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Why rapper Mulatto changed her name to Latto

The Clayton County-raised performer has discussed the possibility of changing her stage name from “mulatto” -- described as a slur. She made it official this week.

ATLANTA — The platinum-selling recording artist once known as Mulatto has officially changed her name. On Monday, rapper Latto debuted her new moniker on music streaming platforms like Tidal, Spotify, and Apple Music as she gears up to release an album on Friday.

For several months, the Clayton County-raised performer has discussed the possibility of changing her stage name as the term “mulatto” is described as offensive.

According to the Pew Research Center, the term  “mulatto” – mulato in Spanish – commonly referenced a person of mixed-race ancestry with white European and Black African roots. However, it was often used in a derogatory fashion during the times of slavery and segregation in America. The root of the word mula, or mule, refers to the offspring of a horse and a donkey. 

In the latest edition of Merriam-Webster, the word is still marked/labeled as "usually offensive."

The literary trope "tragic mulatto" was born from the word in the early 1840s largely in credit to Lydia Maria Child. "The myth almost exclusively focuses on biracial individuals, especially women, light enough to pass for white," according to an article by ThoughtCo which explores the history of the trope.

Latto, whose real name is  Alyssa Michelle Stephens, identifies as biracial. Back in 2016, she emerged in the music industry as Miss Mulatto in the first season of Jermaine’s Dupri’s reality competition series on Lifetime, "The Rap Game."

“I’m passionate about my race. I’m Miss Mulatto. The term mulatto technically is a racist slur. It means someone that’s half Black and half white. So it’s, like, controversial,” she said during her time on the show. “I took that negativity from the word mulatto and now … everybody calls me Miss Mulatto." 

She was only 15 years old at the time. 

The now 22-year-old “Queen of the South” artist hinted during an interview with HipHopDX at the 2020 BET HipHop Awards that she was thinking about changing her name.

“It is a controversy that I hear and see every day as far as my name goes, so I would be lying to say no I never thought of that. But I can’t say too much ... right now, because it’s going to be a part of something bigger,” she told HipHopDX in 2020.

After much social media scrutiny and reflection, the southern lyricist stayed true to her word and revealed that she would change her name in a trending interview with Hot Freestyle back in January.

"You know you might know your intentions, but these are strangers who don't know you, never even met you in person," Mulatto expressed in the interview. "So you gotta hear each other out, and if you know those aren't your intentions and that's how it's being perceived, it's like why not make a change or alter it? For me, it was the name. So now I'm like, 'OK, my intentions was to never glorify being mulatto.' So if that's how it's being perceived and people think I'm saying, 'Oh, I'm better because I'm mulatto' or 'My personality trait is mulatto' ... then I need to change the matter at hand."

Latto said she would not just change her social media handles because "that's not sensitive enough to the subject matter" and she wants "to be able to speak on it" so people can hear her out. She said changing your name in the music industry is no easy feat and it comes with a load of logistics. 

"I want them to also understand that the name change at this level in your career is a big decision," the 22-year-old rapper said during her Hot Freestyle interview. "Freaking investors, labels, everything ... been riding on this name, so it is a big decision ... it's way deeper than a tweet." 

She made it clear that multiple aspects were involved in the decision and a variety of business partners had a "say so in that decision."

"It's not like me being 'I want to do this' and then it's just done," she said.

The platinum-selling artist made a video post on Instagram Tuesday evening teasing a potential song speaking on the name change. 

"You gotta be strategic with the word choice because it could come off a way that you don't mean. That's how I got in this predicament in the first place with the damn name," she said. "That's why you gotta be proactive with the word choice ... gotta think ahead ... my intentions weren't for the backlash ... exactly what I'm saying in the song ... intentions weren't for that."

The star reached a huge milestone back in March when her single “B*tch From Da Souf” received a platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

“I was the first solo female rapper from ATL to go gold,” she penned in a tweet. “Now I’m the first solo female rapper from ATL to go platinum too!”

Last year, Latto appeared in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s controversial hit music video “WAP." She also collaborated with Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane on her song “Muwop” which went gold.