more singing?
Hell yeah. I wanna do everything. I come from nothing. So I want to act, model, sing, rap …

When I listened to the new album, I was like, This rap is really making me wanna fight somebody — and I know I would get my ass handed to me on the street. But there’s a turn I’m hearing from you. The first record felt like it was “I’m that bitch”type shit. But this one definitely feels like, “Okay, I heard y’all talking shit. And now I’m finna beat y’all ass.” Was that a purposeful change?
You know, it’s so crazy. It wasn’t, no, but I’m so glad it happened because that song, I think, “Bed Time.” You talking about “Bed Time”?

Yeah. I love that shit. 
“Bed Time” was one of the later songs added to the album, but it’s a real story. Most of this shit is real. Like, I really got mad and just went to studios. A real artist knows that whenever you hit rock bottom or whenever you feel any type of emotion — mad, sad, happy — you write about it. Because you’ll never feel it as strong as you feel right then. So it’s best to make something out of it because that’s when you’re gonna do your best work and that’s when people gonna feel it the most because it’s real. And we all humans, we all go through the same thing. I make music like that for that reason.

I’ve heard you say before that your music is real as fuck. I always wondered, when’s the last time you got into a real fistfight with somebody?
Ooh. It was definitely before I was famous.

I would hope so, shit.
I wanna say 2018. Yeah. This girl tried to stab me and I had to beat her ass. You wanna hear what happened?

Umm, yes.
I used to deal with a lot of haters in high school. Because I was very sure of myself. But I walked with confidence. I would be in my notebook, like, I’m that bitch! I’m beautiful. I’m gonna be famous. I would sit in my head and walk through the halls, like head up, chin up, and bitches would hate it. And then on top of that, my goddad used to spoil me all the time. He used to buy me weaves that were thousands of dollars. So my weave was like 30 inches. Bitches really couldn’t afford it. And the whole time, I didn’t have that much. My mom wasn’t buying all that. So, it looked like I came from money.

Basically, I had a best friend who is still my bitch to this day. Me and her, we fell out one year and we weren’t talking. We ended up mending, but by this time it’s already been like a year and a half. So now she got a new friend, right? I’m gonna just call her Sally. I guess she got jealous that me and my friend was cool [again]. Mind you, we’ve been cool since I was like 11. After that, she just was being real shady. I remember we had this one class where she would say stupid-ass shit. I wouldn’t even be in the conversation, but she would bring my name up, trying to insult me.

Just some slick shit. 
Just some slick shit, yeah! Just like, Bitch, do you like me? Or is it real hate? I was, like, Instagram-famous in high school. So I don’t know if that was a little bit of it. She was just talking all this shit. I was like, “I’m not about to do this with you.” And she was just like, “I’ll beat your ass tomorrow at school.” I was in honor society. I had a 3.8 GPA. Like I had so much to lose. But I agreed to it. Come to find out she didn’t show up. So then I thought it was over. The next day I went to class and I was calm. And then I was talking to my friend, and I’m trying to help her with the ACTs and stuff. And this bitch is in the back, pacing back and forth with her earphones in.

Oh, she geeking herself up. 
You already know! So then I’m sitting down and she waits until the bell rings. Everybody sat down in class and it’s quiet. She takes her earphones out. She walked up to me and she was like, “You still wanna fight?” And mind you, I’m tucked in the desk. I’m like, “Bitch, what’s up, then?” All I know is she just started punching me; she got a head start. I ain’t gon lie. But after that I like blacked out. Like, chairs were flying. I choked her. I was like, “Bitch, don’t you ever try me!” And then she had scissors and she was trying to stab me. But she ended up being suspended. Everybody in the class saw. And I came back to school the next day.

Damn, you were at school the next day?
The next day, people were talking about the fight as I was walking in class and everybody got quiet.

That’s actually perfect, though. I heard you call someone a rabid-ass ho on this album, and I was like, this is for somebody.
It definitely is. She knows who she is.

So did you swear off fights for good?
Yeah! I never was a fighter. It was just, like, girls fuck with me. I wouldn’t literally not talk to no one. All I did was rap and go home. I wouldn’t even talk to anybody at school.

You mentioned the criticism earlier of, Oh, she only raps one way. Do you think people want you to be more introspective? 
If I’m being honest, I feel like people will never be satisfied. Because every artist deals with that where it’s like, you always could have done something better or, you know, nothing is gonna be perfect in everybody’s eyes. One goal of mine I feel like I reached with this album was actually making music about how I felt in that moment instead of waiting. I was the type of person that didn’t wanna deal with my emotions. I like to write about something more lighthearted, but it’s like, Nah, don’t be embarrassed about a regular human emotion. Write something and, you know, own that. That’s what I feel like. I accomplished with what I was doing with the new shit.

That’s felt for sure. With this album, you also did work with a lot of new producers. And all new engineers and mixers. There’s Sophie Gray on this, Tasha Catour.
Yes! I keep having these moments where I feel like I keep realizing how dope she is. Like, everywhere I turn, I see something that she’s done. I’m like, Wow, you really got it. But yeah, Tasha Catour, that was very organic too. ’Cause all the songs that I heard, the beats and stuff that she sent me, was like, I want this, I want that. I was very involved with the sound that I wanted.

Yeah. How was the approach different this time?
Really just taking my time and just really being involved, being more analytical. I feel like when I first came it was so much going on. Like the fame came so fast in COVID, it was right after I put out my mixtape. All the studios locked up. I didn’t really have the time to explore as an artist. But I feel like now I’m more intentional. I’m more hands-on with it, versus before I was just like doing shit or like saying any ad-lib that came in my head.

Was sampling on this album a thing you were intentionally tryna go hard on from the jump? 
I don’t know. Those were just the beats I was drawn to. If I don’t feel it in the first few seconds, then I’m like, Ah, next one. But I’m still open to original beats. I guess the beats I like just happened to have samples, but especially the Missy Elliott one, she’s a bitch I had to use.

Something else that’s come up on this album: You have the song “Big Steppa,” which Dr. Luke produced. Are you concerned at all with how other people will take that? How are you feeling about it? 
Ooh. So in creating this album, I wasn’t 100 percent aware of certain things when it came to producers and stuff, but, like, moving forward, you know, I’m gonna be on it.

What do you want listeners to take away from that?
“Big Steppa” for me is like being unapologetically you. When I think of my fans, listening to my music, I think of them having a good time, feeling confident and feeling good. The song emulates that.

Are we thinking tour soon? 
Yes, we definitely are. I can’t wait. I really want everybody to learn the songs. I want to marinate. I feel like certain people are still discovering it, but you know, while I’m doing everything I’m doing now, in the meantime I will be preparing for a tour. Woo. And it’s gonna be lit.

No One’s Realer Than Flo Milli