Harlem Hip-Hop Darling Melii’s Ascent Reaches the Next ‘Phase’ with First Album
Get familiar with Melii — whose unique sound and range is on display on her March 27 debut album drop, phAses. Destined for greatness in 2019, the Harlem singer, songwriter and rapper is also honest and open about her struggles.
Long anticipated and finally released, phAses, Melii's first full-length record means her own phase 1 of world domination is done. Melii's distinct multi-faceted sound, her work ethic and her ability to merge English and Spanish have made the rapper a force in hip-hop. It helps when Rihanna is a fan of your music.
The 21-years-old's raw talent, fearlessness and uniquely high-pitched voice allow her to unapologetically be herself — even when she's covering Cardi B. While the latter, who dominated 2018, certainly had an influence on some of Melii's more rap-heavy tracks, the singer-songwriter from Harlem has her own style and her own story. She even has her own bilingual free association: “There are certain words that I can't really pronounce in English or that I can only say in Spanish. If I'm going into the studio the flow is just whatever comes out.”
Pushed back from a fall 2018 drop time, phAses, which arrived March 27, represents a new level of openness. “There will be more vulnerability and just [allowing my fans] to know deeper things about me. There are going to be things that you're not going to expect,” she tells CHICA. As everyone who's now heard it knows, the attitude is still in tact.
Melii's infatuation with music as a way to express herself began during childhood. “I started rapping when I was in the sixth grade.” At 16, she was finding ways to record in the studio. “I grew up around Ivy [Queen] because of my sister. It's crazy because she follows me [on Instagram] now.” Her Latinx upbringing allowed her to embrace her culture through her music. “I listened to Juan Luis Guerra every Saturday while my mom would clean,” the artist remembers. “He's like one of my melody influences.”
Melii dropped out of high school at 17 to pursue music. Her parents — a Dominican mom and French-Cuban father — did not approve: “They were harsh at the beginning because, like any parents say, ‘We came here to see you succeed and get a degree.'” She hasn't yet completed the higher education her parents intended for her, but school is still part of her plan. “I want to get my GED so I've been trying to see how I can do online classes. I've also been in contact with my old high school, so yeah, it's a must.”
In the meantime, her dedication to her craft paid off: She was discovered after posting a remix video of Cardi B's “Bodak Yellow” and signed to Interscope Records in 2017. She has since seen herself become an urban culture darling, featured on lists like Paper magazine's “Next Generation of Women in Hip-Hop.” In January, legendary Hot 97 DJ Angie Martinez was asked, Who is the next big thing? Melii was one of the two people she mentioned. The singer's fan base is concrete enough to have a name: “Melii Mob.”
We spoke to Melii on the day the same day her “HML” (“hit my line”) video, featuring Bronx rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie, dropped. She was excited about it and described the day of the shoot as “just right.” “That day it was freezing and it was fun. A Boogie is like my bro, and he's from Highbridge [Bronx], so I wanted to incorporate that in [the video]. So we just went to his spot, that he was more comfortable with. It was family all around.”
As for the sensual track's explicit-level lyrics, did Melii feel hypersexualized? “Yes … I didn't want it to be so vulgar. I love the song, don't get me wrong, but I do sometimes feel uncomfortable performing it because it's not like me and A Boogie were in the same room [when recording the track].” After her raunchy feature on Meek Mill's “Wit the S***s,” Melii is careful not to get pigeon-holed into that reputation: “I can talk nasty, but that's not who I want to represent all the time.”
Her 2019 started off strong. She opened up several shows on Meek Mill's The Motivation Tour. She performed solo for the first time at iconic SOB's in Manhattan, and is preparing for her second time around at the Rolling Loud festival in May. That's not to mention her project, Phases is finally out: 14 tracks with only three featured guests and several gems for the ladies.
But the come-up wasn't without its drama. In a recent “Ebro in the Morning” interview, she opened up about being taken advantage by three managers in her past — which ultimately led her to part ways with them. One couldn't let go: “When I finally stood up for myself…he started sending people to threaten me…. This was how many years ago? Until this day I'm still receiving threats from people,” she told Laura Stylez.
And then, the day before the “HML” video release, she posted a long seemingly impromptu message on Instagram, confessing a traumatic event she could no longer hide. She accidentally shot a friend while they were intoxicated and she was playing with a gun that they didn't know had a bullet in the chamber. He became paralyzed from the waist down. Her recent single, “Who Changed?” is about the fallout. Throughout the song, she discusses PTSD and suicidal thoughts from the accident, as well past relationships. The second verse goes: “God, I really shot at him/ God, I really shot my friend, I was goin' insane/ I was goin' insane/ Devil in my dream, he told me blow out my brains.”
In a recent interview with Angie Martinez, Melii, opened up about the tragic experience. She talked about how intensely the incident continues to affect her: “I'll have repeated episodes where I knew I was going to court and in my head, I'll picture myself taking a gun and shooting myself in my head, and these are things that really play vividly in my head.”
She is vocal about the status of her mental health, which she takes very seriously.
“I have PTSD, depression and anxiety” she also told Martinez. “I'm going to have a therapist who I can call. It's definitely something that shouldn't be disregarded with anybody who feels like they have mental health issues. Because the more that you deny it or don't pay mind to it or treat it, it gets worse.” Melii knows from experience as she teeter-tottered between burying herself in her music and then being extra-hard on herself. “I blame myself for not thinking I wasn't deserving of any help.” She felt like asking for help was “overreacting,” she said on the radio show. She now takes medication but is weaning herself to lower doses because she doesn't want to rely on it, she tells CHICA.
“My whole thing is to always be transparent with whoever is listening to me and whoever is supporting me. I feel like I'm a very unpredictable person, so my music speaks that for itself.” Fans love Melii's pro-active and open stance on dealing with her issues. As for her plans for world domination? Sister acts: “I'm definitely collabing with Lil' Kim and Coi Leray. … I do want to collab with Jhene Aiko,” says Melii. And of course she's working on getting with Rihanna who co-signed on to her song “Icey.”
You can now hear phAses on all streaming platforms, including Spotify.