Mariah the Scientist’s name has a mysterious aura, an ode to her background as a biology student, though she now experiments with music. The 23-year-old singer joins our Zoom call from her home in Atlanta, where she’s just finished touching up her hair. While her new project boasts features from artists like Young Thug and Lil Baby, the artist still views herself humbly. Still in the early stages of her career, she’s now released Ry Ry World, a project two years in the making following her 2019 major label debut Master. Prior to the mainstream leap, she was discovered through the release of her debut EP, To Die For, on SoundCloud in 2018.
Having dropped out of St. John’s University in New York to pursue a career in music, Mariah casually details how a fun hobby changed her life trajectory.
“I just made a song, kind of like jokingly as a gift, and my friends were fans of it and hyping me up and telling me I should do more, and I was weighing the options between medical school and making music,” she tells SPIN.
Her parents took some time to get on board, as from their perspective, she was thriving and on a scholarship, but Mariah mustered up the courage to stand her ground and refuse to return to school, and the sacrifices she’s made since have paid off. Her family now supports her all the way, even offering up their own suggestions on what she can do next to further her career.
The hustle hasn’t worn her out, Mariah’s potential is radiant. Ry Ry World has more exuberant themes than her last record due to life changes like leaving a romantic relationship that no longer served her and creating new standards to stick to for the future. Ultimately, it’s about growth. “I just want to do it how I’ve been doing it, hopefully people fuck with it, and maybe I can just use that to expand on the things that are really significant to me personally.”
Now signed to RCA, Mariah hasn’t switched up on her process. With lyrics touching on her own personal experiences with love, her R&B style crooning doesn’t tie her down to just R&B.
“I wish I could just be considered alternative in general, but it’s just like, who comes up with the concept of genres anyways,” she says. “Every time I get on Apple Music and it says R&B/Soul, it makes me cringe like who decided that? I don’t know, but I do think, it really just depends on the production. I do get mostly all my beats off YouTube and stuff, so it just comes down to the producers that I’ve subscribed to on YouTube and what they post, what they upload, and if I like it.”
On Ry Ry World, Mariah dips into various genres, pointing out single “2 You” as having an EDM beat with a pop cadence. Her other favorites on the record are “RIP,” which she says resonates most, “Walked In” featuring Young Thug, and “All for Me,” all of which are relatively new additions to the project. When asked how her sound compares to the wider R&B world, she quickly reveals, “I don’t really listen to other people’s music. I barely listen to any music.” Still, the few modern artists who have intrigued her, The Weeknd and Tyler, the Creator, reflect her desire to be undefined by labels while pushing the sonic and aesthetic quality of her work. Their authenticity is a quality she also strives for in her career. “I still to this day have yet to let someone pick a beat for me, or pick a lyric, so I guess in general I pride myself on that.”
She then touches on the struggles of coming up in the music industry, careful not to throw shade to any particular entity. “I think that labels definitely pick favorites, and I wish that when young people, especially young Black people say they want to do music, somebody would tell them that it doesn’t matter if you’re really good. It matters if they like you enough to do the political work behind it, behind the scenes on your behalf,” Mariah says. Though she doesn’t think she’s dealt with this particular problem, Mariah has faced issues of disrespect and needing industry connections to do tasks as simple as booking studio time.
Mariah feels freer having learned the game and recognized the power in cultivating a consistent work ethic, and won’t let the cutthroat nature stop her come-up. Staying away from the buzz in favor of perfecting her craft, she stands out in prioritizing musical growth over industry clout. If she’s proven anything thus far, it’s that it is possible to be a woman writing her own narrative, vulnerabilities and all.