Melii isn’t exactly an overnight sensation, but the twentysomething Harlem native and dominicana is arguably the most promising rapper to come out of New York City this year. Between her career-launching cover of Cardi B’s 2017 summer smash “Bodak Yellow” (which garnered well over two million YouTube views) and her breakout hit “Icey” (now over 1.8 million views), the Interscope artist was fated for eminence.
Following an unexpected yet deliciously menacing feature on Meek Mill’s fourth studio album Championships, Melii’s musical ascent culminates in a proper introduction to the game — a 14-track project called phAses. As suggested by the title, the offering is a series of chapters, each one a different part of Melii’s story or serving as a continuation of a previous theme.
Melii switches between the second and third person on opener “Way Out,” setting a brooding scene for her difficult past and coming-of-age narrative. But she flips the switch on tracks like “Gangsta Talk” and “Copy,” a pair of sinister cuts that center her impressive lyrical versatility and vocal range, while simultaneously boosting the raw power of her voice bending to the will of a melody.
Melii also makes space to reference her Caribbean and afro-diasporic roots on phAses; songs like “Slow for Me” and “Hit My Line” find the young rapper flirting with Spanish-language one-liners or couplets, over productions that draw on reggae and afrobeats. One of Melii’s strengths as a rapper is this kind of seamless transition between languages – something she showcases effortlessly without ever falling into stereotypical tropes or veering into inauthentic territory.
Melii is more than just a rapper, though; flexing her chops as a chanteuse, she organically slows things down on back-to-back tracks “Before I” and “Mister.” The former samples classic 90s R&B (specifically, Blackstreet’s “Before I Let You Go”) and finds Melii tackling those moments of insecurity in relationships. Meanwhile, “Mister” is an ode to a special someone who has the young rapper at her knees feeling vulnerable.
On tracks like “City Girls” and “Anime Girls,” Melii – a self-described “cuerpo de gitana” – delivers nighttime dancefloor gems for the mamis. But it’s on “Pretty Girl” that Melii interrupts her feel-good, drug-induced wave with a sobering number she dedicates to young women who’ve considered suicide.
“Throw ya middle finger in the air/I been full aware/I don’t let no hater take it there/no one knows the struggles got me here,” she sings on the chorus, before recounting the day she met someone on the brink of taking their own life, admitting “never knowin’ ‘bout my fate, almost took my life.”
Melii polishes the project with a final cut sure to get rap heads in their collective bags, as she reaches peak levels of braggadocio. “Hop in any genre, got that sh*t that make you sick/Plus my voice is lit, ain’t no bitch can match my pitch” she spits in a stream of consciousness aimed at bigging up her number one fan: her mom. “I’ma pop a bottle/Went from H&M a to’ lo caro/20—y le compré a mami un carro/Ella e’ la razón por lo que hago/Cumplo su deseo como un mago/Mami, quit that job y date un trago.”
Lean a closer ear this way, and spin phAses below.