FEATURES In the Name of the Moon, bbymutha Will Punish You By Christina Lee · Illustration by Shiyi Li · August 13, 2021

A common trope of celebrity profiles is the moment when a star wondersw why they haven’t achieved even greater stardom. Not bbymutha. Her ambivalence about fame was driven home last August, when she announced to her 67,000 Instagram followers that her bewitching debut album, Muthaland, would also be her last. Today, she says that statement, which read as a rap retirement announcement, was actually a vow.

“I enjoy the exchange between me and my fans,” she says, “but I don’t want to be a celebrity. And for some reason, that shit bothers people. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. So when I said that I quit, I really quit the charade of trying to keep up. I don’t want to be Megan Thee Stallion. I don’t want to be Doja Cat.”

Britnee Moore has spent years coming to this realization, while making music under a host of different monikers. There was Miss Cherry Cocaine. There was Cindyy Kushh, her “Taylor Gang name” from when she was still in her 20s, who she describes as a “lost soul.” Vanity Gold “just sounded good.” With bbymutha, though, she laid claim to who she is: a single mother raising two sets of twins. (It also feels like an act of defiance against the way “baby mama” often gets slung as an insult on TV shows like Maury.) Her 2018 mixtape Muthaz Day 2, begins with bbymutha shit-talking “hating ass bitches,” only for youngest daughter Chloe to interrupt, asking: ”Will you fix the toilet?”

The term “dad rap” signals pure nostalgia, but bbymutha’s music is an imaginative and unflinching depiction of her life in the here and now. Motherhood is part of bbymutha’s identity, but she pushes back on the notion that any one thing should be the core of her identity. (She bristles at having to “represent” for a community based on her sexuality, which she refuses to label. “I will talk about a man and a woman in the same bar. Either way it goes, somebody getting fucked,” she says.) Muthaland’s second track “Roaches Don’t Die” is a winding personal manifesto. She scorns her baby daddy (“You nutted in the realest bitch alive”), reels over catching her 11-year-old son watching porn, underscores the hand she’s been dealt with the line “Tired of living with the roaches,” and ultimately, turns that unsavory image into an empowering metaphor (“Roaches don’t die, baby”).

She also mines her surroundings for inspiration. Bbymutha lives along a historic walkway marking the Trail of Tears, as it crosses through Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Crackheads in the summertime walk up and down these streets in groups, and it’s very reminiscent of the Trail of Tears—depressing energy,” she says. “I have to zone out of where I’m at and create my own realities.” A framing device on Muthaland positions the album as a game show that transports its contestants to the titular, fictional continent by way of an acid tab. It was inspired by trips of bbymutha’s own, like the out-of-body experience she had at a warehouse party six years ago, where she fled a partygoer who kept quoting Friday (“Don’t you ‘Bye Felicia’ me, you are white!”), escaping to a bathroom that was so dank, she passed out. “Something [in me] definitely died that night,” she says.

Bbymutha’s original plans for Muthaland was to release it in part of a deal with a larger label where she’d also have her own imprint, though she says that plans fell through amid layoffs due to COVID-19. Nearly a year out from its release, she still thinks Muthaland deserves a short film—“Very Fear and Loathing [in Las Vegas] type shit.” And she doesn’t think that going bigger means sacrificing her singular appeal. “I just want financial stability at the end of the day,” she says. “I want the space to create and not have to worry about my lights getting cut off. I want to be able to live my life and take care of my kids.”

For now, though, she is focused on releasing new music. While “Roaches” could well be her signature song, in June, she released another contender for that title, a track originally intended for Muthaland. “GoGo Yubari,” named for the teenage assassin in Kill Bill, revisits the way bbymutha was “groomed by my baby’s father.” It’s hard to think of another Southern hip-hop song that has engaged with notions of consent the way bbymutha does here. The song’s hook states it plainly: “Murder every rapist from the East to the West.”

Bbymutha’s next body of work will take place on Planet Seven, the same fictional planet Muthaland occupies. But this time, there’s a twist. While hip-hop has long indulged in anime’s power fantasies, bbymutha draws specifically on Sailor Moon’s jewel-toned mysticism—whether it’s her 2018 track “Sailor Goon,” the outro to bastard tape vol. 3, or her forehead tattoo—a crescent, like the ones Sailor and her fellow guardians bear after they transform. Her next project will dig even deeper into that fandom.

Essentially, bbymutha is writing an anime. “I finally get to do my own version of Sailor Moon, with all of these personas from my past, like Cindyy Kushh,” she says. An EP will present the “soundtrack,” while the follow-up album will flesh out its storyline. To prepare, bbymutha is watching 15-minute YouTube explanations about, say, the difference between a hard magic system (“like Avatar: The Last Airbender,” she summarizes) and a soft magic system (“like Harry Potter, where you’re not really sure of the rules, you just know that magic exists”).

As bbymutha is explaining this conceit, though, she realizes that she needs to clarify her intentions. Of course anime can be its own form of escapism. “In my head, I am [Dragon Ball’s] Bulma. I am Sailor Mercury. These are my bitches,” she says. But these stories also revolve around conquering inner and outer demons. Her issue with the images that celebrities project in their music, or the images aspiring celebrities present on Instagram—“Everybody’s ratchet, everything’s a party, life’s a party”—is how they don’t engage with the duality of life. Her entire M.O. is to confront it directly: “You can’t even get to the light if you don’t acknowledge the dark side.”

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