When Jerrika Karlae first met Young Thug in 2014, she couldn’t have predicted her whirlwind entry into the rap game. Now, five years since their chance meeting at Gucci Mane’s studio, the blossoming businesswoman has a cosmetics line, swimwear line, modeling portfolio, and a burgeoning rap career — all of which she worked tirelessly to achieve. With a sizzling single featuring Rich The Kid already out, all eyes are on her upcoming debut EP, on which she promises juicy truths, heartbreak, and bombastic trap beats.
Born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Karlae moved to Atlanta with her mom and now manager, Nekia Hauser at the age of 10. Surrounded by the hip-hop’s elite, her business acumen was sparked from a young age. When she started dating Thugger, they both rose to fame at a similar pace, and while she captured a digital market on Instagram, he became hip-hop’s newest rising star.
Amassing a massive audience upwards of 900,000 followers on Instagram, with her immaculate weave and inspired makeup looks, Karlae quickly utilized her adjacence to fame. Launching Karlae Swimwear in the Summer of 2014 with seed money from her mother, the free publicity that came from being Young Thug’s girl allowed the business to bring in a steady stream of income. She followed this by launching a cosmetics line in 2016, keen to cement her position as a budding entrepreneur.
Upon the release of Beautiful Thugger Girls, Young Thug’s collaboration with Future ‘Relationships‘ gained traction, becoming the record’s most memorable moment— but for Karlae it was the impetus for the end of their relationship. The song which details Thuggers struggle to manage his side chicks left her with a sour taste. “It pissed me off so bad,” Karlae told Paper Magazine. “All his music before that era was so love-based because we were just so in love. It kind of evolved into something different and I couldn’t understand. I was just like, uh, I hate this fucking song.”
I'm definitely back on the market tho 💋
— Jerrika Karlae (@OkayKarlae) October 4, 2017
Karlae later announced the end of their relationship on Instagram and Twitter, which sparked a very public back and forth between the two, including fraught pleas from Thugger. This tumultuous time inspired Karlae to head into the studio, a process that was both therapeutic and eye-opening. Furious, she penned songs about heartbreak, being crossed by best friends and her experience of dating someone famous.
don’t worry about whos tryna stop you , just keep going.
— Jerrika Karlae (@OkayKarlae) February 11, 2019
Despite finding solace in writing rhymes about her experiences, what she hoped for was to inspire other women like her. “I know for a fact that I’m gonna inspire some girls,” she beams. “The girls who look up to me, they’re gonna be like ‘Damn, you got songs about getting your heart broken and you go with this rich guy and he’s obsessed with you, but he just can’t walk straight and narrow.’ It’s women who can relate to that. It’s real life.”
The couple eventually reunited. On Thugger’s 2018 release, Slime Language she dipped her toes into the veritable rap pool with her first publicized hook and verse. Karlae’s bars on ‘U Ain’t Slime Enough‘ are vivacious and cutting with the husk of her voice decidedly unique. The hook, “You ain’t slime enough” became an all encapsulating moment on the record, empowering Karlae to continue with her solo project.
Young Scooter, managed by Karlae’s mother, enlisted her on ‘I Need A Real B*tch’. Her voice, a mixture of Dej Loaf’s warmth with Nicki Minaj’s sass is emboldened from the very start, and Karlae dominates the track. Yet, It’s her most recent release, the first track off her imminent EP, ‘RIXH’ that gives audiences their first taste of Karlae’s undeniable energy.
The punchy trap beat, which features Atlanta’s Rich The Kid is a result of slick momagering. “My mom walked up to him,” Karlae says as she recounts seeing the rapper on a flight. “She was like, ‘My daughter is getting into music, she’s Thug’s girl, you and he are cool [and] I think you should fuck with her.’” He agreed. Karlae’s raspy voice and frictionless verses may be in their infant stages, but with the year ahead of her, the sky’s the limit for this tenacious Virgo.
Excited to debut to her first EP, Karlae is also anxious about its reception and is frustrated by her lack of autonomy. Producers and artists tell her they need to clear collaborations with Young Thug first, out of respect. Most of all, she fears that people will assume he’s writing her verses, which ostensibly gives her a free pass to superstardom. So, she works even harder under the most critical lens of all — herself.
Not only has music ignited something new within the Atlantan star, but it’s also helped her to understand rap, and forgive her now fiancé. “At first it [made] me mad, but when I started doing music, I understood why it was okay,” Karlae says of Relationships and rapping about fictional side pieces. “It makes the music better. His infidelities did motivate certain songs. I have songs where I went in the booth and literally shed tears not because I’m in a sad place, but because…[it’s therapeutic].”
Armed with two businesses, this young mogul in the making has her sights set on music, and if Karlae’s drive is any indication of the music we’re about to hear, it’s going to be really good.