How ‘Big Energy’ Helped Latto Capture the Charts — and a Grammys Best New Artist Nod

With the female rap renaissance in full bloom, it’s only right the self-proclaimed Queen of the South ruled the charts this year. Thanks to “Big Energy,” the lead single off her second studio album, “777,” 23-year-old Alyssa “Latto” Stephens celebrated milestones like her first Top 20 hit on the Hot 100 and the longest-charting solo female rap song.

“Every time they tell me a new accomplishment, I be wanting to fact-check that shit,” Latto says of the record, which also helped her make history as the first solo female rapper to have a No. 1 song at Pop, Rhythmic and Urban radio. “It’s something new every day. It just feels back-to-back, nonstop right now.”  

Latto’s been on the verge of breakthrough success since she first gained her footing as the teenage winner of Lifetime’s “The Rap Game” competition in 2016. She declined a prize deal with Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label in favor of continuing her career independently, and within a few years, the “real-ass, rich-ass bitch from the South” had a gold single, a remix featuring Trina and Saweetie and a deal with RCA Records. Her debut project, “Queen of Da Souf,” peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard 200, and both “Bitch From Da Souf” and her Gucci Mane collaboration, “Muwop,” would go on to achieve RIAA platinum certification.

The past few years have been all forward motion for Latto, who earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist. Indeed, her wins have increased exponentially as she’s evolved sonically. 

“It was a little pushback on it, a little backlash,” Latto says of her choice to switch up her style on “777,” but fans clamored for tracks like her 21 Savage-assisted single “Wheelie” and “Sunshine,” which features Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino. 

“Big Energy,” a song that explores BDE, social media’s trending topic of the moment, would prove to be Latto’s most rewarding gamble. “I took it and charged it to the game because I knew how commercial it sounded,” she says. “Did I think it would get me No. 3 on Billboard or a Mariah Carey remix? Hell no. But I did know it would be a step in a bigger direction.”

The single came with controversy. The beat is borrowed from Tom Tom Club’s 1981 song “Genius of Love,” which was previously sampled for Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy,” and Latto caught flak over an interview where she revealed her unfamiliarity with its origins. “People forget the original songs ‘Genius of Love’ and ‘Fantasy’ came out before I was born,” she says. 

Any insecurities she might have had flew away when Carey and DJ Khaled hopped on the remix. “We had a little kiki on set about it,” Latto recalls of the conversation where Carey offered her support over the backlash. “She was like ‘Girl, I loved that interview; I loved your authenticity, and I’m happy to be on the remix.’ It was crazy to see the tables turn.” She adds, “You can never please everyone. You not going to win with the internet. They’re not going to cut you no slack. They’re not going to care that you’re only 23.” 

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