Melii On Her Return To Music, Michael Rainey Jr. Collab, Receiving Support From Rihanna & Beyonce

BYHayley Hynes6.0K Views
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Melii opens up in an exclusive interview, from working with Michael Rainey Jr. for the "Hey Stranger" music video, a Tory Lanez joint project, to the most surreal moments of her career, and how she handles the pressures of the fame.

For Melii, the decision to walk away from her craft last year wasn’t an easy one, but it was necessary for her to evolve into the woman that she is today. In April of 2021, the 24-year-old announced via Twitter that she would be giving up all the rights to her music, stating that she didn’t want to continue in the business due to a lack of trust.

Image provided to HNHH by Artist 

Melii has been making music for some time now, although it wasn’t until 2017 when she dropped off a standout remix of Cardi B’s "Bodak Yellow" that she caught the world’s attention, and shortly after, stole our hearts with her fun-loving attitude. In 2019 she delivered phAses, which saw features from Tory Lanez, Odalys, and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, and she’s since collaborated with the likes of 6LACK and Kallaghan.

The thing that stands out most about the New York native is easily her bubbly persona, which comes through in both the quick rhymes she spits over a beat as well as her carefree social media presence, which she hopes inspires other women to embrace their own authenticity. "I really don’t care, and I think that’s one of my issues; I don’t care," she admitted when we asked her how she deals with the eagle eyes that come along with her celebrity status.

"Being in the public eye I want to use it to help people be comfortable like, 'If Melii can do it I can do it too.' We don’t need to be sucking in our stomachs all the time, because, girl, I be having my little gut right there and I don’t want to suck in my stomach sometimes, I don’t care!"


Since she’s made her return, the vocalist says that things have felt a lot better – she’s connecting with her biggest fans, exploring her other interests (including the possibility of launching her own clothing brand one day), creating the way that she wants to, and above all, not letting herself be put in a box.

During our conversation with Melii, she opened up about working with Power actor Michael Rainey Jr. on her “Hey Stranger” music video, being co-signed by both Beyoncè and Rihanna, the importance of female friendships, how she deals with the pressures of being a woman in the industry, and the possibility of a future joint project with Tory Lanez, among other things – check it out below, and read our last Women's History Month interview with Kali here.

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.


HNHH: You said you were walking away from music last April, and now you’re back. What led you to that decision? 

Melii: It was a change in mindset. The industry isn’t easy and I did write down why I was leaving it – I did a whole thread. But it was putting control back into my hands and even if I felt that I didn’t have control over certain situations, it was being real with myself. Music is what I love to do regardless of what it comes with. I know that if I just enjoy it and be in the moment with it I won't have to focus on the negative because the positive will overpower it. 

"The industry isn’t easy and I did write down why I was leaving it – I did a whole thread. But it was putting control back into my hands and even if I felt that I didn’t have control over certain situations, it was being real with myself. Music is what I love to do regardless of what it comes with."

And since coming back, do you think you’ve had a more positive experience?

Yes, of course! My team is amazing, I’m working with them and I feel great, everyone has been on the same page. I’m excited I get to release music that I want and I have a very supportive team behind me. I needed a break for myself.

You’ve dropped off a handful of singles. What has the initial response been like to those?

It's been great. My supporters are always wanting more like any fan base. I just feel great with the response because anytime I do drop anything they are very supportive and ready to listen to more, they’re always posting my stuff in general. I really feel they more like a family instead of fans, they don’t act as fans. They are like “ok, what’s going on, who do we need to talk to. What’s next?” It's great to see that they are in tune and keeping up. I don’t feel pressured by my supporters or like I’m letting them down; I feel like I have been giving them what they’ve been asking for with the vibe and the slow stuff. Now with the Spanish music and with what I was doing before, I feel I’m getting back on track with that. 

When you were taking your hiatus did you find that you had people in your DMs? You know how people are with Rihanna, did you get people begging you for new music?

Yeah, even before that, even before I announced that they were always in my DMs. And the thing about my fans is that they know that they have access to me. I’m not a person who will look over it and not respond back. I have these number one fans who have an actual group chat in my DMs and so they were in contact with me. Other than that, it has been a lot of them asking “when’s the music coming? You better drop that shit”, you know how they talk. But most of them would be like “what’s going on? Are you okay? Take the time you need,” they never felt like I was going to leave but the ones that did feel like that, I got a couple of messages from them saying how much my music helps them and about the disadvantages of me leaving. 

Yeah, that does sound like a family, like you said, which is so nice. So on your “Hey Stranger” music video you got to work with Michael Rainey, Jr. What was that like and how did the two of you connect?

It was really a last-minute thing with him because we had just seen him at the club at Taboo. Tory Lanez asked him, “Oh, do you want to be in the music video?” I was supposed to shoot it in New York but I stayed because I was working in Miami. He heard the record and he agreed to it and then when I actually saw him – I have never been in tune with Power and a lot of people post about it – I know the characters from it but I don't know the storylines or anything like that. So when I finally met him I was like, “Wow, he’s a funny dude, very nice, and humble,” and it was a natural thing. It was a very nice moment and I appreciate him being down to work.

"Tory Lanez asked [Michael Rainey Jr.], “Oh, do you want to be in the music video?” I was supposed to shoot it in New York but I stayed because I was working in Miami. He heard the record and he agreed to it"

That's so cool. It just flowed together naturally then?

Yeah, a lot of things flow naturally and I feel like it's God aligning stuff.

When I was doing my research I read this really sweet story from a couple years back about you having a "mental breakdown," cutting off your hair, but then you heard that Rihanna co-signed your track. Have you had any other surreal moments since then?

Yeah, I did. I’m not gon hold you, when Beyoncé used my song for Ivy Park, my label mentioned it, but I’m a person who would have something in their hand and lose it. So, I try not to take things in and hold them so tight and even when it comes to diamonds, jewelry. I’ve lost so much that I’m just like, “Oh, okay.” So when it comes to something like this and my team was like “Beyoncé used your stuff”, I wasn’t like “Beyoncé?!” I was taken aback from it but I was like let me not get too excited because I don’t want to be let down. I was sitting in my living room in Miami and my team said “Beyoncé dropped the thing!” And I said “oh sh***” this is really happening!” I had a Live where I’m yelling with my stylist and my best friend in my living room and I’m like “It’s Beyoncé!” And I’m just going crazy and stuff. That was definitely a surreal moment. It also opened my eyes to where you feel like there's no light, you feel like it's the end of the world but then God sends you little gems to keep going. And I think Beyoncé was one of them. And even in that same week, I was in a video for “Big Tipper” and it was with Lil Wayne so a lot of things I feel like divine timing where God communicating with me to keep going. You may not see what your work is doing but others do and a lot of the times that I’m doubting myself, I have to realize that certain people may not see it but the names that reach out are people that are really important and that’s what really counts. 

I’m glad you brought up Beyoncé because I wanted to ask you about that too. What is it like to have those bragging rights?

It's not even bragging rights, I see it more as an omen. You just went from Rihanna to Beyoncé, like Beyoncé knows who you are. She’s very big, forget the name but the talent, the dedication in that woman! I did watch her documentary and she’s a person who takes her work seriously so to even have my music in her ear and then to use it as a part of her campaign – because any artist can release their line, but the way Beyoncé releases her line is precise. The line is colour coordinated, the videos, and for her to count me in – it’s like, this lady really thought about little old me. That's just big to me. If a woman like that has noticed you then just keep going. 

"It's not even bragging rights, I see it more as an omen. You just went from Rihanna to Beyoncé, like Beyoncé knows who you are. She’s very big, forget the name but the talent, the dedication in that woman!"

So having already worked with Ivy Park, are there other brands that you have on your wishlist that you would love to see your music appear in campaigns for?

Honestly, I want to have my own clothing brand. Ivy Park has inspired me and even with Fenty – they have both inspired me to think outside the box and be creative and just start my own clothing brand. So, my clothing brand, and whatever other clothing brand is really just a blessing, I never want to be boxed in.

Looking at your Instagram I feel like your look is so versatile and you can pull off so many different things, so when you’re behind the scenes designing things you’ll have that to your advantage. On your IG as well I saw you post a picture with your girlfriends in the Dominican Republic, so how important are the female friendships in your life and how do you keep up with them and your career?

My longest friendships from when I was 15 have always stayed tight and those girls that I actually posted, I’ve known them since I was 15. All my girls have been through a lot of phases together. We have never been judgemental, all my friends are just there for each other and we’re free-spirited and that's what I like to keep around me because life is about making mistakes, learning, and coming out your best. With me and my friends we always try to keep a safe space and to keep open arms just in case something happens I can run to my sisters and they will never judge me. That's how I see them, they’re really my family. Those are the people that know you. Something that I love about my girls is that we can go years without speaking and it's just like "girl I'm right here." There’s this other girlfriend that I have known since elementary school and she lives in Atlanta; we barely speak but we keep in touch on IG and when there are crazy things that happen she is always reaching out. Nothing really changes at all.

On social media elsewhere a few months ago, there was pregnancy speculation floating around. As a woman in the industry, how do you deal with the eagle eyes and the constant assumptions and pressure about your appearance?

I really don’t care, and I think that's one of my issues; I don’t care. I need to learn how to care and keep a balance but you know the Melii Mob knows me. They know that I’m extra as hell so if I’m ever going to announce a pregnancy, best believe I’m coming with a whole video. I want to make sure people embrace that with me, I would never want to hide it or be in the situation to hide anything. A lot of times I feel like these blogs, there’s women behind it and when you have your period, when you just ate, you do get that lizard bump. I be feeling like a pregnant lizard but even then with that picture I had just finished – on a serious note – I had just finished my menstrual and eating. I wasn’t thinking about it like that but people should know by now that Melli is open. If I’m pregnant I’m gonna let ‘em know like “hey, I’m pregnant.” So, I felt I should be as authentic as I am and when I didn’t it backfired in that way. And then I had hit up blogs like “hey, I had just released a song that you guys could’ve supported that too” or just ask me because I would answer truthfully. But even in that, there are girls with guts, there are girls who have their gut there. Being in the public eye I want to use it to help people be comfortable like, “if Melii can do it I can do it too.” We don’t need to be sucking in our stomachs all the time, because, girl, I be having my little gut right there and I don’t want to suck in my stomach sometimes, I don’t care! And I feel that is genuinely is the message I want to give out. Even Rihanna back then, she had pictures that showed her a little bloated but then she would pop out and be skinny. That freedom and embracing your body should be natural in all causes because I feel like people are like “this person is pregnant!’ Like, stop putting kids inside of people. Please. 


A couple years ago you were on tour with Summer Walker and she was going through some mental health struggles of her own. You were there for her and you defended her, so I’m wondering, how do you cope with mental health struggles of your own?

I’m diagnosed with actual PTSD and anxiety and during the Summer Walker tour, I had the same issue. I didn’t capitalize off that or speak too much on it because I felt like it was already out there. I felt like Summer did a really good job in just breaking that into the industry like “okay, we do have it but let's be open to it.” During tour I understood her because people don’t understand that some anxieties are not the same; you can have anxiety and be completely still, you can have anxiety and smile throughout the whole day. And also learning anxiety stems off of fear and sometimes as humans you’re scared of new things. It's about saying I’m a human being, I’m going to have these moments but I’m going to be okay. And it's about connecting with yourself and finding that space like “when these kinds of things happen, what makes me find home or that space inside of myself that makes me feel okay?" And that's what I learned to do.

There was an interview back in 2019 where you were teasing a joint project with Tory that would tackle different genres of music. Do you think that will ever see the light of day or has that been retired?

Nah, all of the songs are there, we definitely have worked a lot. I have a lot of songs with other artists but when it comes to a joint project, we have Spanish records together, we have slow records. Depending on when is the right timing, I spoke about divine timing, I believe in that, so that's the real question. But I do feel like they will see the light of day because with your fans you shouldn’t hold back your music. You don’t know who you’re helping, you don’t know what song could make somebody’s day. 

"We [Tory and I] definitely have worked a lot. I have a lot of songs with other artists but when it comes to a joint project, we have Spanish records together, we have slow records. Depending on when is the right timing, I spoke about divine timing, I believe in that, so that's the real question. But I do feel like they will see the light of day because with your fans you shouldn’t hold back your music."

Growing up, which women would you say were biggest inspirations?

Of course, Rihanna, my mother – she’s a badass. My grandmother – she’s a badass. Amy Whinehouse – a badass, and Nicki Minaj. Definitely Jhené Aiko, I don’t want to leave her out.

What about dream collaborations, do you have any girls that are on your list for that?

To be honest, and I don’t mean in a weirdo type of vibe, but really my dream would be getting on an Amy Whinehouse record that has never been heard. That's one of my dreams.

Jerritt Clark/Getty Images

As a woman, when do you feel the most confident?

I feel the most confident when I got my little sweats on, my hoodie, messed up hair, and I’m doing whatever I want. I learned to embrace my natural beauty. And it's just like when I put that makeup on I’m like “vavavoom!” And I still be stepping out without it.

Do you feel like going through the pandemic helped you embrace your natural beauty too?

Of course! During the pandemic, I feel like it played a huge role in my life. I got back to myself and I opened all the closets and faced every skeleton, when the world opens back up I’m going to be alive, I’m breathing, every day is a new opportunity and I have to take this time to dive into myself and come out more aware and more accepting of life and what it brings. So definitely the pandemic changed me and made me more open, I feel I came out of it appreciating life more. 

You turned 24 a couple months ago. How has the year been treating you so far?

I've been great, I feel like a woman-woman. I’m out here doing my thing, I feel very grounded. Like you said with divine timing, 24 is just it, I stepped into my truth and nothing can hold me back. This is the time to tackle whatever I want to, take time for myself and if you don't like it "bye!" Eliminating things that don’t benefit me, setting boundaries, learning how to protect my energy, what to allow in my space, what makes me happy also tapping into new things and not saying in the same city. Pushing myself to not stay in the same spot because that's what life is about: you gotta move and you got to move with it. Gotta keep growing.

You’re a Capricorn, I think I read? So are you into astrology at all?

Hell yeah!

So when you took your hiatus that may have been during your Jupiter return. Do you know what a Jupiter return is? 

No, I don’t, I’m still learning certain things but I definitely feel you on that. I was looking into it and I learned that Capricorns had hella karma energy just wiping on karma. But can you educate me on a Jupiter return?

Yeah, I’m actually about to go through mine so I’m learning about it now. So every twelve years you go through this thing in astrology where your Jupiter makes its way back to the same place where it was when you were born, and it basically means that if you’re not on the right path in your life then you will go through all these shifts until you get on the right path. If you are on the right path already then all these opportunities will start showing up for you and you'll be aligned and it's a supercharged time – the universe is just showing you to your self and it's so cool.

Yes, basically it’s pushing you in the right direction and everything that wasn’t in a firm foundation will crumble and then you have to keep going from there. 

Do you have anything you hope to accomplish before your next birthday or anything else that we should be looking for from you?

I want to tackle my own clothing line. I don’t want to box myself in anymore. I want to release music whether it’s Spanish or rock and roll, I’m just free right now. I’m literally like “oh, what’s this” like I’m a little kid in a candy store just picking up candy and that’s how I feel about life right now. I’ll keep releasing music and letting people into my creative world and I don’t want to hold back. You know how you just be like “what will people think about?” or “I’m supposed to be like this.” I feel like just letting out the beast of who I am and what I’ve worked so hard on to become and my goal is to let the Melli mob know you can do it too. I went through a lot of hardships and don’t get me wrong I’ve had my days but it's about pulling yourself out of your rocky days and just tackling everything head-on. So that’s what I'm looking forward to – just success, blessings and having the right people aligned and just going with whatever the universe and God brings to me I want to make sure I don’t fumble it.

About The Author
Hayley Hynes is the former Weekend Managing Editor of HotNewHipHop, she stepped down after two years in 2024 to pursue other creative opportunities but remains on staff part-time to cover music, gossip, and pop culture news. Currently, she contributes similar content on Blavity and 21Ninety, as well as on her personal blog where she also offers tarot/astrology services. Hayley resides on the western side of Canada, previously spending a year in Vancouver to study Fashion Marketing at Blanche Macdonald Centre and Journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary before that. She's passionate about helping others heal through storytelling, and shares much more about her life on Instagram @hayleyhynes.