Since her 2021 debut track “Beating Down Yo Block,” 22-year-old Monaleo has been recognized for her slick lyrics and lady power anthems. “And I taste like sugar, but ain’t a damn thing sweet, b*tch,” have won her followers.
Leondra Roshawn Gay, a Houston rapper, is weeks away from having her first kid and releasing her first full-length album, Where the Flowers Don’t Die, on May 26. She’s been everywhere lately, from Instagram pregnancy photos to her uncompromising new tune “Ass Kickin” and its viral Blaxploitation-inspired music video.
Monaleo tells NYLON that “Sober Mind” from her latest project, which she performed on COLORS, is the most significant song in her life. After nine months without booze, the artist is approaching awareness towards the conclusion of her pregnancy.
“I’ve been able to work towards mental clarity,” Monaleo adds through Zoom. “I’m just really dealing with those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, and not masking them with substances.”
Monaleo spoke to NYLON about becoming a first-time mother, completing her own stunts in the “Ass Kickin'” video, and how rap has to change for women before the release of Where the Flowers Don’t Die.
How has motherhood impacted your outlook?
I first buck. “Ugh, people are gonna expect me to fucking change?” I battled against altering my thinking when I said “buck.” I didn’t accept my pregnancy until I was unwell. I pushed through and concentrated on work.
But the closer I get to the finish and the more time I have to simply sit at home and ponder, you want to be a different person and work on your unpresentable qualities. You want to be on your best behavior because you’re shaping a life and making memories for someone who didn’t choose to be here. I wanted to remain myself while having a child, and I think there’s a balance.
How do you fit self-care into your busy schedule?
Now, self-care is priority. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t even perform. I think I understood that but never applied it to my circumstance.
I kept going even though I was apprehensive, which made me irritated with my colleagues. I struggled with being quickly irritated by calls and texts. They might be angry that I’m taking extra time, but I think it’s best for everyone. [Laughs.]
“Goddess” addresses the dispute about God being a woman. That song’s origins?
I’m joking. Unpacking the layers, it was condemning some of the destructive behaviors [I experienced] with Baptist churches. Since I was a baby, Baptist and other churches have preached damaging speech.
My faith… God is everywhere, not male or female. It’s strange since I was pretty religious throughout middle and high school. I spent four days a week in church, between Bible study and choir practice. My purity ring was OD.
But I feel like I was led to accept a lot of what I was told and it never made sense. I’ve met some of the most judgemental Christians. I didn’t realize how transphobic, homophobic, and sexist they were, pushing toxic notions about women and their roles in relationships and marriages. That encounter was mind-boggling.
“God is Woman” is satirical yet unpacks detrimental narratives about women in Christ’s sight. Since people are stupid, I know that will offend. But my viewers will notice the irony.