Monaleo cultivates fans while taking Flowers on tour
Fri. November 24, 2023 by Jerry Nunn
The best version of a person is being authentic at the moment.
Rapper Monaleo plants Where the Flowers Don’t Die
Rapper and singer Leondra Roshawn Gay is known by the moniker Monaleo and is based in Houston, Texas. Her debut single “Beating Down Yo Block” dropped in 2021 and went on to three million streams on Spotify.
Her brother is rapper Yung Rampage, who she performs with often and she has collaborated with other artists such as Mahoney and Flo Milli.
Her debut full-length project Where the Flowers Don’t Die brought her out on the road for her first headline tour and she talked about it backstage on her first stop at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) So you are from Texas?
M: (Monaleo) Yes, I am.
JN: I just went to San Antonio for Pride.
M: Fire! Texas during Pride month is crazy and really good.
JN: Talk about your background.
M: I grew up in Houston, Texas and I am 22 years old. My name is Leo and my stage name is Monaleo. It is kind of like Mona Lisa, but Leo. Everyone thinks my zodiac sign is Leo, but I am a Taurus.
I am reserved and shy. I am soft-spoken as a normal individual, but as Monaleo she is very outspoken, loud and rambunctious. She likes to have fun!
JN: So there are two sides to you?
JN: That allows you to keep your private life separate like my friend Tiffany Pollard does when plays up her New York reality show personality.
M: I love Tiffany!
JN: This is your first headlining show on tour?
M: Yes. I am the main act. I have a lot of anxiety about it. I had a lot of rehearsals to make sure I nailed this and people could feel my energy. I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect.
JN: You are going to do great. Who influenced you while you were growing up?
M: I am from Houston, Texas so obviously Beyonce was one of my main influences. I love Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Drake. That trio impacted me they were played super heavy on the radio when I was coming up. Their lyricism, delivery, and confidence made me want to chase after my dreams.
I also like Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator who have helped me feel like I belong somewhere as an outcast. It is a juxtaposition that I feel like an outcast, but I belong with these people.
I listen to everyone’s music for inspiration or to hear what is going on. I keep my ear to the streets!
JN: Nicki raps and sings similarly to you. She loves her gay fans.
M: I do too!
JN: The crowd out there is a diverse group. How did you communicate for them to wear pink to your concert?
M: I tweeted it and used social media.
JN: I heard you wrote affirmations for your fans at the meet and greet.
M: I do.
JN: That is so sweet. Your merch is great too.
M: Thank you. It took a minute to get to this point, but it is all there. I feel like I am in chapter two where things are starting to make sense now. Now we are seeing full circle moments where the package is all coming together. It feels good to be at the point where I have found my footing.
JN: Talk about creating Where the Flowers Don’t Die.
M: When I was creating it I was pregnant with my son. I was stressed out, hormonal, depressed, anxious, sad, happy and all of the emotions. I wanted that to translate into the project.
I feel like I did a great job putting my emotions into it along with my feelings during that pregnancy. That was the main goal for that.
JN: Your song “Goddess” is exploring that God has no gender, doesn’t it?
M: Yes, because when people describe God they always use the pronoun he. I don’t think God is a man or a woman. God is an entity and all around. God is in this backpack and in everything to be completely honest. That is why we need to work together.
JN: I completely agree with you. I was raised Southern Baptist.
M: Same. I was raised very devout and a Southern Baptist. I was a Bible basher for a long time and had a purity ring. I wanted to save myself for marriage. I was on that kick until I got older.
I was able to see the work for what it was and it was way more beautiful than what it was being confined to by Christianity. Things were condemned like homosexuality.
I always saw the beauty in everything that the Bible condemned. That never made sense to me and I never understood it.
As my journey went on I discovered that God was watching over me and constantly making things work in my favor. I don’t think of God as a white man in a long robe. God is the energy around us and moves around the room. God is everywhere at all times.
JN: You have a song called “Wig Splitter.” Is that referring to fighting back against bullies?
M: I would not say I was bullied because that is a very strong word. People did try to pick on me because I was reserved and considered weird. I was that girl and didn’t fit into any peer group. I had difficulty doing that, so I would stick out like a sore thumb.
When people came after me it would affect me, especially at home when I was alone in my room. I knew it wouldn’t be like that forever.
To have shows like this and all of the people showing up is overwhelming me with joy. I am grateful because I didn’t picture it would be like this.
JN: I feel a supportive vibe out there.
M: Yes, like you said it is a diverse crowd of white people, Black people, gay people and straight people. Everyone is out there and that feels really good. The theme is bonding everyone together with the color pink. It is expressed however they want it to, whether it is masculine presenting or feminine presenting. They showed up for me!
JN: What would you like people to know about you as an artist?
M: I am a human being and go through real things. I can be happy or sad. As a human being, I am not afraid to show all of those emotions. The best version of a person is being authentic at the moment. I try to be myself and be confident.
JN: Do you talk to the audience and have banter with them?
M: I am working on that, but I get nervous. Ideally in a perfect world, I would love to get up onstage and have a full-blown conversation with the audience. I want to do that, but I get caught up in my nerves and will be scared to fumble my words. I will forget to say things when I am really nervous. I am actively working on that and it is better than it used to be for sure.
JN: There is a singer named Raye who does a good job talking to the audience so you should check her out.
M: I love her and her album Escapism.
JN: What are your goals for the rest of the year?
M: I will be playing shows as much as possible. With the holidays coming up I will spend time with my baby and family. I want to focus on being present in the moment with them. I feel like life is passing me by because I constantly think about what has happened or what will happen in the future. I don’t want to miss out on what is happening at the time. I want to support the people that support me and be there for them. That is my goal for the rest of the year and for the rest of my life, to be honest!