Photo Credit: Salim Garcia
Mercury is a fascinating Atlanta rap figure. Her sound is experimental, but it’s also mostly led by trap music, in her newest album Tabula Rasa she showcases her unique production taste.
Mercury is used to sorting out her emotions. She feels this is her innate nature due to her being a Pisces. Her sun sign often leads her to reflect on her heartache and the aspirations she has for her blossoming career in her music. On her 2021 trap-centric debut album MERCTAPE, the 21-year-old rapper balances optimism, doubt, and how she yearns to rise above feelings of inadequacy. A year later, Mercury continues to stick to her comfort zone with her latest album, Tabula Rasa. The 10-song album finds her relying on her ability to exemplify how she feels while still pushing her artistry forward in interesting ways.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, the rising artist is largely inspired by Kid Cudi, who she began listening to as a teen, Merc also recalls listening to Kanye West a lot with her mother when she was a child. By high school, she was heavily into Odd Future, A$AP Mob, The Internet, and emo bands who were on the bill of the now-defunct Warped Tour.
From her hair appointment in Atlanta via a Zoom call, Mercury says initially it wasn’t her idea to start rapping, she gives the credit to Biscuit, a friend who she says lives in New York who encouraged her. At this point, Merc was 18 and she had been DJ’ing for a year – her early rap moments consisted of her experimenting with her wordplay over beat packs she’d regularly receive from retroboykyle, a producer friend of hers.
By the time she began skateboarding, she hoped to find community, but she was instead micromanaged by men. Rather than being deterred, she says this helped her build a toughness that she applies to how she navigates both personally and professionally.
The culmination of different creative outlets motivated her and instilled a sense of confidence that she still carries with her. Making music gave her a chance to cultivate friendships with producers and other creatives in Atlanta’s indie music scene. “Literally all of this came from just us having fun, cooking up,” she adds.
Mercury said she built a following from the ground up thanks to her SoundCloud mixes, as well as one-off loosies that she uploaded to the music sharing platform. Then, in 2020, she dropped the retroboykyle-produced “Slob On My Kat,” a raunchy cut that sampled Tear da Club Up Thugs and Three 6 Mafia’s “Slob On My Knob” – by releasing it she had unleashed a modern take on La Chat’s “Slob On My Cat.” The track ended up being spotlighted on Pitchfork’s “The Ones” in January last year.
Eight months later, she released her debut, MERCTAPE. Incorporating the bass-heavy beats and deep 808s that have come to define Atlanta trap, the album showcased Mercury’s affinity for quirky rhymes and experimental production, with songs like “Cacti” and “Back 2 Yew” highlighting how well the pairing of the two work together.
“I was very confident in MERCTAPE when I put it out,” she said. “I [felt] like this music [was] too good not to do good. I wasn’t really surprised, but I was grateful for it.”
On Tabula Rasa she’s self-assured but also vulnerable, the navigation of both a testament to the ebb and flow she dealt with while recording the album from August of last year to March.
“I’ve felt like this was me going through life, and really I’ve learned a lot about myself. I feel like from beginning to end, [I was] just dealing with things,” she said. “I made every song in a different time period. It was really just showing how I am in this stage of my life. [My music] shows the variety of how a human expresses emotions.”
Songs like “Running Round” are an example of this – this specific track was inspired by Welsh producer High Contrast’s drum and bass-heavy track “Time Is Hardcore.” Produced by her friend Chicken, “Running Round” is based on her real-life experiences in a failed relationship, with Mercury sharing: “I was tired of being the dependable one, always just doing everything while he reaped the benefits.”
There’s also “Matrix,” which she refers to as “a manifestation song,” she wrote about what she wanted in her life: stability, more opportunities, and consistent cash flow.
“I was just seeing myself somewhere, so I [wrote about] speaking it into existence,” she said.
The manifestation, paired with the self-assurance, is arguably working. Recently, she wrapped a nationwide tour with MIKE and Na-Kel Smith, sharing that she enjoyed touring and seeing fans singing her lyrics and supporting her. Meeting new people and exploring cities like Tucson, Arizona were highlights for the rising rapper, too.
As for what’s next for Mercury, she shared that she’s feeling optimistic and motivated for her next chapter as an artist.
“I really want to focus on creating different sounds and just bringing something out of the box to music,” she said. “I don’t want to sound like everyone else — that’s how I stay motivated to just keep making music and staying true to myself.”