Frosty knows what it’s like to receive to a chilly reception in Orange County.
She was born and raised in San Clemente, a surf town where la migra stalked the shadows and a racist neighbor once told her bisabuela to learn English or go back to Mexico. She felt alienated as a bronze-skinned student from Tustin at Beckman High School in Irvine, even when excelling as a scholar athlete. And during an uncompromising reading at the Night Owl in downtown Fullerton, event organizers cut the young poet’s mic, silencing her.
But the rapper found a welcoming home and a creative center in Santa Ana, where she continues to evolve as one of the county’s most intriguing and promising young artists.
“I found a creative outlet in my journals,” says Frosty. “A lot of it was expressing my frustrations in coming to terms with the dark reality of certain injustices. There was definitely some suppressed feelings. I would hold on to this anger, this grief from knowing how the real world is.”
Frosty wove those sentiments into verses as she hit the open mic poetry scene as early as her freshman year in high school. She balanced her creativity between the classroom and the field where she donned a catcher’s mask for Beckman’s Varsity softball team. But as her peers tore open acceptance letters from prestigious universities, Frosty pondered a future in front of the mic, not behind home plate.
“I decided that I wasn’t going to take an athletic scholarship and leave the county,” she says of the offer to play softball at Menlo College. “I really valued my creative freedom and individuality. That is where I took my life path into my own hands.”
Born after the Golden Age of hip-hop, the genre served as a familiar backdrop during her upbringing nonetheless. Her dad and uncles played West Coast legends like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Warren G during backyard gatherings. One day, her dad challenged her to decipher the lyrics of Tupac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend.” She quickly understood the song as a metaphor for the rapper’s gun.
An emerging poet enamored by wordplay and similes, Frosty found more supportive spaces in Santa Ana before lending her talent to activism. She attended a Black Lives Matter protest in front of Anaheim City Hall in 2016 and recited a poem before an appreciative audience. The affirmation came with a caveat; Frosty felt like she had to do more to be politically proactive.
Artistically, she also shifted from spoken word to emceeing. People would come up to her after readings to remark on how rhythmic her style was and suggested she should think about making music.
“What am I going to do?” Frosty asked herself. “How am I going to change the world?”
The answers to those questions remains an ongoing process that began in 2018 with “Tales from the Underworld,” a whispery, soulful incantation that showcased hints of Amy Winehouse’s signature phrasing. Its witchy visual straight out of The Craft displayed a creative daring unafraid of experimentation.
A year later, Frosty followed up the debut single with an eponymous EP featuring live instrumentation that enlisted, in part, musicians that form Santa Ana jazz-hip-hop band Apollo Bebop’s rhythm section. She flossed all her talents on “Ridin’ Down the Block,” a funky, slinky song that alternates between her rhymes and promising vocals. “Bodybag” further introduced Frosty as a social commentator by proclaiming a defiance against authority with a relaxed confidence in her croons.
But, in looking towards the future, the rapper is shifting away from the sound that defined the four-song collection. “I feel like I grown so much as an artist since recording that,” says Frosty. “I learned to be more experimental. Listening back, I feel like my rhyme schemes were very predictable.”
She also learned to value vocal warmups more as well as establishing a rhythm in the recording booth. Frosty takes those lessons into her next project, an untitled mixtape in the works. A newly released single “Dolla & a Dream” offers a tease of what’s to come and shows her coalescing creative powers.
“That song is very special to me,” she says. “It was inspired by an interaction I had with a houseless person on the streets of Santa Ana.”
One night, the rapper attended a mixer in downtown Santa Ana that brought business owners together with artists to hobnob. She stepped out to buy a packet of gum when the homeless man asked her if she’d like to hear a poem.
Instead of brushing the invitation off, Frosty welcomed the impromptu reading. The scribbled lines read from the street poet’s journal spoke of hardships and made a lasting impression. She shook his hand and thanked him for sharing.
Aware of the gentrification battles in downtown Santa Ana and how homeless folks get caught in the crosshairs, Frosty returned to the mixer preoccupied with the paradox down the block.
“It was very inspiring to go to this mixer where people were networking about art,” she says, “and right outside the walls, there was this houseless person wanting to be heard.”
Riding a boom bap beat, Frosty kicks off the resulting track with the line, “a starving poet selling poems on the street, a journal carcass of the man he used to be.” Vocal overdubs on the chorus are sonorously layered before fading into a second, more blistering verse.
By the song’s end, Frosty establishes herself as an up-and-coming political voice in Juice County’s hip-hop scene. But as she readies a mixtape sure to shore up that sentiment, the rapper wants to make good in both rhyme and deed.
Frosty continues hosting “Mo’ Betta Mondays,” albeit on Instagram amid a pandemic instead of its usual downtown Santa Ana home. In December, she organized an anti-capitalist Christmas fundraiser and, among other things, raffled off a private musical performance. The proceeds were donated to various causes and groups like Latino Health Access and the fight to protect Puvungna, a parcel of Indigenous land in Long Beach that’s sacred to various tribes.
“I’m just trying to bring truth to light in my music,” says Frosty. “Sometimes that can be super dangerous so I have to just say what I really, truly believe in. People will take it however they want to take it.”
Find Frosty on Instagram @officiallyfrosty
Gabriel San Román is a contributor to Times OC and a former OC Weekly staff writer. Subscribe to his weekly Slingshot! Newsletter. And in case anyone is wondering, he's still the tallest Mexican in OC.