FLO MILLI: QUEEN OF THE BRATS

Still from “Eat it Up” on YouTube.

If a song starts with the phrase “Flo Milli shit, ho.” It’s probably a summer anthem, and you should keep listening to it. Like many of her peers, Flo Milli first found fame on the internet. Edits on Instagram circulated her remix of Playboi Carti’s “Beef,” and then went certifiably viral on TikTok, soundtracking thousands of videos of teen influencers stunting and hip-popping. The catchy intro to “Beef FloMix”, “I like cash and my hair to my ass, do the dash can you make it go fast,” expertly spoke to the kind of bravado that the app rewards, showing off your makeup, presenting your bad bitch-ness to the world. “In the Party” also found similar resonance with the TikTok audience, with its snappy hot girl boasts. Her verses made the lip synch-er look un-mess-with-able, like they know their worth and they’re not afraid to show it.

Her debut album, “Ho, why is you here?’ stylized with a space before the question mark (a nod to texting culture), expanded on her already established fifteen second sound bite empire, and established her place as an ambitious recording artist. Her signature verbal delivery, upturned lines accented by a slight squeak, could be compared to a schoolyard taunt or Ruth Brown in “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean.” She raps like she’s the queen bee at recess, skipping rope and daring you to test her. Her punchlines often have a conversational tone, like she’s on the phone with her best friend, or possibly an enemy. The album opens with Flo asking the titular question, in a deadpan tone, with all the seriousness in the world. The listener is at once accused (why are we here?) and invited to ask their haters the same question (ho, why are you here?). But for all her teasing, she spits with dexterity and verve, and isn’t afraid of a dense rhyme. Her verses are singsong-y and snappy, dripping with self-assurance. She’s also equally plugged into the pop culture of the present and past. “May I” puts a twist on Snoop Dogg’s classic “Gin and Juice”, and on “Send the Addy,” she samples the meme “he on X Games mode.”

“Pretty” is an operative word in the world of Flo Milli, but it’s not just a about her physical appearance. Pretty is the way she carries herself, the way she sounds on her record, and the way she treats the subjects in her songs. You can almost hear her coolly applying lip gloss and flipping her hair through her music. Pretty also comes in tandem with petty, another label Flo proudly wears. “I’m the petty queen / I need you to have a seat,” she raps on “Beef FloMix.” She tells Genius, “I can be the devil. I don’t choose to be that way, you can bring it out of me. But I just want everybody to know, never try me.” And she often plays that devil in her verses, swiftly belittling the women that get in her way. “All they do is talk shit like a toilet with some lips / Bitches hatin’ ’cause I’m rich, ho you broke, you need a fix,” she retorts on “Like that Bitch.”

At the core of her persona, Flo Milli’s persona is the prettiest, most popular girl at school. In the music video for “In the Party,” she’s the head cheerleader in a cheeky uniform, the uncontested “HBIC.” She embodies the lash-batting and snarling of Maddy from Euphoria coupled with the snap of nostalgia of Regina George all wrapped in a skin-tight set. As one YouTube commenter put it, “she could legit bully me in high school and I’d thank her.” Her school days vibes aren’t a put on, though. She graduated high school in Mobile, Alabama 2018, and much of her lyrical output seems to come out of teenaged power struggles. She tells Vulture, “I feel like, as young women, you deal with haters, you deal with insecure men. Sometimes you just have people trying to bring you down. So it’s like, ‘Ho, why is you here?’ Are you contributing to my success, or are you, like, taking from it?”

But where Flo Milli deftly exerts power over other women, she dishes it equally toward men. In the video for “Weak,” a song about the inadequacy of the men who show romantic interest in her, Flo struts surrounded by identically dressed men, reigning over them with dollar bills in her hot rollers. On “Eat it Up,” a man a man greedily slurps up a bright bowl of Froot Loops as Flo entrances him through the TV screen. Just as other women in her songs are merely rivals, the men in her songs are merely objects. All that’s left is Flo herself, queen of the castle, singular in her ability to defend herself.

Another key word to Flo’s persona- “bratty.” It’s a word typically used to demean women, denying their seriousness by dismissing them as petulant or childish. But for Flo, (and for the BDSM community) being a brat is a valid identity. It’s not about denying your maturity, it’s about asserting dominance. Someone who is traditionally supposed to be submissive is instead talking back, flipping the systems of power. Brats knowingly disobey, thus asserting control over the whole situation.

Flo Milli comfortably situates herself in the identity of a young girl, an identity that’s often used to invalidate artists. She’s not a vulnerable teen getting dolled up and pushed out in front of an audience, she wants to be there, and she’s taking ownership of her position in the spotlight. Her unapologetic femininity seems to be the source of her power, and there’s no sense of a gaze or an external hand that she’s seeking approval from. She makes music to strut to, to put on fake lashes to, to secretly bop to on the school bus, decking her listeners in the armor of self-assuredness.

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