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Ella Mai Went From Singing On IG To Being The New Face of Contemporary R&B

Culture & Entertainment

Ella Mai just released a visual for her revamped 2017 single "Boo'd Up" and proved that she is the new face of contemporary R&B.


The 23-year-old artist developed her digital footprint and became a viral phenomenon by posting cover videos that got her a few nods from major players in the industry and led her to be discovered by DJ Mustard. The producer became interested in her after hearing her cover of 2Pac's "Keep Ya Head Up" and sent Ella Mai a direct message that would change her life.

She told the LA Times:

"I had to do a double take at my phone. He's asking me what's my situation and at that point I had no situation. I was singing in my bedroom, literally. I worked and went to school -- I didn't have management, or anything."

The singer, named after legendary jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, was raised in Southwest London and was enrolled in a performing arts school before she was abruptly uprooted from her comfort zone when she moved to New York where her single mom had secured a teaching job.

"It was such a culture shock for me, being plucked from this diverse neighborhood in London into Jamaica Queens. I'm in this new environment and I had an English accent," she remembered. "All the girls hated me. I didn't sing, I didn't want anymore attention. It was really frustrating."

After graduation, Ella returned to London and enrolled in music classes at a local college until she was selected to perform on the X Factor as a part of a since disbanded girl group called Arize. The group's fame was short lived, and after they split Ella decided it was time to take her songwriting more seriously.

The following year, the songstress recorded a four track EP on Soundcloud and used her platform on social media to grow her brand. She told Fader in 2016:

"I decided, 'Okay, I go to school for music, my friends know I can sing, but what am I really doing to put myself out there?' At the time "679" by Fetty Wap was a really popular song. So I was like, let me put my own little spin on it. I wouldn't have guessed all of this would have come from that video and then all the videos following up after that."

Since her collaboration with DJ Mustard, Ella Mai's been busy making fans of some of the biggest names in the industry (including Chris Brown, Khalid and Halle Berry) and getting ready to release her debut solo album that she said has helped her get to know herself better than ever before.

"We're pretty close to finishing. You can hear the growth from my EP's into this project. Content-wise, it's a bit more mature. It's still me and, like the EP's, still about love and relationships. There are definitely some collaborations but I can't share those just yet."

Her music is a breath of fresh air for millennial women of color who are unapologetically angsty and unashamed of their vulnerability who waited so long to hear their voices reflected in mainstream music. Her unwavering honesty is demonstrated in songs like Naked, which is a testament to self-love and empowerment. She told VIBE:

"Even if I haven't experienced it, there's someone around me that has. I'm a 23-year-old girl. Most of our friends have been through something,I had one lady tell me she was getting a divorce and my music helped her, it's pretty cool to have that interaction. I'm doing something right."

Ella Mai hopes that her music can offer an alternative narrative to heartbroken millennial women. Artists like Ella Mai, Kehlani, and Sza offer a new genre of R&B that own their resurgence and assert their confidence in spite of their vulnerabilities, and it's pretty f*cking liberating to watch.

"I could never have imagined that so early in my career that I'd be ticking off boxes that I've dreamed about since I was a little girl," says Mai. "I definitely feel like I still have a lot of hard work to do. But I'm ready to really show people what I'm about."

Her newest video features cameos from Khalid and Kamaiyah and although we still don't know what the title of her project will be, we are definitely ready for Ella Mai to heat up the summer. To watch the full video, check it out below:

Featured image by Giphy

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