By Natalia Kopelman
The youngest of five kids born to a Haitian mom, Mellow grew up in Broward, FL. “Drug use, depression, robberies, gun violence…” Those are the words she used to describe it there. After getting kicked out of high school, Mellow dug into the trenches…trying to flip some money any way she could. She had a son before turning 17 and less than a year later, she came face to face with death.
She was shot in the back outside her mom’s house and the bullet went through her, out her stomach. As she lay on the ground, it started to rain and she thought that might be it, lights out…but she saw her son and refused to close her eyes. She crawled toward the house, blood pouring from her body…and she kept breathing. She pushed through for him. She stayed alive.
For a time, she couldn’t walk or even talk. She found herself humming through the pain and would make up melodies to soothe herself. “Music is my medicine,” she says. “It saved my life.”
Mellow always knew she had a good voice. She sang in the church choir as a child and people would tell her how great she sounded. She loved the good attention and singing made her feel closer to God. She just didn’t think she could go somewhere with it.
Until she met Cleopatra Bernard, mother to the late rapper XXXtentacion. “Cleo, she sat me down and said, ‘You have a talent. I’m going to make sure that you go up. You deserve it.’ That opened my eyes and gave me purpose.”
Cleo said she knew the perfect home for Mellow and introduced her to Mack Maine, president of Young Money and lifelong friend of the label's founder, Lil Wayne. “Young Money is the best in the game and it’s an honor to be part of the legacy. I made history when I signed with them. I’m grateful to have powerful people around me and the best part is, I can be myself. A free minded artist.”
On working with other Young Money artists for their upcoming compilation album, Mellow said, “It was really a moment. Coming together and being competitive…everyone trying to rock the best verses. We just came together like a family and I actually work better around other people because it’s competitive. I love showing off.”
Right now, she’s in the struggle of creating herself and there’s beauty in that. “You have to work hard for what you want. No matter what it is. Nothing comes easy and I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind learning and getting tips. I always want to be better.”
Songwriting came very naturally to Mellow. “It’s all about the beat. Once I hear the right beat, everything flows. I close my eyes and the words just appear. The thing I had to learn was, hook and verse. You need a hook and a verse. After that, was like riding a bike.”
She describes her vocal style as versatile. “I can change it on any beat or any song. Any genre. I can switch the flow.” Even just talking, her voice is alluring. Low and breathy, you feel what she says, more than you hear it. The words are an artful arrangement in the larger glory of her sound. She says the words come most naturally when she smokes. “It opens my train of thought and expands my vocabulary.”
She writes every day to perfect her craft and draws from her own experience. When asked if she can be a good role model for girls, she says, “Of course. A lot of people can live through me. Everything I’m speaking about is real. It’s a testimony. A woman’s hustler music…it’s motivational, about upgrading yourself.”
It’s hard for her to believe in love, romantically. It can seem like a facade…but she thinks if she gets where she’s going, things will fall into place. “Rule number one is get the money and everything comes after.” She smiles and says she didn’t make those rules, it’s just the law…but she craves the things that money can’t buy. “Having genuine love around you. People around you with nothing to gain.”
“In the industry, it’s very important to be likable. That’s why I always try to stay flawless.” Personally though, Mellow asserts that looks mean nothing if you’re not beautiful on the inside. What she wants people to know about her, is that she’s selfless. “I’m trying to make a future for my son and change my family’s life. My aunt, everyone in Haiti. I have relatives there that lost everything and I take care of them. I’m the type of person that when I get better, everyone around me is getting better.”
If music is her medicine, her son is her motivation. To young mothers in particular, she says, “Let your child become the battery in your back.”
Mellow doesn’t envision her future so much as she just works toward it. “That’s how it comes. Just working every day.” She knows her potential and is willing to learn. More than anything, she wants to make music that heals pain.
When Mellow says nothing good comes out of Broward, I counter playfully, “Except when it does.”
“Yeah…” she relents. She knows she’s being set up. “XXX…Kodak…”
I agree on both. And I would add Mellow.
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A version of this article first appeared in Honeysuckle's 420 print edition, featuring Lil Wayne and Young Money. Get your advance copy now.