Morgan Hughes, better known as Trill Mah, rose to Columbia music fame last Spring when she was selected as an opener for Bacchanal. Senior Staffer Briana caught up with the artist to see what she’s been up to this year with music and life.
“I live on the fifth floor, so I’m sorry in advance for the stairs. I haven’t left the building all day.”
Step after step, I trail behind Morgan Hughes and attempt to make small talk as we climb to her room in the Intercultural Resource Center. After a busy few weeks, it makes sense that Hughes would want to spend a day taking it easy. Hughes, a CC Junior known artistically by the name Trill Mah, has been hard at work writing and recording her first mixtape, The Future Is Now. Just two weeks ago, Hughes released “Ookoo,” a catchy single that appears on TFIN and thematically celebrates the bliss that comes from simply lighting one up and chilling with friends. Though she only has half of her mixtape recorded, Hughes is proud of the work she has put into her project and her growth as an artist.
Raised in Cincinnati on 90s-2000s pop, R&B, and hip-hop, Hughes didn’t get serious about making her own music until she arrived at Columbia. “[Before] I only wrote stuff for talent shows, but it was never my own songs or ‘real’ songs. I never recorded anything. Me and my brothers and cousins would always freestyle,” Hughes said. Though she isn’t studying music academically while at school, Hughes has used her time at Columbia to learn about music and to promote herself as an artist. After tying with Liberty Zoo at the annual Battle of the Bands competition, Hughes got the chance to open for Big Sean at last year’s Bacchanal concert. She’s also been participating in open mics and CUSH (Columbia University Society of Hip Hop) cyphers since her freshman year, and she has her own WBAR show.
Although the roots for TFIN can be traced back to her freshman year, Hughes explains that the project has really only come together within the last month. As we talk, it becomes clear that TFIN could not have been possible without the collaborations and support from other students in the Columbia community. Multiple beats on the album, including the beat used in “Ookoo,” were produced by Jonah Hemphill, CC’17. In addition, fellow Ohioan and Columbia College senior Zach Schwartz raps the second verse on “Ookoo.”
“I met Jonah freshman year through CUSH because we would both go to cyphers all the time. At the end of freshman year I think, I started talking to him about making my own songs… So Jonah would send me beats that he made. He sent me like five beats, and then I wrote to around two of them… there were like four of them that I was sitting on. There are a few that I absolutely could not write to. I still haven’t written to them. The beat for ‘Ookoo…’ I’ve been sitting on that for like a year probably. And Zach, I met Zach at some conference that I was volunteering for. We only bonded because he’s from Cleveland and I’m from Cincinnati… He likes hip-hop a lot and he knows that stuff,” Hughes said.
The Future Is Now is a title that holds special meaning for Hughes. The phrase was coined by Hughes and her friends/fellow WBAR co-hosts Jordyn Simmons, BC’17, and Laura Alston, CC’17. “We started the radio show, Ya Trick Yahhhh. We started holding and hosting events, and everyone started knowing us as a crew, as ‘The Future Is Now.’ We actually, as a group, we were gonna be a rap group. So we actually recorded a song our freshman year, but it was like a joke. We were gonna put out more music, but we didn’t because I’m the only one who really wanted to rap… So when I’m thinking of my mixtape titles, The Future Is Now doesn’t even cross my mind. I go through probably about four or five titles before I decided to call it The Future Is Now. It makes sense. I was talking to my friends about it, and they said ‘Why not?’ It makes sense,” Hughes says.
Although Hughes has hopes of someday mixing her own album, TFIN is currently being recorded and mixed at a studio in the city. “I wanted this mixtape to be a studio recorded mixtape. I want the quality, and I didn’t know how to do it [myself]. I want it to be super good quality because I want people to know that I’m serious. So I go to a studio. It’s lit,” Hughes adds.
It is not unheard of to pursue an artistic dream while in college, but being an artist at Columbia comes with an advantage that many other college students don’t have. Specifically, students at Columbia have the opportunity to find one’s artistic place on campus while also expanding to the vibrant creative community that New York City offers. Hughes, who hopes to pursue music after college, takes advantage of both on campus and off-campus resources.
“I have friends who are from New York, who are from Harlem, who are from Brooklyn or who live in Brooklyn. They go hard for music and they’re out there doing stuff. All my friends are creative. Every single one of my friends is involved in something that’s creative or likes doing something that has to do with music, art, or performance or anything. I’ve met a lot of people from the city through CUSH,” Hughes adds.
So what’s next for Trill Mah?
“I wanna cross this mixtape off my list. I have some new music on the way, some new videos on the way, and I also wanna have some mini projects made completely by my crew. I also wanna perform at SOBs by the end of the semester.” Hughes gestures to some recording equipment located on an otherwise empty desk in the corner of her room before adding, “I wanna learn how to produce too.”
For now, we’ll continue to watch and support Hughes as so many others in the Columbia community already have.
You can listen to Trill Mah’s music on her Soundcloud. You can also catch her new music video for the song “Katie” here as well as tune into Yah Trick Yahhhh (her radio show that airs on WBAR) every Saturday from 8-10 p.m.