Latrice Hudson was 32 when she suffered a brain aneurysm that could have killed her. At the time, her three children were all under the age of 15. "The most important thing that has ever happened to me is that [brain aneurysm]," she told me over the phone this week. "I had my head cut open and the whole nine yards, but I made it through. I'm a testimony. I'm here for a reason, and I believe that's to watch my daughter shine."
That daughter is DeJ Loaf, the Detroit rapper alongside whom you may have seen Latrice—who now goes by the affectionate nickname Mama Loaf—flexing onstage in a fur coat. Since DeJ's breakout hit "Try Me" transformed her into what her mom describes as an "unbelievable overnight success," the elder Hudson has built up a following of her own as the swaggiest matriarch in rap. Here, in her own words, Mama Loaf tells her story, and the thrilling ride she's taking with 23-year-old DeJ Loaf.
MAMA LOAF: I was born in Detroit, and my parents were born in Detroit, but my grandmother's side is from Alabama. I was a good kid growing up—good in school. I wanted to be a model. That was one of my ambitions. But, you know, me having children, I felt like I couldn't handle it anymore. I didn't think I was model material anymore.
I had my first child at the age of 17. I thought he woulda came when I was 18, but he came before my birthday. He could've waited a little bit so I could have felt like I was grown, but he was in a hurry. Then came Deja. Deja was one of them surprise children. She was a surprise baby. But I love her. It was a very easy pregnancy. I went in and I was done in an hour or two.
I was raised by a stern mom. I always said I wouldn't be as hard on my children as she was on me. I was a little more lenient than she was, but I came to understand why my mother was a stern person. She had rules, and you were gonna follow every rule that she said. You knew what you were gonna get. I wasn't like that with my children because they were good children. Very seldom did they need it. DeJ only got one or two whoopings from me in her whole life. That's it. Those times, it might've just been her attitude or something. All she did was stay in her room, writing or looking out the window, or she'd go get the basketball and go outside. I thought raising a daughter was gonna be hard: connecting to a girl, being a single mom. But it was the opposite. She turned out to be a beautiful young lady, and I'm lucky.
One thing I can say is I always tried my best. Their father was killed, and I had to raise them. It was transformative. I never thought I would be left alone with my children, that I would have to raise all three of them by myself. I had help, but I've always been an independent person, so it just made me have to work harder.
Deja always used to let me to listen to everything [she was making]. But sometimes she used to irritate me because I'd wake up early in the morning, and the light would be on, and I'd think, "What is the light doing on in the room?" And she's in there writing with her headphones on, doing her music. And I'd say, "When you going to bed?"
I never stopped her from doing her music. She used to be like, "Ma, I need to to go to the studio." I couldn't wait till she got a license so she could drive herself there. But it all paid off. When she told me she was gonna [quit nursing school] to do more in music, I was a little upset at first, but then I was like, "I hope you know what you're doing." The same year she would have graduated from college, she ended up graduating in the career that she chose. She graduated in music.
When I started seeing other artists [calling DeJ], it started making me feel like her dream was coming true. I heard her talking on the phone, and I didn't know who she was talking to, and she gave me a look like, "Go somewhere else right now. You talking too much." Then when she got off the phone, she was like, "Ma, you not gonna believe who that was." I was like, "Who?" She was like, "Erykah Badu." I was like, "You're kidding. You lyin'!" Erykah gave her some little insights on music, some inspiration, told her if she needs anything or if she gets stuck, to call her. I really love that.
And now she's getting spreads in magazines and stuff like that. That was one of my dreams. So I'm looking at her and thinking, she's living out one of her dreams and one of mine. Detroit loves her. Now I got so many Instagram followers and Facebook requests just because I'm her mom. I have to tell them, "I'm not DeJ Loaf or her manager!"
I'm a proud mom of all my children. I wish a lot of people would let their kids choose for themselves instead of choosing for them. Let them live their own dreams and not what your dream is for them. All I can do is thank God and keep on praying that things keep on going the way they're going. I want to be around to see her on the Grammys and in movies. I know she can do it.
It's unbelievable to see her perform. A lot people who've known her are like, "That's Deja? Really?" because she's quiet and she's always been quiet. I like to be on stage to keep people from getting too close to her and stuff. When she calls me up on the stage, I be like, "Oh my goodness, here we go." I love it, though. It's something different, it's new and exciting and unbelievable. But I know I can go back and look at it and think, "Wow, this is amazing. It's a blessing. It really happened."
Photography by Jerry Johnson